COD’s Maker Mart gives student entrepreneurs a chance

By Cathy Janek For Chronicle Media

An overview of the recent Maker Mart at College of DuPage, held in the COD Student Services atrium. (Photo by Cathy Janek / for Chronicle Media)

The recent Maker Mart at College of DuPage wasn’t just a showcase for original artwork, handmade jewelry and clothing.

This entrepreneurial fair also offered exposure to music education, video game and web design and even artisanal beverages.

The event, held earlier this month in the COD Student Services atrium, offered students an opportunity to sell themselves or their product in “a confined safe zone,” according to College of DuPage assistant business professor and co-founder Peter James.

“This is a great opportunity to practice without being in the real world,” James said. “We have been encouraging students who have an idea—this is the place to do it.

“This could be the start of these students’ entrepreneurial journeys” he added.  “Maker fairs showcase innovators and creators who are actually creating items and goods. We put a spin on it. This is the opportunity [for students] to sell themselves.

“There is no class that can actually prepare you for doing this,” James said.

For example, while their younger classmates toiled away at the PSATs and SATs, two Naperville North High school seniors showcased their new venture, Style 360, at Maker Mark.

Students line up to buy tea at Maker Market. (Photo by Cathy Janek / for Chronicle Media)

Mona Fang and Leilani Salemme started a personalized secondhand clothing swap service.  Fang said the idea stemmed from looking for an alternative to donating used clothes or selling them online.

Based on the clothing that is sent in, Salemme and Fang send back a personalized package of recycled clothing.  The service aims to reduce the large amount of textile waste.

“We are recirculating fashion,” Salemme said.

To date, Style 360 as done 20 clothing swaps.

Daniel Stantz, another Maker Market vendor, watched students and faculty members peruse his photographs of urban landscapes, nature and even a few old vehicles laid out for sale on a table in front of him.

Stantz, a recent COD automotive technician graduate who now works full-time as a mechanic, has been taking photos for about 10 years.

“It really is a hobby for me,” said Stantz, attending his second Maker Market.

Danny Stantz, a recent COD automotive technician graduate, shows off a collection of his photographs for sale. (Photo by Cathy Janek / for Chronicle Media)

Many of his sales were from teachers who chose Stantz’s framed photographs to hang in their offices.

He was one of about 15 current and former College of DuPage students and in-district area high school students who showcased  their products, services, and ideas at the one-day event.

Sponsored by the College’s E2 Emerging Entrepreneurs program, the event was free and open to the public.

Psychology student Rachel Chapman of Lisle signed up to participate in the event after her entrepreneur teacher encouraged her to participate.

Homeschooled until high school, Chapman took an art class and realized it was something she was good it. Now she likes working with others to bring to life their ideas either on a canvas or a piece of clothing.

Chapman said it took her up until only a few months ago to grasp that people wanted to purchase her art.

“I was surprised that people actually wanted to buy my doodles,” she added.