James Madison University

JMU Students Visit Common Good Marketplace

By: Brett Seekford '16
Posted: January 4, 2016

PHOTO: Roxann Allen

Common Good Marketplace serves an important function in the Harrisonburg community. The shopping center includes two nonprofits, thrift store Gift & Thrift and fair trade store Artisan’s Hope, and a for-profit restaurant called A Bowl of Good. All of these businesses strive to work for the larger social good, whether it be through Artisan’s Hope’s sale of items from developing countries or A Bowl of Good’s purchase of food from local organic farmers. JMU students recently visited these stores, witnessing the way in which Common Good Marketplace stands in contrast to larger profit-driven companies.

After taking classes to Common Good Marketplace in the past, Roxann Allen thought it would benefit students in her nonprofit management course to see how the businesses operate. “I think students got a lot out of the trip because of the exposure they had to the managers’ approach and attention to detail,” she said. “They were also able to see that various business models can be used to achieve social good. For-profits, such as A Bowl of Good, and nonprofits, like Artisan’s Hope, are increasingly blurred. Students could see all sides of success.”

Touring Gift & Thrift and Artisan’s Hope showed students the importance of business quality in helping a nonprofit succeed. Students observed how Gift & Thrift, for instance, carefully laid out their store in order to compete with larger thrift stores, as they thoroughly organize their inventory to attract customers. Managers at both Gift & Thrift and Artisan’s Hope shared insight about their work with local and distant businesspeople to sell their items at their stores.

Allen stated that she received largely positive feedback regarding the trip. “I think students were so appreciative of this experience because they got to go out into the community and talk to actual managers of socially-driven businesses,” she said.

Breonna Riddick (’16), one of the students who went on the trip, agreed with Allen’s assessment. “It did make me realize that there are many different aspects of running a nonprofit that I may want to consider and take into account, including the best way of daily operations, management structure, use of volunteers, etc.,” she said.

For many students, the conversations they had with the managers reinforced their plans to work in the nonprofit sector after graduation. Kenna Dickard’s (’17) time with the class left her in awe of the potential that lay in her future. “While driving home from this trip I called my mother nearly shaking with excitement for my future,” she said. “Seeing, first hand, a successful woman in the nonprofit [sector] telling us that pursuing jobs in the nonprofit sphere is not only doable but encouraged made all the difference in the world to me.”

Allen sees this trip as reinvigorating students’ love for nonprofits because they could see the manner in which they are run and the services they provide to customers. “Overall, I think this experience is important because my students were able to experience the community they’re trying to create,” she said.