IDEA Club's Marketplace mounts momentum for Canyon Challenge

About 50 student business owners sold their products at the first IDEA Club Marketplace earlier this month. (Contributed photo)

The Grand Canyon University IDEA Club, whose goal is to support GCU's entrepreneurial spirit, had this idea: Why not support student business owners and foster that culture of entrepreneurship by hosting a student market?

The first IDEA Club Marketplace earlier this month at the Colangelo College of Business courtyard surpassed sales expectations with ease, and club president Connor Vicary spoke confidently about the group attaining greater goals. While the marketplace isn't the only event of its kind on campus, it is unique in that student vendors have access to the club's entrepreneurial know-how and resources.

“For the first time, the IDEA Club's student-run marketplace, built by students for students, has generated a lot of positive feedback, and because of that positive atmosphere, we had individuals dancing, smiling, having a wonderful time," Vicary said.

Thanks to an array of eye-catching merchandise located near one of the busiest foot-traffic areas at GCU, the club's first marketplace reached nearly $30,000 in sales from 50 vendors in only 6 ½ hours.

And Vicary and Jack’s Detail Garage co-founder Jackson Godwin believes that momentum has sustaining power. IDEA Club Marketplaces are planned the first Wednesday of every month, with events scheduled for Nov. 1 and Dec. 6. Vicary and Godwin envision students reaching $100,000 in sales.

That would be a perfect springboard to the Canyon Challenge, in which selected students get an opportunity to promote their startup companies in hopes of winning prize money.

IDEA Club president Connor Vicary (center) with members Jackson Godwin (left) and Andrew Bussmann discuss ways for members to improve their business ventures. (Photo by Ralph Freso)

Godwin knows firsthand about the visibility of the Canyon Challenge, coming up Dec. 8. His pitch for Jack’s Detail Garage, along with assistance from Luke Bates and Anthony Ybarra, finished second in last December’s competition.

Jack’s Detail Garage, a mobile auto detailing business, started with three sites last summer. Plans are to increase that to seven sites in five states by December.

“We got a lot of chemicals going in different places,” Vicary said.

IDEA Club GCU and the Colangelo College of Business will host a market the first Wednesday of the month at the CCOB courtyard to support student businesses. (Contributed photo)

But it all starts with the marketplace as a testing ground for student entrepreneurs. There was something for everyone, from cultural attire to clothing with Christian messages to an array of food to jewelry and sundries.

Women represented about half of the vendors, Vicary said.

“We think it will be a wonderful recruiting piece to our students at GCU, because if we had this ability to do this, I know I would have started here at an earlier time, opening a business,” Vicary said. “We’re starting to find out there’s real cash to be made. And $100,000 made by a group of students each semeste? That’s real money, and we’re really proud of that.”

It also represents a marketable climb by the IDEA Club, which performed a test run of 27 vendors at the end of last year to see if there was a demand for a market during the school day.

Kate Hames (left) takes part in a panel discussion with IDEA Club president Connor Vicary (right) and member Jackson Godwin during a meeting. (Photo by Ralph Freso)

Godwin sensed at the first marketplace that student customers were sold on the investment the vendors put into their products, resulting in plenty of retention by buyers and eagerness of vendors to sell at future marketplaces.

It also doesn’t hurt that the marketplace is held in the courtyard of CCOB, where approximately 7,000 students are walking to class and could be enticed by the products.

But there’s more than just relying on the quality or style of products. During a recent IDEA meeting, members gathered into three groups to improve their individual skills in the following areas – social media, business development and speech development/pitch deck training.

Those sessions were conducted by IDEA members who spoke passionately about making their products more convincing.

IDEA Club president Connor Vicary stresses to members the importance of seeking advice from club leaders. (Photo by Ralph Freso)

Robert Vera, director of GCU’s Canyon Ventures Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, folded his arms and grinned for several seconds in the back of the CCOB lobby as he watched IDEA vice president Lela Lewis instruct members on ways to improve their verbal delivery.

Vera marveled at how IDEA leaders helped fellow members find ways to improve the marketing of their products.

Furthermore, Vera and Vicary were proud that half the vendors who participated in the marketplace are not business majors.

“It’s a big melting pot,” said Vicary, referring to cultural artists and food vendors who served the likes of Hispanic candies and Hawaiian delicacies.

The IDEA Club's goal is to foster a culture of entrepreneurship on campus and support students in their business ventures, like at the monthly market. (Contributed photo)

Mechanical engineering student Caleb McCandliss needed little introduction at the meeting. McCandliss, who used to work for LUX Manufacturing, one of Canyon Ventures’ success stories, was selling his Car Chap holder that prevents lip balm from melting sideways.

McCandliss concocted the product after seeing his mother’s lip balm melt in her car in Northern California.

His product was featured in a recent issue of Car and Driver magazine.

This hands-on, business-to-customer model can’t be replicated in the classroom, Godwin said.

“They can fund their own growth and learn through the process,” Godwin said. “It’s different than if I handed you $1 million or handed someone a tool belt.

“We’re basically giving someone the opportunity to say, ‘Does this marketing work? Does this branding work? How do people like this label? How do people like this logo?’ All this in real time while they’re making money, as opposed to sitting in class and talking about a theory behind everything.”

Senior Writer Mark Gonzales can be reached at [email protected]

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GCU News: GCU Canyon Ventures student all about details in building auto-cleaning business

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