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Throwing in the towel
Posted By Jeffrey Hyman On November 18, 2009 @ 12:00 am In | No Comments
Amit Levi doesn’t start her workday as CEO of Israeli company Art Up until 2 pm. That’s because she’s only 15 years old. In the morning, she’s busy with her 10th grade classes at her high school in Herzilya on Israel’s central coastline.
A 15-year-old heading up a company? It can mean only one thing – Junior Achievement. The long-standing educational program that originated decades ago in the United States is now also a staple of Israeli middle and high schools. And it’s leading to useful new products for Israeli consumers, like beach towels with a hidden waterproof pocket.
With its objective of exposing budding entrepreneurs to the business world, the program enables students to gain experience in all of its facets. Some turn out to be naturals, like Levi and 12 of her classmates at Herzilya’s Smadar Junior High.
The Art Up idea that they developed last year as their Junior Achievement project has become a viable product that anyone who goes to the beach (and that’s most of us) will be clamoring for. Towel Plus is a simple beach towel with a hidden, water-resistant compartment where you can store your belongings.
Levi informs ISRAEL21c that the towel boasts the dual purpose of drying off beach-goers while keeping their belongings safe and dry.
Hard testing at the beach
“It’s pretty simple, but effective. One night at the beginning of the year, all of the students involved had a meeting with parents and teachers and we all threw out ideas. The towel was the one that most voted for,” Levi recounts.
The 100 percent cotton, colorful towels include the hidden 12 x 28 inch waterproof compartment that’s situated in one corner. Even if the towel is wet and sandy, the compartment remains dry, according to Levi.
“We spent a lot of time at the beach with the towels to make sure they did the job and were water-resistant. That was the fun part of the job,” she smiles.
Getting the project off the ground meant going through the tedious processes of design, research, locating the right towels to buy, finding the material to add on, locating and employing a sewing factory and developing and implementing marketing plans.
As a result of their due diligence, and the sound concept they developed, Art Up and Towel Plus won the national Junior Achievement competition – and in the process have succeeded in selling an impressive number of towels.
A towel with sales potential
“We won the country-wide competition for the best product. Now we’re waiting for the international competition which is taking place in March in Portugal,” Levi says.
Towel Plus can be ordered on-line via the company’s website but Levi points out that she and her colleagues have also taken their product directly to the Israeli public.
“This past summer, we went out and sold them in person – we set up stands on Nahalat Binyman [a pedestrian mall] in Tel Aviv,” she recounts. “There were also a few companies that contacted us and ordered towels to give as presents for their employees.”
The effort resulted in sales of almost 400 towels, Levi reports. While that’s a drop in the bucket in the real business world, it shows the potential that Towel Plus holds.
While Levi and her partners are now focusing more on their high school studies than on their fledgling company, they have one eye on the international prize in Portugal this March. But whether or not Art Up receives the honor, the students behind it have already achieved something significant by developing a product that didn’t previously exist. And there’s nothing ‘junior’ about that.
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