Today’s Austin-East seniors will be the next software entrepreneurs
KnoxNews.com. Brandon Bruce. May 08, 2019.

When you think of Austin-East Magnet High School, you may think of their flamboyant cheerleaders, successful football team, extravagant band and amazing dance company.

You can now also think of the students in the senior Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) class as the next wave of software entrepreneurs.

The students recently participated in the Junior Achievement Company Program to design, build and launch a mobile sticker pack app featuring the school’s roadrunner mascot. The “My Roadrunner” app is now available for free download for iPhone on the iTunes App Store and for Android on the Google Play Store.

Students, alumni and supporters can show their school spirit by putting roadrunner stickers into text messages and social messaging apps. The app features 20 student-designed stickers including a roadrunner playing basketball, a roadrunner playing drums in the band and roadrunners dancing at the senior prom.

The students designed the app in partnership with Smallball Media, which specializes in creating custom emojis and mobile sticker packs for brands. The app is sponsored by local companies Archers BBQ, Hard Knox Pizza, Junior Achievement of East Tennessee, Keller Williams Signature Real Estate, the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center and The IT Company. The students netted $1,250 in profit through sponsorship sales.

It was a pleasure for me to work with the Austin-East students, helping them to fine-tune their designs, solicit sponsorships, create invoices and generate hundreds of downloads through social sharing. As is always the case, I believe I learned more from them than they learned from me.

I think it’s important (essential, actually) for all of us in business to go into schools and spend time with students to pique their interest in entrepreneurship and technology and finance and operations and marketing and sales. I distinctly remember the volunteers and guest speakers who came into my schools when I was a student, and it’s impossible to overestimate the impact they made by sharing their enthusiasm and experience.

Helping students 'stand out'

With college on the horizon for graduating seniors, the students reflected on their experience building a software company.

“This was a wonderful experience to be able to collaborate and learn from Smallball Media who helped us jumpstart and launch the app,” said student DyJhauna Maxwell.

“The app is a great way to express Austin-East pride through social media and to celebrate the many sponsors that made this possible,” said student Trinity Mattress.

“Launching the app was exciting. It’s a way for everybody to see the hard work put in by Austin-East students and Smallball Media. Students and supporters are now able to send and receive fun stickers and that’s pretty cool,” said student Chazmin Taylor.

“This app helps us stand out because no other Knox County School has made their own mobile app with custom stickers,” said student Olivia Morris.

Sparking an 'entrepreneurial spirit'

The supporting organizations and sponsors applauded the students who are believed to be the first Junior Achievement class in the country to build a mobile sticker pack.

"The JA Company Program gives students the opportunity to start and run a company for a semester. It’s where students often discover that hard work and innovation can lead to success,” said Callie Archer, president of Junior Achievement of East Tennessee. “Students at Austin-East worked with Junior Achievement volunteer and board member Brandon Bruce to explore what a tech startup would feel like. These types of experiences help them think outside of the box and spark their entrepreneurial spirit.”

“Smallball Media has created an amazing opportunity for our students to get firsthand experience to experiment, create, revise and finalize a company of their own. We are honored to partner with them and be the first high school in the JA Company Program to create a customized sticker pack unique to Austin-East Magnet High School,” said Brittany Newcomb, the teacher of the entrepreneurship class.

“We’re excited to be supporting entrepreneurship at Austin-East and giving the students the opportunity to get experience with a startup and learn more about software development,“ said Chris Hill, Chief Operations Officer at Smallball Media.

“We’re honored to be a part of this business with A-E students,” said Alexa Sponcia at Hard Knox Pizza, which sponsored a sticker of a roadrunner enjoying pizza. “I have always loved the kids there. They are so incredibly gifted and talented. Love the idea and excited to see what happens going forward with the business.”

The students celebrated the launch and success of the mobile app with a barbecue lunch catered by Archers BBQ, which has plans to open a new location in East Knoxville.

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