Elon senior Claire Bach went to Ecuador for spring break to visit her boyfriend for what she thought was going to be a eight-day trip. Instead, she found herself stuck in the capital of Quito for about two months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She was isolated and bored, so she started drawing graphics on her iPad.
She began posting her art on a Facebook group in April. Bach gained customers quickly and created her own Instagram account to share her drawings online. This was one of the inspirations behind Marketplace Under The Oaks, an entirely virtual community that promotes student-made creations.
Marketplace Under The Oaks helps students, alumni and faculty with small businesses gain attention by sending out newsletters every Tuesday afternoon and posting about companies on their Instagram account. Bach, senior Laura Welch and Director of the Doherty Center for Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Alyssa Martina created the platform to allow Elon students and alumni entrepreneurs to gain exposure.
“This is a way for us to kind of acknowledge them and amplify their work,” Martina said.
The market has featured students and alumni like senior Scott Goldstein — who created his own clothing line called Advanced Placement — Tony Weaver Jr. ‘16 — who has been featured on CNN for his comic writing — and senior Morgan Flynn — who runs her own charcuterie board business.
Flynn said Marketplace Under the Oaks has improved her business significantly.
“I have had a lot more students reach out to me about placing orders, and I have a lot more followers on my Instagram page,” Flynn said.
Anyone can be promoted on the market account. In addition to businesses, the account features blogs and alumni social media influencers who promote themselves and their marketing strategies.
Martina said Marketplace Under the Oaks differs from the Student-Made Store — an alumni-run online network — because they have different purposes. The Student-Made Store makes a profit as they help students sell their products on the website. Marketplace Under the Oaks simply wants to celebrate students and alumni located on campus.
“Ours is not a business. We’re not making money from our students. We’re just highlighting, showcasing our students,” Martina said.
Physical products or tangible services like the charcuterie boards or clothing apparel are included in the marketplace. However, other creations are promoted as well. Some of this work includes a podcast series, management of the Innovation Living Learning Community and workshops created by interns.
When the pandemic allows for in-person meetings safely, Bach hopes the entrepreneurs involved in Marketplace Under the Oaks will meet eventually.
“It is a possibility in the future for Marketplace Under The Oaks to become a place where small businesses can meet with each other small business owners and connect,” Bach said.
Martina said she hopes the marketplace will continue to thrive and be something that Bach and Welch will be proud to be a part of.
“In three or four years, the goal is for it to grow and mushroom and continue to evolve,” Martina said. “And when Laura and Claire are alumni, they’ll look back at something that’s bigger than what they ever envisioned.”