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Young entrepreneur finds success while serving others By Raven DeVoll
nly a junior at John Carroll, Jeanniece Jackson is well on her way to becoming a thriving businesswoman with a heart of gold. Taking advantage of the many opportunities the Muldoon Center for Entrepreneurship offers, she’s been able to connect her business-driven way of thinking to her social-justice-related way of feeling. Through the Muldoon Center, Jackson had the opportunity to compete in Immersion Week in August 2010, a weeklong idea competition that encourages college students to create new business ventures. “Students have good ideas, but what do they do with them?” says Mark Hauserman, director of the Muldoon Center. “Immersion Week is a way for JCU students who are creative to receive a lot of help with their ideas.” Immersion Week workshops are taught by experts within the entrepreneurship field, allowing budding entrepreneurs to learn from the best of the best. The competition provides practical experiential and theoretical education to local students in hopes they’ll remain in Northeast Ohio creating and building wealth within the region. The competition is sponsored by the Entrepreneurship Education Consortium, which consists of entrepreneurship programs from Northeast Ohio colleges and universities, including John Carroll. Jackson and her group members created Menu 2.0, an electronic menu system using an iPad to process food orders. This new way of ordering dramatically changes the restaurant experience, increases order efficiency, and provides faster service, Jackson says. Menu 2.0 also creates an interactive experience for customers and families, offering games and trivia while they wait for their food. Jackson’s group received second place for its project, receiving $2,000 to be divided among the team.
“I love people like Jeanniece,” Hauserman says. “Just give them guidance and let them run with it. She’s going to be one of our stars.” Jackson’s success didn’t end there. Julie Messing, director of the Kent State University’s entrepreneurship program, was impressed by the JCU team’s project. She contacted Gary Stiffler, chief executive officer of the Matlet Group, one of the largest menu distributors in the country, to inform him of their innovative menu idea. Stiffler then flew from Rhode Island to discuss future plans with the winning team members.
“I was hoping the competition would offer great networking opportunities, but to have people come talk to us was mind-blowing,” Jackson says. The Matlet Group is exploring what resources are needed to execute the students’ business idea. Stiffler plans to revisit campus after the company works out the details and his design team makes certain decisions. Because four seniors and one junior helped create Menu 2.0, Hauserman would love for the students involved to be hired into the Matlet Group upon graduation. “You’d be a very impressive person in the company – to see your idea come to fruition,” he says. “These students could live and die trying to get this thing going, but Matlet has the resources and could make it happen. Ideally, Jackson and her team members would like to help Matlet launch Menu 2.0 and receive a percentage of the profits. “It’s an awesome experience to see something you worked on come to fruition,” she says. Creating a communal atmosphere Among her other creative ventures, Jackson is the founder and president of F.A.C.E.S. – Faith, Action, Culture, Entertainment, Service, a new campus organization focused on creating a culturally inclusive college community that gives back to the city. F.A.C.E.S. offers members a support system and communal atmosphere necessary for students to thrive within the college setting. Jackson’s new club encompasses a diverse range of activities, allowing students to explore their passions. F.A.C.E.S. connects students with organizations and clubs around campus and within the Cleveland community that identifies with their interests. “You can feel like you’re part of a family while finding what else is out there,” Jackson says. The organization offers a family dynamic by attending JCU sports games, dinner hours, and activities together a couple times a semester. It also targets commuters by holding its meetings at convenient times and focuses on engaging the commuter population by exposing them to campus activities for a more complete college experience. As a commuter, Jackson quickly realized the value of feeling a part of the campus community and has been able to explore her interests through many University organizations. Passionate about music, Jackson spends much of her time on campus with JCU’s Gospel Choir. Since her freshman year, she has served as the vocal director and was elected president her sophomore year. As president, she’s helped restructure the organization, determine what types of singing engagements the choir will accept, institute a service component, and increase membership. A woman for others Another large portion of Jackson’s time is spent on service-related activities. Her desire to help others began at an early age, and she has followed her family’s example. Jackson’s mother founded T.E.E.N.S. – Teens Experiencing Excellence Non-Stop, at the Cleveland Public Library on East 131 Street in 2003. Jackson volunteered with her mother weekly, serving as a youth facilitator, leading hot-topic reflective discussions, acting as a mentor, and helping teens connect with resources for college access assistance.
Jackson continues to be involved in service and social justice related activities on a collegiate level. As an incoming freshman, she was selected into the Arrupe Scholar’s program, which challenges students to develop leadership skills for social action. Jackson has helped organize service projects on campus and engaged in weekly service activities, including tutoring elementary school children and teaching the Constitution and American government to fifth graders through the We the People program. Each year, Arrupe seniors focus on a social justice issue they’re passionate about as the topic for their senior capstone project. The projects are based on a year of research they conduct throughout their junior year. This year, Jackson has been looking into the East Cleveland School District and is concerned with education reform through social programming. Still brainstorming ideas, her potential project would involve research and advocacy for a database solution for allocating school funds to aide selection of appropriate programming for the district. She also would like to find a way to encourage the local community and students’ parents to become involved in the reform. “Family and community dynamics play a large role on a child’s success within school,” she says. With one year at JCU left, Jackson has enrolled in the fifth-year M.B.A. program. After receiving her master’s degree, she’d like to attend law school. Focusing on civil and corporate law, she’d be able to pursue her passion for social justice and learn how to run her own businesses successfully. Ultimately, Jackson would like to work as a business consultant working with companies about legal and human resource-related issues, while owning her own business, which would be a philanthropic entity that offers specialized services to its community members. Her community center would offer programs such as financial management services, etiquette courses, and free legal consultation clinics. Wherever she ends up, Jackson is sure to spur positive change within her community. The experience she has been able to gain while at Carroll has given her the fuel she needs to go forth and set the world on fire. JCU