Daniel Alon and Adam Levy are only 15 years old, but they have already invented helpful household gadgets that they hope to commercialize on a large scale.
Daniel and her team of 10 in Ramat Hasharon created YaEzer, a vacuum-mop that requires no bending and was designed for pregnant women, seniors or people with back problems.
Adam and his team of 14 in Herzliya designed StopDrop (StopTipa), an absorbent drip-catcher that fits around the necks of bottles of oil, honey or other drippy condiments. They are working on producing the 10-shekel product in cooperation with an organization for autistic and mentally challenged people.
Daniel and Adam are both members of Young Entrepreneurs Israel (Yazamim Tze’irim Yisrael), part of Junior Achievement Worldwide and Junior Achievement-Young Enterprise (JA-YE) Europe.
Each year, close to 4,000 Israeli ninth-graders take part in weekly two-hour afterschool clubs held at 200 schools in 10 regions across Israel.
“It’s very fun to build a product with your friends and learn your strengths and weaknesses,” says Adam. “We learn about the business world and when we get older and start work we can use the things we learned in the program. I’m the spokesman for our company and I learned how to manage people and money. I also learned to think out of the box.”
On June 21, the 10 winners of regional invention competitions will present their products to a panel of judges in Tel Aviv, who will choose one to represent Israel at a JA-YE competition in Europe involving young inventors from 42 countries.
Younger than other participants
In other countries, JA-YE members are high school seniors, while the Israelis are freshmen. Young Entrepreneurs Israel Vice President Tamar Grunfeld explains that Israeli 12th-graders have a heavy load of matriculation exams and can’t devote time to intensive afterschool electives.
“In the final competition in Europe we really see the difference in age,” Grunfeld tells ISRAEL21c. “But even so, each year we have impressive results. Last year in Berlin there were 40 countries competing and Israel won third place.”
In 2014, Young Entrepreneurs Israel was named a Model Organization by JA-YE.
The European participants, heading straight to college, are more likely to be able to continue building the businesses they created during the program.
The younger Israeli participants won’t start college till completing two or three years of mandatory military service following high school. As a result, only about five percent of the student businesses created in Young Entrepreneurs Israel get off the ground, says Grunfeld.
This low statistic doesn’t faze Daniel Alon. After all, she was already a successful model and businesswoman before joining Young Entrepreneurs Israel at her school. She gets quarterly royalties from the Israeli manufacturer-distributor of two fashion-oriented board games she invented.
“I knew about business before I came to this program, but here I learned more,” Daniel says. “The leaders of the program came to our school to talk about it and I thought it was a very cool idea, so I joined. The manager of a big company came to speak to us about business and helped us understand what we needed to do with YaEzer.”
Adam Levy is similarly ambitious. His Young Entrepreneur company, dubbed “14” for the number of its members, has a Facebook page and a website, and has done demos in school for teachers and parents. “We have a lot of good ideas,” he says.
Strong connection to business and academia
Established in 1998 as a nonprofit organization with its own leadership from the business and academic community, Young Entrepreneurs Israel has one other aspect that sets it apart from the other JA-YE members, Grunfeld says.
“The unique model we have here — really an Israeli model — is that the instructors are not teachers as they are in Europe and the US. Here, our students are taught by third-year business students from 19 different universities and colleges, who get credit for their participation with us.”
Many of these student instructors find the experience so positive that they join the Chotam-Teach for Israel program after college graduation, Grunfeld adds.
Volunteer mentors from the Israeli business community lend advice and expertise to the kids on everything from product development to sales and advertising. They host student exhibitions and competitions at their workplaces.
“Every year we try to bring really high-level people to talk with them,” says Gili Tal, coordinator for the 20-plus teams in the Sharon Region of Young Entrepreneurs Israel.
“We have companies such as Intel, HP, SanDisk, eBay and Bank Leumi working with us. They provide logistic and financial support, and develop personal and business skills in these kids as they decide what product to develop.”
Each group of kids establishes a mini-company with assigned officers, and prepares a real business plan. They raise capital by organizing events such as pizza sales or movie nights at school.
“They develop, manufacture, advertise, market and sell the product, and prepare financial reports,” Tal tells ISRAEL21c. Some of the groups even see asales profit.
Founded 100 years ago in Boston to address fundamental social and economic challenges of young people, Junior Achievement Worldwide encompasses 120 countries and about 10 million members aged six to 18.
“Through the delivery of cutting-edge, experiential learning in financial literacy, work readiness, and entrepreneurship, we effectively broaden the canvas of possibility for young people and enrich their ability to both engage in their own economic development and contribute to the strength of their families, communities, and economies,” according to the group’s website.