Empowering JMU’s entrepreneurs

The Student-Made Store is the Gilliam Center for Entrepreneurship’s newest program on campus.

SUMMARY: The Gilliam Center for Entrepreneurship recently teamed up with Student-Made Store in an effort to help student creators showcase their goods and products, while learning valuable business skills.

As the executive director of the Gilliam Center for Entrepreneurship, Suzanne Bergmeister is always looking for new events and partnerships to implement for JMU’s student body. After reading Emily Warden’s (’17) feature about the business she started while a student, Bergmeister was inspired to help students take their entrepreneurial passions out of their dorm rooms and into the public eye.

“I realized that there were many dorm room entrepreneurs at JMU we weren’t reaching here at the GCFE to offer our programs, events and activities to,” Bergmeister said. So, she began exploring how The Student-Made Store could make an impact at JMU. 

SMS is a marketplace for students to showcase and sell their goods, whether they are budding fashion designers or artists looking to reach more consumers. Student-Made partners with colleges and universities across the nation to help them establish their own campus marketplace and connect student creators with each other. 

Bergmeister was skeptical about the program at first, so she scheduled a call with Student-Made founder Lindsey Reeth, who impressively fielded all of Bergmeister’s questions. SMS would not only provide a platform for student creators to sell their merchandise but also offer workshops to teach students how to successfully operate a business. “I was sold,” Bergmeister said. 

After a lengthy paperwork process, all contracts were signed and implemented in fall 2023, making Student-Made an official GCFE program, and JMU one of 13 participating universities. JMU’s Student-Made Store currently has 24 different creators, who hail from a wide swath of majors. Additionally, seven student creators serve as campus managers, handling finances, social media, content creation, events and more.

A Student-Made pop-up shop during an Open Coffee event at the GCFE

The GCFE hosts Student-Made pop-ups once a month in Hartman Hall and holds a permanent spot at JMU’s farmer’s market every Wednesday, allowing student creators the opportunity to network with peers, meet their customers face-to-face and spread awareness of their goods and products. 

One such student creator is Tarang Mishra, co-founder of the clothing brand Untitled Kingdom and a junior Political Science major with a minor in Entrepreneurship. Mishra started his business in 2017 while he was in high school and experienced an outpouring of positive feedback from his peers. As a result, Mishra felt confident that he could bring his business with him to JMU and have a similar experience. As a Political Science major, however, he felt that he didn’t have a space where he could achieve both aspirations. 

Mishra was introduced to Student-Made through the GCFE, a space he frequented due to his Entrepreneurship minor. “Student-Made has helped me grow tremendously across campus. The first farmer’s market I attended was incredibly successful and has since allowed me to maintain a strong campus presence,” Mishra said. 

Similarly, first-year Marketing major, Julia Kelly, launched her brand, Shop Julia Kelly, which offers a wealth of stickers, crocheted items and stationery, in 2021 while she was still in high school. After settling into college life, she was ready to take the next step in growing her business and applied to be a member of Student-Made. “Student-Made has helped me grow professionally and helped me hone some of my business skills. Interacting with customers has helped me develop strong communication skills, while maintaining an online shop has shown me how important strong social media skills are in today’s business world,” Kelly said. 

The integration of Student-Made into the GCFE’s portfolio of programs has already proven to be a transformative experience for student creators like Mishra and Kelly. Through the platform provided by Student-Made, these entrepreneurs have not only found a space to showcase and sell their products but also a supportive community that fosters their growth and development.

Mishra said, “Creating clothing pieces and managing employees and all of the moving pieces of a business is necessary for this to be a well-oiled machine. So for people to actually treat it as such and appreciate it not only as a business, but something external to who I am as a person is very valuable to me. I love that people resonate with something that we created.”

As the Student-Made Store continues to thrive with monthly pop-ups and a presence at JMU’s farmer’s market, it stands as a testament to the power of collaboration and innovation in empowering the next generation of business leaders, while inspiring a culture of entrepreneurship and creativity that extends well beyond the classroom.

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by Jess Nickels (’21)

Published: Thursday, March 28, 2024

Last Updated: Thursday, April 4, 2024

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