ITHACA, N.Y. –– Student vendors from New Roots Charter and other area schools will be returning to the Commons and Ithaca Farmers Market this weekend for Ithaca’s Youth Entrepreneurship Market (YEM). The market featuring handmade goods and services is the culmination of a five-week training program that teaches students in fourth to twelfth grade the “nuts and bolts of a business startup process.”

Over the course of the YEM training program students complete a series of workshops on everything from idea generation to business plan development, budgeting, marketing and financial literacy.

“In a year of social distancing and remote learning, we saw over 30 students show up for a two-hour Zoom on five Saturday mornings to learn about budgeting, business planning and financial literacy,” said Ethan Ash, one of the founders of the program and an entrepreneur himself. “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.”

In addition to Ash, New Roots Charter School Director of Community Engagement Michael Mazza has also been instrumental in bringing the program to life. Both Ash and Mazza have been supported by business leaders as well, looking to share their experience and expertise with a younger generation.

Speakers and coaches this year includedChris 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.  

“The greatest reward of running this program is seeing the excitement of young people as they hear the stories of local business leaders,” Ash said. “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.”

In 2021, Mazza and Ash said they focused the program on a theme of adaptation –– fitting as COVID-19 continues to constantly evolve.

“One of the keys to success in life and business is the ability to adapt,” Mazza said. “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.”  

Following the June 26 market on the Commons vendors will move exclusively to the Ithaca Farmers Market at Steamboat Landing on the last Thursday of July, August, and September.

“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.

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.  

Anna Lamb

Anna Lamb is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at alamb@ithacavoice.com