GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.-- Two Cornerstone University students came up with a unique project after a class trip to Ecuador. They created an international artisan market after seeing people in Ecuador struggling to sell their goods.
After the students returned home, they partnered with a school group called Enactus to bring their items here to sell them. It's a say, they say, to make the world a better place without simply giving handouts.
It's the third year of the international artisan market at Cornerstone University.
"Here at the market we have international and local artisans that are selling goods to help artisans have a livelihood for themselves and their families," said Rachel Hammond, assistant professor of business and Enactus faculty advisor.
It all started on a class Spanish trip to Ecuador three years ago. Two students decided to help the local people struggling to sell their goods.
"They noticed that products there that were incredible, but they didn't have a good market in which to sell them," said Caite Baker, co-coordinator for the international artisan market. "They decided to take those back to the states, make a market for them, then we can sell them and really help benefit them. It just started creating a snowball effect and we have connections with all different kinds of artisans down the road. Now we're here and we're hoping this continues to grow and continue to bless the community."
It takes around 30 students to run the event with 25 different vendors both local and international.
"We host it so that the money that the vendors that the international artisans make go right back to them," said Hammond. "Then, as an organization, our student run organization Enactus, any of the booth fees that we earn is going right back to Esperanza Art, which is an organization in Ecuador."
Organizers say it's about recognizing the beauty and creativity of the artists and allowing them to make a life for their families.
"Honestly, it's about making connections with the vendors and seeing their connections with the customers afterwards," said Baker. "It's my favorite thing. We go to all kinds of different craft shows during the summer, just kind of scouting things out and prepping and getting new ideas, but my favorite thing is making those connections with the vendors and hopefully those are going to be long-lasting connections that are very fruitful and beneficial."
Those involved with the market say it's exciting and rewarding to see the young entrepreneurs grow into their potential and to help people in Grand Rapids find some unique new items.