The ESTR program gives students the opportunity to host a pop-up market amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, by offering curbside pickup and online shopping.
Leanne Mihalicz, Instructor in the ESTR program, said the program is an “employment program for students with diverse abilities and we have four streams.” The four streams include career exploration, retail and hospitality, kitchen and food services and trades assistant. “Each one of those streams is a nine-month program and students can choose to take one or multiple [streams].”
The market itself is an opportunity for students to sell products, many of them being student-made products. Through this market, students learn entrepreneurial skills and what it takes to run a business as a team.
“We partner with local artisans,” Mihalicz said, “and then we have a lot of student-made products that we feature. Our students learn hands-on experiential and employment skills. We call it a social enterprise on campus.”
The ESTR Market has many products for sale, all locally made in the community or by the students themselves.
“I’m so proud of them because the majority of our first week, our sales were from ESTR made products, so student-made products,” Mihalicz said. “We’ve always been really proud of that because students make many of the products sold and they are typically the number one seller.”
The ESTR market sells a variety of products including food items from the kitchen students, wooden items from the trades students, and other products including floral arrangements and pillows from the retail students.
“They’re also involved in choosing some of those products,” Mihalicz said. “We try to engage them in as many aspects of the market as possible.”
Anyone interested in purchasing the products can check out the ESTR Market website at estrsmarket.trubox.ca/. Here people can purchase products and arrange curbside pickup for their items, on either Wednesdays or Thursdays between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. when ESTR students are at the university. Products can be picked up at entrance five of Old Main in parking lot C, where the Print Shop doors are located. The pop-up market will be happening from March 8 to April 1.
Mihalicz said that the ESTR program is valuable to students as it gives them the skills to manage a business and work as a team.
“They’re developing employment skills and some specific skills for the stream they might have chosen,” Mihalicz said. “They’re also learning communication and teamwork and a sense of confidence in themselves.”
Although COVID-19 has affected the program in a variety of ways, it has given the students the opportunity to develop different skills.
“Traditionally we’re open on campus twice a week. This year we weren’t able to offer that, and we decided that we would try an online version of it,” Mihalicz said. “This is our second online pop-up market and it’s been a really good experience for the students. We have developed different skills than we normally do because of the technology. Overall, it’s been an excellent opportunity to develop a new set of skills and kind of learn about starting up a business.”