Junior Achievement of Memphis and the Mid-South has named Steve French as the non-profit organization’s first-ever Chief Opportunity Officer (COO). Steve began his official role with JA on May 1 and has been a volunteer for one of the organization’s capstone programs since 2016.
“Prior to volunteering with JA BizTown, I always thought of JA as being solely focused on financial literacy – but it’s so much more than that,” says Steve. “JA is about entrepreneurship; workplace readiness; world readiness; and developing soft skills to equip students with the confidence and road map they need to move in the direction of their dreams.”
Steve’s operational and financial expertise will prove valuable to the organization, particularly at this critical time in its development. In the past year and a half, the nonprofit moved out of its downtown facility and transitioned to a virtual programming model, with plans for a new facility in progress.
“As we expand our reach, grow our programs, and build JA’s new home, we will depend heavily on Steve’s guidance, insight and direction,” says Leigh Mansberg, president and Chief Experience Officer for JA Memphis. “It is our intention to make JA programming available to every student in Memphis and the Mid-South, including the 23-county service area surrounding Shelby County.”
An entrepreneur himself, Steve most recently owned French Enterprises, LLC, a wholesale hair products business focused mainly on rural markets in the Mid-South area. Prior to that, he created, marketed and launched a competitive basketball program for children ages 8-12 in China, where he and his wife, Eleanor, lived with their two children for three years. Before moving to China for his wife's job, Steve served in a number of finance and management roles over a 12 year-period with FedEx, ranging from senior finance analyst to planning and analysis manager. Prior to that, he served as operations planning manager for Kitty Hawk International and, before that, got his start in business as a scheduler and operations supervisor with American International Airways.
“One of my favorite things about my professional experience is that there was always an opportunity for mentoring, and it’s the same at JA,” says Steve. “See, I love investing and I get as excited about investing in people as I do about investing in finances. JA provides hands-on simulations that combine knowledge and experience so that students have those ‘a-ha’ moments that result in real, meaningful learning opportunities about business and life.”
Originally from Gary, Indiana, Steve earned his B.S. in Aviation Technology from Purdue University and his MBA in General Management from the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Steve and his wife, Eleanor, reside in Memphis and have two sons: a rising junior in high school and a sophomore in college.
About Junior Achievement of Memphis and the Mid-South
Junior Achievement of Memphis and the Mid-South empowers children to be world ready and engaged members of their communities so that they may lead independent lives. For more information on JA, visit www.jamemphis.org or call 901.366.7800.