SLHS Program Launches Student-Led Company

SLHS Program Launches Student-Led Company

Sells student artist merchandise, net proceeds to charities reflected in art.

IRIS company members model their t-shirts,  available for purchase by SLHS sophomore Sofia Pakhomkina. Artwork, screen-printed on a t-shirt, focuses on the environmental problem of global warming and coral reef bleaching. Net proceeds from this product are going to the Coral Reef Alliance.

IRIS company members model their t-shirts, available for purchase by SLHS sophomore Sofia Pakhomkina. Artwork, screen-printed on a t-shirt, focuses on the environmental problem of global warming and coral reef bleaching. Net proceeds from this product are going to the Coral Reef Alliance.

Sixteen teens from South Lakes High School have built a company called "JACP Company F: Iris," or IRIS for short. The company is entirely student-run, operating at the school's address, 11400 South Lakes Drive, Reston. IRIS sells merchandise such as t-shirts and first-edition stickers printed with juried artwork submitted by local high school and college students. The artists are the backbone of the IRIS community. Net proceeds, the amount received by the seller after all expenses, fees, and taxes, go to each artist's chosen charity, the cause their art reflects.
A sample selection of merchandise available at IRIS, local delivery, pickup and shipping available.


IRIS is under the umbrella of Junior Achievement (JA) of Greater Washington and the JA Company Program.

The after-school program fills a need. It imparts to the student company members practical skills required to conceptualize, capitalize, and manage a business venture from the start, to launch, to operation. When the time comes, the students will liquidate their company's assets and complete the closeout process before the school year's conclusion.

"The students who have become part of and built up this program experienced a real-world connection hard to replicate in a typical classroom. This year's seniors have been part of the program since the start and built a culture of standards and success that will last after they graduate this June," said Jonathan McNamara, SLHS teacher and program mentor.

IRIS's CEO is senior Mariam Seshan. According to Seshan, before the company's idea for its business model existed, the IRIS team built the corporate structure, its leadership and organization, including sales, marketing, supply chain, and finance. After that, the entrepreneurs collectively discussed and contemplated business ideas, researched what was trending, pitched ideas to others, and figured out who the target demographic was for the business.

But, as Seshan put it, the big question was, "What are we trying to accomplish?"

The service goal evolved into empowering student artists by giving them a platform to promote, sell, and build their brand. In return, the artists are able to help a cause that was important to them while also getting their name out there in the art world.

IRIS is already establishing itself as a top Junior Achievement company. They are the winners of the "Best Overall" distinction, "Audience Choice: Best Commercial," and "Audience Choice: Best Logo" at the 2022 Junior Achievement Tradeshow.

According to SLHS teacher and mentor Aanand Vasudevan, building a company from the ground up teaches students to think critically and apply what they learn day-to-day in their classes in an interdisciplinary approach. They also find their own passions and areas of development as part of their own journey. "As educators, it is imperative to make education more relevant and engaging for our kids and solving problems in their own community is a great way to do that," he said.

SLHS artist Vex Razi, 17, is one of the IRIS artists. Her pen and ink work, titled "It's All in Your Head," illustrates mental health struggles. This design is featured on the first edition IRIS stickers at $1.75. 


Mina Garcia, a sophomore at SLHS and a member of the IRIS marketing team, works in different smaller teams within IRIS, each led by a VP. According to Garcia, the marketing team focuses on social media, email campaigns, and reaching out to media. She is also involved with website building. "We work on website updates—the new artists, their products, the prices, and monitoring how different items sell," she said.

The team created a company logo, a graphic design that captures the brand vibe. According to Seshan, it is an ink depiction of the eye with its iris, or colored portion of the eye, an iris flower. The corporation picked an iris as its logo because of its literal and symbolic meanings. "The iris is the part of your eye that helps you see. It flexes light. That's why our logo is shaped like an eye. Additionally, it is symbolic of the flower iris, representing wisdom," Seshan said.

Vex Razi, 17, one of the IRIS artists, whose pen and ink work, "It's All in Your Head," illustrates mental health struggles. The design appears on the first edition 3-inch IRIS stickers, available for $1.75 apiece and local delivery.

Senior Aadya Nair, 18, said her artwork is available as a standalone sticker and part of a bundle that includes a t-shirt and other stickers. It's called "Not All Days Have Thorns," she said. "I created this piece to subtly hint at the importance of nature," she said in her online statement. "There are so many nuances of nature that go unexplored but are critical in terms of the beauty and functionality of the environment in the big picture."

According to Jonathan McNamara, SLHS teacher and program mentor, the ongoing process of developing skills in communication, teamwork, goal-setting, and resilience fits perfectly within the FCPS Portrait of a Graduate that helps students succeed beyond the classroom. The Junior Achievement company program will help prepare students to be productive members of a global community and thrive in the future workforce. 

COVID- dependent, IRIS may compete against other Junior Achievement of Greater Washington, JA Company Programs in March and hope to advance onto the national competition. IRIS shows merit. At the 2022 Junior Achievement Tradeshow, IRIS won #1 Best Overall,  Audience Choice: Best Commercial, and "Audience Choice: Best Logo," according to the company website. Visit to learn more about the program, artists, and visit the store to Shop Now. IRIS accepts Apple Pay, Google Pay, credit cards, and three local delivery options, pickup, and shipping.