ESTR’s Market hopes to host more online markets in 2021 after the shop’s first popup success in December 2020. Because of the pandemic, ESTR’s had to scale down their usual program and reassess their business model to continue operating.
During semesters past, the market stoked a variety of hand-made local goods, delicious meals and yummy snacks on the second floor of Old Main on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Students in the Education and Skills Training Program greeted students, faculty and staff with warm remarks and excellent customer service.
ESTR’s market, like other spaces on campus such as the bookstore, facilities and print shop, provides students in the Education and Skills Training Program (ESTR) with crucial experiential or “hands-on” learning opportunities. By working at ESTR’s market and other on-campus spaces throughout the usual nine-month ESTR program, students gain trades, kitchen, and retail experience in real-world settings. With the continuation of campus closures year long, ESTR program coordinators were determined to figure out how to offer the same typical experiences to students during a somewhat atypical school year.
After addressing concerns and creating a safety plan, ESTR’s market was able to open virtually for three weeks in December. Like many businesses nationwide, ESTR’s operated as usual behind the scenes, took orders via the internet, and offered curbside pickup.
ESTR instructor Leanne Mihalicz says ESTR’s Market was able to re-invent itself, adding that “students were so keen to continue the market. Real, hands-on experience is why they enrol in the program. It’s their store, their project, and it’s always really great to watch them take ownership over the market.”
After deciding to go virtual, ESTR students quickly created an online e-commerce site and familiarized themselves with the technology needed to continue their schooling virtually. Another exceptional example of the kind of experiential learning opportunities ESTR students immerse themselves in.
In the process, Mihalicz discovered previously hidden abilities in students and fostered deeper connections. For example, the virtual market unearthed one student’s passion for photography, while another student showed excellent social media marketing and managing skills.
Second-year students Josephine Etienne and Kelly Kindred told TRU Newsroom that they are thankful for the opportunity to get involved this semester, to learn in person, and work with their classmates. Etienne enjoyed processing purchases and making bows for gift boxes, while Kindred took pleasure in assisting customers and organizing items.
In practicing the skills required to run an online business successfully, ESTR students have the opportunity to prepare for authentic job scenarios—a vitally important experience when hoping to find success after completion of the program.
Mihalicz says that despite the transition, the response has been positive. ESTR’s market hopes to host more popups this semester to continue offering ESTR students the ability to learn by experience.
Keep an eye out for updates concerning upcoming popup markets on ESTR’s Instagram and the ESTR Program page on TRU’s website. Because of the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 regulations, an official date for ESTR’s Market’s next popup has yet to be decided.