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40 Under 40 - Class of 2013
Business Observer Friday, Oct. 4, 2013 6 years ago

Anne Frazier, 37

President and CEO, Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida

Anne Frazier leads an army of volunteers who teach students about the benefits of the free-enterprise system in schools.

If you visit the Greater Naples YMCA on a weeknight, you might see a familiar face teaching yoga or Pilates to as many as 30 fitness buffs.

As if Anne Frazier didn’t have enough going on in her life.

The president and CEO of Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida leads 400 volunteers who teach more than 12,000 students about the benefits of entrepreneurship in 536 classrooms throughout Charlotte, Collier and Lee counties.

Although she runs a nonprofit organization with a tiny staff of four people, Frazier, 37, talks about her mission like a business owner. “We’re only hitting 8% of our market share,” she says.

Junior Achievement’s mission is to educate young people about the benefits of free enterprise. It’s generally not part of the school curriculum, so business-minded volunteers spend time in the classrooms teaching students about business and economics.

The movement has taken on greater urgency as the free-enterprise system has taken a beating during the recession, but Southwest Florida is home to numerous entrepreneurs because it doesn’t have big-government employers. “This community is very supportive of entrepreneurs,” Frazier says.

Still, Frazier’s challenge is to assemble enough volunteers from smaller firms that make up most of Southwest Florida’s employers. Larger corporations can marshal hundreds of volunteers, but there aren’t as many of those as in places such as Tampa and Orlando.

And finding generous sponsors can be a challenge, too. “Most of our support comes from special events,” Frazier says. The annual Business Hall of Fame dinners in Lee and Collier counties are must-attend events for business leaders who gather to celebrate entrepreneurial leaders in the community.

As a result, Frazier is sharpening the organization’s focus on where Junior Achievement can make the biggest impact. “Where do we really need to hit the kids?” asked Frazier, who was appointed to lead Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida in November 2011. “They tell us middle school because they’re starting to think about careers and jobs.”

Older kids who face a challenging job market may be more receptive to Junior Achievement’s message, which is why Frazier recently established a partnership with Collier County schools to teach an entrepreneurship course to high school juniors.

All the Collier high schools will offer the class at the same time of day so guest speakers can interact with the 11th graders via Skype. A business-plan competition will be held between the eight high schools, Frazier says.

Frazier can identify with many of the kids in school who are eager to get ahead. Raised by a single father who worked long hours, Frazier learned to take charge at an early age. “It forced me to be independent at a young age,” she says. “I learned to be very resourceful.”

Although she earned a fine arts degree in college, Frazier’s entrepreneurial skills quickly became evident when she built a Boys & Girls Club from scratch in her native Virginia to one of the state’s largest with an $800,000 annual budget. In 2010, Frazier was named one of the most influential women in the state by Virginia Lawyer Media.

Frazier moved to Naples in 2010 with her husband, Scott, and became executive director of Drug Free Collier before taking the Junior Achievement post.

Despite her hectic work calendar, Frazier schedules time for her exercise and other interests. “You have to give yourself an hour every day,” she says. “It makes me feel bonded to my new community.”

 — Jean Gruss

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