Feeling color: Business academy student leads innovative company
Feeling color: Business academy student leads innovative company
Posted on 12/13/2017
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Jakayla Dixon poses in Eaton High School

A common adage in the business community is that the best companies are founded to solve a certain problem. For one Northwest ISD student, the problem was right in her own family: How to help her blind aunt know what color clothing she’s picking out each morning.

At the Academy of Business Management and Entrepreneurship, housed at Eaton High School, students are able to create their own companies with the guidance of academy staff and the Junior Achievement organization. Jakayla Dixon, a junior at the academy, started Feel the Color because she knew current offerings of clothing tags for those with visual impairments aren’t well-liked.

Jakayla got the idea after talking with her aunt, who loves fashion but lost her eyesight 20 years ago after a surgery.

“Her story is what really inspired this company,” Jakayla said. “She had to use metal tags in her clothing to know exactly what she was putting on, but it was uncomfortable – I don’t know many people who would want metal in their clothing. My aunt loves fashion, and once she lost her eyesight, she said she felt like there was nothing for her. I really wanted her to have the opportunity to go to the store and lead her best lifestyle.”

After months of research, Jakayla settled on a solution: making the tags out of fabric, and ensuring there are multiple ways for people to read them with their hands.

At first, Jakayla says, she only incorporated braille in her own company’s tags. Then her aunt explained that she doesn’t know braille very well herself, and Jakayla’s research led to realization that the majority of people with visual impairments don’t know how to read braille.

“Her story is really what inspired this company. ... I really wanted her to have the opportunity to go to the store and lead her best lifestyle.”

Now her company’s tags use braille, raised lettering and symbols to provide its wearers with more ways to read what they’re wearing – or, as the company’s name indicates, feel the color.

“My aunt gave me a lot of input on the tags, and I also get to work with the staff at Lighthouse for the Blind, the majority of whom are visually impaired themselves,” Jakayla explained. “After I researched it, I learned that most metal tags only incorporate braille, yet only 8 percent of those who are visually impaired can read braille. That presented an opening where I could create a product that could really help someone’s qualify of life.”

Now Jakayla spends many of her days balancing school and her company – or, to put it as the entrepreneur pointed out, “Most businesses are open when I’m in school.” To help with all the necessary tasks, Jakayla recruited classmates to be part of her business, and Junior Achievement has provided a lawyer to work with her to obtain a patent.

Currently, Feel the Color’s clothing tags can be sewn or ironed on, but Jakayla is hoping to enter into partnership with clothing companies so they are already on clothing at stores.

Estie Cuellar, Jakayla’s academy advisor, said that when parents of future academy students hear about businesses being operated out of the high school, they often doubt they are real companies. Once they see the process in action, Mrs. Cuellar added, they understand the one-of-a-kind experiences students earn by empowering themselves and starting their own companies.

Feel the Color is perhaps the best example because of the effort Jakayla has put into the business, Mrs. Cuellar said.

Jakayla Dixon shows the color tag that describes clothing

“She’s at the point where she’s scheduling all these meetings on her own and reaching out to partners and clients that she’s almost to where she doesn’t need me anymore,” she said. “We do things differently here – our focus is to take business education and make it experiential. We have so many things that we teach in the academy, and then our students take the extra step of treating what they learn here as an extracurricular endeavor as well. They get to take what they learn in the classroom and put it in practice.”

Mrs. Cuellar emphasized that students are making real money, finding real investors, keeping up with a payroll and understand the financial metrics necessary to run a business. Every aspect of what they learn in class becomes a real-world experience through the company program.

Not every student who enters the academy will pursue running a company, but Mrs. Cuellar said the experience the academy provides gives valuable lessons, regardless of the career path of a student.

For Jakayla, an added benefit of the program has been meeting mentors and people with career experience who can provide advice for her goals. While she plans to continue with Feel the Color as a business, her ultimate career goal is to become a lawyer – and thanks to the company program, she’s met with a patent attorney who has provided advice on that goal.

“The patent lawyer has been very influential, because I get to see a law firm and how that operates,” she explained. “The first time I met him, I started picking his brain and asking for advice. My goal is to go to college and study international relations and minor in business, then earn my J.D. and focus on international law. I think business and law go hand in hand, so I know this has been a great experience for me.”

This story originally appeared in the Winter 2017-18 issue of Northwest Navigator magazine.