Jakayla Dixon is quick to admit that she didn’t want to be in V.R. Eaton High School’s Academy of Business Management and Entrepreneurship – at first.
“I thought business was just numbers and finance. … Then I got here and my whole pathway for life has changed. Now, I want to be an entrepreneur, but at the same time I want to be a lawyer,” Jakayla said.
At 15, the sophomore at Northwest ISD’s newest high school already has a head start into her future. Through her startup, Feel the Color, she’s working on clothing tags that can aid people who are visually impaired in picking out clothes.
The venture began as a class project, one that she was at a loss for how to complete until a phone call with her great aunt.
An aside comment during their conversation turned out to be the inspiration she needed.
“Tank, what color is this?” her great aunt, who is legally blind, asked her nearby grandson of an article of clothing.
That’s when Jakayla had an epiphany.
She started doing research for the available tagging options to help people with visual impairments identify the colors of their clothes. She found one choice used aluminum or metal tags etched with Braille.
“Who wants metal in their clothes? Who wants aluminum in their clothes?” she asked herself. “The obvious choice would be to have fabric because your clothes are already fabric.”
TOOLS TO EMPOWER
The prototype she’s currently working on is made of silk and will have the name of the color embroidered in both Braille and English Alphabet letters. She plans to offer tags spelling out 14 colors.
Kevin Higgins, who is blind and serves as a vision rehabilitation therapist with Lighthouse for the Blind of Fort Worth, said he uses an app to help him identify colors when getting dressed. But, some of his clients, especially aging adults, prefer a more tactile option.
“That can be a very empowering feeling of just knowing …”
As part of his role in helping people who have experienced vision loss live independently, he teaches clients to position safety pins around the tags of a shirt or pant to correspond to different colors.
“That can be a very empowering feeling of just knowing, of having that certainty rather than walking out the door and not knowing for sure if you’ve got the right shoes on or if your shirt matches your pants,” Higgins said.
“… How someone gets there is really dependent on what works best for them whether it’s embroidering the Braille or the print or it’s something more high-tech.”
Along with the tags, Jakayla plans to offer an information pamphlet about color matching. She also hopes to work with Northwest ISD students with vision impairments on creating a children’s book about Braille.
“I know that the main focus is to assist those that are blind, but we can educate little ones [about colors], we can help people that are color blind, the possibilities are endless,” said Estie Cuellar, an instructor in Eaton’s business academy.
She said Jakayla’s business story might be the exception right now, but she hopes in the future it becomes the norm for the academy, which currently has 282 students enrolled.
“We want to set kids up in an environment where they can be creative, where they can solve problems,” Cuellar said.
The academy’s curriculum spans the student’s time in high school beginning with a business overview their freshman year and building up to their senior year, when they get to put what they’ve learned into practice.
Extracurricular programs, such as DECA and Junior Achievement’s JA Company Program, give students opportunities to further their leadership skills and advance their business ideas outside of class.
Feel the Color and another Eaton startup called CHAAO are part of the JA Company Program this school year.
“We want to set kids up in an environment where they can be creative, where they can solve problems.”
Through Junior Achievement of the Chisholm Trail, Jakayla has been able to connect with professionals in the fashion, fulfillment, and accounting industries. The Fort Worth chapter of the national business education organization even set her up with an attorney to help in patenting her tag design.
“This is not a simulation. This is the real deal,” said Alexia Willis, senior education manager for JA of the Chisholm Trail, of companies born from the program.
She said JA Company Program was the Fort Worth chapter’s signature offering when it opened in 1956, but it veered away from it in favor of more in-class programs like other chapters across the nation.
Last school year, JA of the Chisholm Trail began offering it again updating to a new blended learning model incorporating online components. Currently, there are five schools involved including Eaton, Southwest High School in Fort Worth, and all three high schools in Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD.
“In addition to building entrepreneurship skills in students, we want them to understand the benefits of small business and how small businesses can contribute to the economy,” Willis said.
Jakayla is working on raising capital to put the first set of tags into production. She plans to sell a T-shirt designed with her company’s logo to give some financial support to Feel the Color and possibly charities that work with blind and visually impaired populations. She’s also received interest from investors.
In the future, she wants to make partnerships with clothing designers.
“The end goal is for contracts to be signed so that a large amount of people can get these tags in their clothing,” Jakayla said.
But there’s one person in particular she’ll likely focus on getting her product to first — her great aunt.
“She loves it. She thinks it’s going to be such a great help. She’s been bugging me to get her some tags,” Jakayla said.
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