Student Market's entrepreneurial spirit is good fit

Students browse through new and vintage clothing on Tuesday during the Canyon Activities Board’s spring Student Market on the Grand Canyon University Promenade, which was packed with 60 student vendors.

Story by Lana Sweeten-Shults
Photos by Ralph Freso
GCU News Bureau

“It’s a taste of childhood in a cup.”

It could be a great slogan.

Or it could just be how Grand Canyon University senior exercise science major Arlene Alarcón feels about her business, Vaquita Coffee Co. The beverage company’s line stretched 20 people deep on Tuesday in front of the Student Life Building during the Canyon Activities Board’s spring Student Market (see slideshow here). The business was one of about 60 vendors packing the Promenade.

“It’s basically like a little sweet taste of childhood for me. The Vaquita Churros and Tres Leches (flavors) – that’s what I grew up eating,” said Alarcón, who greeted customers and took payments via Venmo for the business, which translated from Spanish means “little cow.”

The Vaquita Churro? It’s flavored with cinnamon and sugar and topped with a creamy vanilla soft top, while condensed milk, vanilla and a pink sweet cream soft top sweeten the Tres Leches. Students also could choose a Classic Cold Brew and add vanilla, caramel, oat milk or a soft top.

Graphic design junior Joshua Saunders made churro- and tres leches-flavored coffees and cold brews at the Vaquita Coffee Co. table.

Business partner Joshua Saunders, a graphic design junior, skillfully filled orders as fast as he could, adding oat milk to the dark coffee that swirled in curly-Q patterns in an almost hypnotic fashion. It looked as if he has been in business for years.

“This is our first pop-up,” he chimed proudly.

“So how long have you been in business?” asked a passer-by.

“Two weeks,” he said as students in the crowd smiled.

He and Alarcón are both baristas and always talked about having their own coffee business, so Vaquita Coffee Co. was born.

Besides the coffee flavors, what makes the company’s coffee unique: “Honestly, I think it’s the aesthetics of it,” said Saunders, “because we’ve got this pink cold foam (a type of whipped foam). Everybody’s taking pictures of it.”

Vaquita Coffee Co. wasn’t the only beverage or eatery business at the Student Market.

Chewk’s “Real Good Cookies” beckoned near the Lope Shop on the other end of the Promenade. The company has cooked up cookie options such as the OG Chewk, Snickerdoodle, Monster, Red Velvet and GF Chewk.

“They’re A-MAZING!” one student said of the thin-styled, chewy cookie, munching on her pick just a foot away from the Chewk’s table. “Snickerdoodle is my favorite.”

The business, which “serves people and cookies,” is the brainchild of entrepreneurship sophomore Hunter Breshears. He started Chewk's about six months ago, though he has been dreaming of starting his own business since high school.

Hunter Breshears, an entrepreneurship sophomore (right), created Chewk’s, which specializes in thin, chewy cookies.

“I made up my mind I was going to do it someday. I got let go from my sales job and decided to go for it,” said Breshears, who took time to wrap each order in decorative paper tied with string. “These are all my recipes. We’re trying to do more than just cookies. We’re trying to sell an experience. We’re trying to better people’s lives – and also make cookies.”

Breshears and business partner Michael Blum are the primary cookie taste-testers and quality-control team. It’s a hard job, but somebody’s got to do it.

“We are the best cookie testers around,” Blum said with a smile.

The pair have been working with GCU to develop their business, including getting mentorship advice from Dr. Eduardo Borquez, part of the faculty team of the Colangelo College of Business. They also are working with Canyon 49 Grill, using its kitchen as a ghost kitchen in the wee hours of the morning.

Breshears and Blum, who charge $2 and $2.50 per cookie, made 275 cookies for the Student Market and, just an hour and a half into it, already had sold out of two flavors.

That kind of success is what the Canyon Activities Board’s Arts and Culture team loves to hear.

“Just look around you, you know. Within the first couple of minutes of this market, this Promenade was full of people,” said Director of CAB’s Arts and Culture team Lauren Brewer. “It’s definitely one of CAB’s biggest events.”

