Citi Sponsors the 2015 Company of the Year Junior Achievement Awards
By Christoph Schlueter, Public Affairs Officer, Citi Germany August 10, 2015 02:00 PM
Citi’s Christoph Schlueter with the student company Orenda, winners of the Citi Remarkable Customer Service Award
In July 2015, The Citi Foundation funded the ‘Citi Remarkable Customer Service’ award at the very successful 26th annual Company of the Year Competition (COYC) by Junior Achievement (JA) Europe.
The company that lifted the trophy for the most remarkable customer service was student company Orenda from the UK. The students impressed the Citi Signature Award jury with their strong attention to the customer experience. Orenda created the vibrant and practical Sip ‘O’ Snack innovative water bottles with a multi-purpose compartment, enabling their clients to take their favourite drinks and snacks wherever they go.
Over 200 COYC students gathered in Berlin, Germany between July 28 - 31 to celebrate the top mini-companies from Europe. 37 student-teams from 36 countries competed as part of JA Europe’s flagship Company Programme, which gives them an opportunity to set up and run a real business with the support of business mentors. During the three days of the event, the student mini companies impressed with innovation, professionalism, enthusiasm and passion.
The range of products and services created, developed and fostered by the students included innovative wood watches and anti-mosquito sprays as well as marmalade in tubes, eco-friendly colour sprays and much more. Many of the teams, having already established highly professional communication channels with their customers, are able to integrate customer feedback innovatively and flexibly into their products and services.
As a member of the Citi jury, I was particularly impressed in realising that every single mini enterprise had a strong focus on being eco-friendly, regionally bound and socially responsible. For me this paves the way for the future of entrepreneurship and business in general and this competition shows how upcoming business women and men will help shape that. Most of the companies expressed that they had already skipped short term opportunities in order to stick to their company values and eco and social standards.
In the 2014-2015 school-year, more than 275,000 students participated in the JA Europe Company Programme. The Citi Foundation collaborated in 17 European countries, with the support of 214 Citi business volunteers who equipped 51,566 secondary school students with important entrepreneurship and financial literacy skills. Learning to run a company from top to bottom, the students created and marketed real products and services. The success of the programme is largely due to the wide support from business volunteers who act as mentors, offering expert advice to the students. Partnering education and business is essential to closing the gap between classroom theory and real-world business.
The ‘Citi Remarkable Service Award’ recognizes students that seek to foster greater customer value. Students can do this by demonstrating efforts to understand their customers, achieve customer satisfaction by anticipating and serving customer needs, and working to improve customer experience through innovation.
Whilst listening to the on-stage presentations and walking the stands, I was impressed with how the young people had thought through key elements of providing a customer service experience for their clients by mainly communicating with customers via internet and social media was an integral part from the very beginning of the business. Many companies I interviewed have also adapted their products and services based on the feedback they got from their customers. There were more than two hands full of enterprises that would have well-deserved winning the Citi award. In the end, it was granted to Orenda from the UK because they simply were a bit further than their competitors and had professionalised their communication channels in a really stunning way.
Since its start, the JA Europe Company Programme has worked to equip over 3.5 million students across Europe with the right skills to start-up or become gainfully employed.
Together, JA Europe and Citi Foundation look to inspire the next generation of customer-conscious entrepreneurs through the development of essential competences relevant for today’s fast-changing markets.
This year marked my first personal experience with JA and I must say I’m deeply impressed and really stunned by the competition itself and by what the students already had learnt from being part of the JA programs. Beyond passion for their products and services, which is something you would naturally expect from young entrepreneurs, most of the student teams showed real business acumen, presenting skills from finance to marketing with a deep understanding of the markets they were in and the opportunities the global economy is offering them. JA does a great job in supporting that development and showing young people how fascinating it is to have an idea and the right ways to make it into a reality.