It all started with a big bee.
The plump crocheted insect, made from yellow and black yarn, was large enough that sophomore entrepreneurship student Jonalie Zamora had to reach to wrap her arms around it. She brought it into high school and instantly drew some interest from her peers.
“I showed my friends and said, ‘Hey guys, look at this thing I made,’” Zamora says. “Everyone started asking me if I could buy one from me. I’ve had a history of making things by hand and selling them since I was young: mostly paper airplanes and other small stuff. I thought that since people like it and it didn’t take so long, I might as well do it.”
That’s precisely what Zamora now does with her crochet designs on Student-Made Marquette, an online platform for students to sell products. Launched Feb. 1, 2023, the website hosts more than a dozen student creators who sell everything from handbags to laptop stickers.
“All these products are really neat because it’s all student-driven,” says Patrick Monahan, director of innovation at the 707 Hub and a 2005 graduate of the College of Health Sciences. “It’s always awesome when you see new students join because you know they’re bringing something that they’re passionate about and love to do.”
Many of the creators selling their wares on Student-Made Marquette are business students intent on putting classroom learning into action. Olivia Strom, a sophomore AIM and finance major, is the owner of Bee Well Handcrafted Stationery, which sells custom, hand-made greeting cards on the Student-Made platform. She says her introductory accounting classes gave a thorough rundown of things that she should have been doing but wasn’t.
“I’ve definitely gotten a lot smarter about how things should be priced and doing accurate calculations about how much my time is worth versus the materials and the overhead,” Strom says.
“There are a lot of things they talk to you about in class as far as social media marketing and how to do taxes as a sole proprietor that add a lot of value,” adds Josh Meitz, a Class of 2023 Marquette Business alum who sold photographic prints on Student-Made Marquette when he was a senior studying business administration.
One of the toughest challenges these student creators must face is how to scale their businesses. Strom makes her stationery on the floor of her dorm room, plugging in a heat gun whenever she needs to emboss her trademark honeybee on a new stack of cards. Meitz sold prints of scenes around Milwaukee, commuting to each shoot location by bicycle and uploading the choice shots to his website.
Zamora hopes to overcome this challenge by selling yarn kits with instructions to her designs, preserving her ability to create while cutting out the repetitive part of the process. The business model also makes the labor of crocheting less of a burden, which is helpful for a student also taking a full load of courses.
“I believe that if you love something, you shouldn’t do anything to burn yourself out on it,” Zamora says.
Creators are classified as independent contractors with Student-Made; they are sent IRS 1099 forms along with guidance about how to file taxes. Each campus affiliation is led by a seven-student management team that oversees diverse business units such as content, website design, finance and partnerships. Student-Made also handles shipping and fulfillment, which is useful for students who may not have the time or means to deliver on their own.
“The Student-Made store takes care of all the back-end stuff and it really lets the entrepreneur focus on whatever it is they’re creating,” Monahan says. “There is a lot more support and community infrastructure available with Student-Made than there is on other third-party platforms.”
“I’d been wanting to get into Etsy, but as a person without a driver’s license who’s commuting to campus and taking a full course load, Student-Made just works better because it has an online platform that is dedicated to helping me reach customers,” Zamora says.
Students have already seen serious returns from this new e-commerce platform. Meitz, who heard about Student-Made from one of Coleman Chair and Instructor of Practice John Peterson’s entrepreneurship classes, estimated that he made close to $3,000 by the time he graduated.
It helps that Student-Made Marquette gives students a purpose-built way to market their products directly to a university-specific audience. The majority of Meitz’s sales came from alumni hoping to decorate their apartments or houses; a group that has a much easier time locating his products on Student-Made than on a larger platform. Finding success on a platform like Etsy often means sinking resources into brand-building, which isn’t as much of a concern when selling to a more targeted market.
“I was a little bit worried when I first applied because my brand isn’t super established. I don’t do any Instagram advertising and I hadn’t sold a ton at first,” Strom says. “But they were super welcoming to anybody who wants to try. I encourage anyone who’s interested to sign up.”
The next generation of Marquette creators now has that chance. Student-Made is accepting applications for the current semester. Photographers, crafters and creatives of all kinds are just a questionnaire away from joining Marquette’s entrepreneurial community, thanks to Student-Made.