Ken Koger is an entrepreneur and financial advisor in Chicago. He was a student in the JA Company Program in Pendleton, Indiana in the early 1980s. He and his classmates met at a JA Center after school in Anderson, Indiana. JA Centers were commonplace before JA expanded to in-school programming. The JA Company Program was the first program JA offered when the organization was founded in 1919 and serves as the JA capstone program today.
The program introduces students to the key elements involved in organizing and operating a business, while empowering them to solve problems and address local needs through the entrepreneurial spirit. Volunteers lead high school students through the semester-long program, from business inception through liquidation.
Ken and his business partners developed a Monopoly game for their town, called Anderson Madopoly. The group sold spaces on the game board to area businesses to offset production costs. Delco Remy (now Remy International) volunteered to lead the students through the program and even allowed the students to produce the game pieces on the equipment at their factory.
The students produced the game close to the holidays to capitalize on the busy sales season and the first batch they produced sold out right away. The business received local media attention for their unique product, as local Monopoly games had not been popularized.
“I just had a fabulous JA experience,” says Ken. In fact, he is still close friends with many of the other students from the business.
Every student has a role in the JA Company Program. Ken was the Vice President and helped the business set sales records for JA. Ken was even selected to travel to Cincinnati for JA conference.
“I learned so much about being an entrepreneur…it stuck with me all these years,” Ken reflected, “entrepreneurship has been an underlying theme in my career and JA gave me that foundation.”
Ken went to Ball State University and studies telecommunications and marketing. He enjoyed the production side of telecommunications and received enough contract work after graduation that he was able to start his own business.
After ten years, Ken sold his company and opened his own life insurance agency, another entrepreneurial venture. He then went back to school to become a financial adviser. Today, he is a Financial Advisor with Ziegler Wealth Management in Chicago. He still has his hand in entrepreneurship and is in the funding phase of launching an e-commerce business for which he is the founder and CEO.
“You will work harder for yourself than anyone else,” he says, ” and JA gave me the courage to work for myself.”