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AMSA Students Win Business Contest and Many Thank Yous

AMSA Students Win Business Contest and Many Thank Yous

This spring, in the midst of AP tests, science projects, and Calc assignments, four AMSA juniors found themselves posting pet videos on social media. No, this wasn’t the latest TikTok challenge (although TikTok was involved, more on that later). The students actually were helping L.A.-based Furbaby Bestie Pet Care grow its business.

It was all part of the national Imagine, Innovate, & Inspire Competition (I3), in which high school teams from across the country developed digital media for underrepresented small businesses. The teams spent four months working directly with business owners, then presented their results to a panel of I3 judges.

AMSA’s team – Marrio Jeyakumar, Yamaan Khundakjie, Nolan Maxwell, and Simon Valentino – initially decided to build a mobile app for Furbaby to connect with its customers. The students felt they could do more, so after consulting with business owner Stephanie Glover, they added another goal of boosting Furbaby on TikTok and other social media.

Their extra effort and outstanding results earned the team First Place in the I3 Competition!

“We were absolutely blown away by what you accomplished in such a short amount of time,” said the judges. “Your creativity in developing a viral TikTok formula and the incredible app skeleton that you guys prepared is something we would have expected from college students or even full-time software engineers/professional marketing teams.”

Each student received $500 for winning First Place, as well as possible internships this summer. Equally rewarding was the opportunity to help a business be more successful.

“Winning I3 was a wonderful experience since we actually got to make a real-world effect on a small business,” said Nolan. “They gave us a few months to Zoom with our small business, find out what they wanted us to do, and then do it. Our small business owner was so appreciative and thankful.”

“As a business owner, we wear all the hats, and I can’t express the amount of gratitude that I have for this team that has worked with me on solving some of the challenges that I have with my business,” said Ms. Glover. “The learning experience that I’ve gained from these students, I treasure them, I will hire them!”

The annual I3 Competition aims to help high schoolers develop technical, social, and professional skills while giving underrepresented small business owners tailored resources and digital infrastructure that will last.

AMSA history teacher Jessica Bowen was the team’s advisor for the competition. “The students did everything on their own, from forming a team to the final presentation to the judges,” she said. “They took their passion for entrepreneurship from AMSA’s Finance Club as well as their skills from their computer science classes and used them to serve a small business in the community.” 

What the AMSA Team Accomplished: Social Media Boost

The AMSA team created social media campaigns for Furbaby on LinkedIn, Facebook, and TikTok. The three platforms use different algorithms to determine how posts perform. TikTok algorithms are geared for rapid growth, while LinkedIn and Facebook are suited more for brand image and recognition.

Focusing on TikTok, the team initially tried business outreach videos, but those didn’t perform well because people scrolled quickly past them. To overcome this roadblock, the students analyzed TikTok’s algorithm in depth and eventually switched gears to more entertainment-centered videos.

“Learning the TikTok algorithm was a huge learning experience for us. We tested different types of videos on other accounts and saw how different content and edits affected watch times and video performance,” said Yamaan.

The team developed their own formula for creating high-entertaining videos tied to current TikTok trends that viewers wanted to watch longer, which was highly valued by TikTok’s algorithm.

Key metrics improved dramatically after launching the new entertainment-centered videos. Average watch times increased from 4 secs. to 21 secs. Viewers watching full videos jumped from 4% to 18%. Overall post views reached 10 million, with 1 million likes. Over 2,500 followers were added (a 164% increase!).

“To be able to come out of this with actual metrics… I can’t find the words to express how valuable this experience has been for my business,” said Ms. Glover.

“This is definitely a huge increase and very useful for the business. Furbaby’s account will now be promoted better on TikTok and any new posts will be promoted better,” said Marrio.

What the AMSA Team Accomplished: App Development

Overcoming roadblocks also was a theme in developing the mobile app for Furbaby. The team ran into significant challenges working on an app for iPhones. Ms. Glover agreed to an Android app, which would still be useful for her business.

“Communication was key. We learned a lot about how to communicate with our business owner, especially which specifications she wanted and exactly what we had to implement,” said Simon.

Using the app created by AMSA’s team, a pet owner will be able to submit a request for a specific service and time, such as dog walking three days a week at 10 a.m. The app will display a list of Furbaby-approved service providers and connect the pet owner with the desired provider. The range of pet services includes grooming, training, taxiing, and visiting.

"I am really grateful to have had work experience making a coding project for a real business. It's not an opportunity a lot of high school students get,” said Simon. “I enjoyed connecting with my business owner and am proud of how it all turned out."

“This was definitely a huge learning experience because we had never coded an Android app before,” said Marrio. “Also we were able to engage in code sprints like actual software developers, which is something that we are really excited that we learned.”

Photo (l to r): Principal Nawrocki, Simon Valentino, Marrio Jovin Jayakumar, Yamaan Khundakjie, Nolan Maxwell, Ms. Bowen