The team spent about six hours scanning more than 100 applications and whittled them to the 60 vendors dappling the Promenade. They want to give students who have never sold their wares at Student Market before a chance to do so. And they also want to make sure the market is offering a variety of options.

“We’re very intentional about who we pick,” Brewer said, adding, “It’s great exposure; we pull in a lot of students.”

One of those student vendors: Ella Berg of Grae Willow, part of a cadre of thrift vendors at the heart of the Promenade, where students sifted through vintage clothing.

The graphic design/advertising major started Grae Willow four years ago alongside her two sisters back home in Minnesota.

“I just wanted to keep doing it in college just for fun,” said Berg, who scours local thrift stores for her finds and cuts, treats and repurposes the clothing in some way to make them unique. She stores the clothing in bins in her campus apartment, just waiting for customers, such as history sophomore Savannah Miles.

History sophomore Savannah Miles loves thrifting and browses through vintage clothing at the market.

Thrift and vintage shopping is huge, Miles said: “I think it partially has to do with concerns about the climate crisis – buy clothes that already exist instead of contributing to something that isn’t as sustainable.”

For her, personally, she loves finding those humorous vintage T-shirts.

“I just like older clothes. I just like the way they look – they feel better than newer clothes, and they just feel more quality, so I think lots of students like it.”

Beyond the thrifting area of the market, communications senior Emma Sawatsky, who runs Ivy and Citrus Co. with business partners Becca Thiessen and Kylee Moen, took to the Promenade to hawk their hand-painted trays, propagated plants, baskets and unique earrings.

The earrings are real slices of dehydrated fruit, such as oranges and limes. They get the fruit from family and friends who have citrus trees, then dehydrate them for more that 25 hours and coat them in acrylic.

It’s a process Sawatsky said they have been perfecting for three years.

“They didn’t used to look this good,” Sawatsky said with a laugh. “They used to be pretty thick chunks.”

Pre-med sophomore Eseose “Sosa” Aigbokhan started her eco-friendly soy candle business Simply Sosa with her sister, Iyayi, during COVID-19 quarantine.

“I LOVE candles, and I love to share the love of candles with other people – I know how that sounds,” Aigbokhan said with a smile. “A lot of people in my life really don’t care about candles, but when I started making them, they fell in love with them, too.”

Student vendors offered everything from jewelry to plants and candles.

Their candles include aromas such Nubian Queen, a reflection of their Nigerian heritage, and best-seller Grandma’s Kitchen, though GCU students at the market seemed to be obsessed with the Simply Sosa Cereal candles.

“Do you want to smell it yourself?” Aigbokhan asked. “You’ll understand the mania.”

Sophomore Jared Perkinson was at the Student Market for the first time and loved it: “It’s extremely cool to see everyone out here selling and making businesses off of just the little things they make.”

Added Aigbokhan, “I think it’s fantastic. I think GCU does a great job at integrating students into everything. I work on campus, as well, but this is a great opportunity to be creative and make a little extra money just to pay off college. It’s a great idea.”

As Alarcón continued to share her childhood in a cup, she also served up this sentiment: “We’re having fun right now.”

GCU senior writer Lana Sweeten-Shults can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-7901.


Related content:

GCU Today: Washed Clothing is right fit for Canyon Challenge

GCU Today: Canyon Ventures helps Lux Longboards keep rolling

GCU Today: Slideshow/video: The final Mr. GCU


Calendar of Events

M Mon

T Tue

W Wed

T Thu

F Fri

S Sat

S Sun

0 events,

0 events,

1 event,

0 events,

6 events,

3 events,

2 events,

0 events,

3 events,

3 events,

3 events,

3 events,

2 events,

0 events,

0 events,

2 events,

5 events,

0 events,

0 events,

1 event,

2 events,

0 events,

0 events,

GCU Magazine

Bible Verse

David said to Michal, "It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when He appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel — I will celebrate before the Lord. (2 Samuel 6:21)

To Read More: