Two years removed from the last youth markets in Ithaca, student vendors will be returning to the Ithaca Commons and Ithaca Farmers Market after a series of training sessions with area entrepreneurs.
Ithaca’s Youth Entrepreneurship Market (YEM), is a training program that offers students in 4th to 12th grade an opportunity to learn the nuts and bolts of a business startup process. Students complete a series of workshops on everything from idea generation to business plan development, budgeting, marketing and financial literacy. At completion of the program, the students bring their ideas to several community celebration events on the Ithaca Commons and Ithaca Farmers Market where they can share their business story, sell their products, and engage with the community.
The program is the brainchild of Michael Mazza and Ethan Ash and is supported by entrepreneurs across the community. Speakers and coaches from 2021 included: Chris Kirby of Ithaca Hummus, Amanda David of Bramble, Dan Smalls of DSP Shows, Heather & Bruce Lane of Purity, Jason Goodman of Grabanzos, Elaan Greenfield of Metal Smithery, Gladys Brangman of Business Leaders of Colors, David Streib of New Roots Charter School, Dan Mazza of CarEase, and Samantha Abrams of Emmy’s Organics. The students also heard from other young entrepreneurs in the community such as Aubryn Neubert of Prime Jewelry Co., Gavin Hoffman of GA Studios, and Isabella & Amila Mazza of Peach Me I’m Dreaming.
“We couldn’t run this program without the wealth of entrepreneurial success stories we have in our community and the generosity of their founders. The greatest reward of running this program is seeing the excitement of young people as they hear the stories of local business leaders. We’ve all seen Ithaca Hummus in our grocery stores, and our students are hearing from the founder that he got his start by selling at a local market just like our students. The lightbulb is lit when students see that the founders of Emmy’s Organics got their start by baking cookies in a parent’s kitchen. These success stories are just so relatable, and we’re thrilled to connect these inspiring speakers to the young people in our community,” said Ethan Ash.
In 2021, Michael and Ethan focused the program on a theme of adaptation. “One of the keys to success in life and business is the ability to adapt,” said Michael Mazza. “I’ve been inspired by the many stories of adaptation by our students, our business leaders, our teachers, and our communities as a whole during the pandemic. So we wanted to connect the story of adaptation to entrepreneurship; conveying the importance of adaptability to success in business and life.”
The program culminates with a series of outdoor vendor markets for the students to sell their products, which begin on June 26th on the Commons and then moves to the Ithaca Farmers Market at Steamboat Landing on the last Thursday of July, August, and September. The markets are inclusive to all area youth regardless of their participation in the program. Youth entrepreneurs can reserve a vendor space for any of the four summer markets at www.yemithaca.com/youth-markets.
“IFM is proud to host three Youth Markets at Steamboat Landing. We strive to be a business incubator for the local community and there’s no better place to start than with our youth! These Thursday markets will be an amazing opportunity for us all to come out and support local – local kiddos; local produce, food and art; and local music. If that isn’t quintessentially Ithaca – what is?” said Kelly Sauve, IFM Market Manager.
“In a year of social distancing and remote learning, we saw over 30 students show up for a 2 hour Zoom on five Saturday mornings to learn about budgeting, business planning and financial literacy,” added Ethan. “I’m just so inspired by these students and the passion they’re showing at such a young age to create and to make a difference with their ideas and energy. The best thing we can do as a community is to show them our support and to celebrate their hard work. So come out to one of our markets, ask them questions, hear their stories, and maybe even buy something to help make their day or their future.”