Small businesses, artists creating handmade wares, and ghost kitchens have boomed over the past two years, with many people occupying their free time by turning their hobbies into an extra source of income.
With this small-scale business boom, public markets like the Mujeres Market have cropped up alongside traditional swap meets to become a place for the community to find one-of-a-kind crafts and support local entrepreneurs.
The Youth Makers Market is the newest community pop-up, created as a way to get local youth experience as creators and sellers, and empower them to become independent business owners. Its first event will be held 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Santa Barbara Community Arts Workshop on Sunday, Sept. 19.
“The concept behind Youth Makers Market is to bring together all Santa Barbara County youth 17 and younger,” said organizer Cecilia Rubio, who started the grassroots effort with the help of her two daughters, Aaliyah and Bella. “We want this market to assist young entrepreneurs to cultivate their reasoning, problem-solve, evaluate, and enhance their crafting skills. After visiting a couple Makers Markets, I was inspired to start a Youth Makers Market in my hometown — for and about our youth.”
La Colina student Aaliyah, 13, and her younger sister Bella, 11, started crafting after seeing others on social media making handmade goods. They thought it would be a good way to stave off boredom during quarantine.
“I got really bored, I saw a TikTok of somebody making things and I wanted to do it,”said Bella, who attends Peabody Charter School. Bella makes hair products: brushes and clips cast out of resin, which she customizes by adding glitter to the mixture or inlaying flowers. Her favorite is a lavender metallic purple flake which she floats in a transparent resin mixture.
Aaliyah makes beaded jewelry: bracelets, necklaces, rings and anklets. She’s currently looking for materials to make her first pair of earrings.
Cecilia learned alongside her daughters, finding starter kits online and helping them learn the basics. Working with resin, she said, was no easy task at first.
“It was a lot of trial and error,”Cecilia said. After a few tries, and a couple batches which set unevenly — “We learned our patio was slanted,” she laughed — the resin products started to come out better.
Aaliyah was getting comfortable with beading as well, buying different colored beads in bulk and stringing them together for customized combinations she gave away and sold to friends. For pride month, she made special rainbow anklets and sold every one.
What started as just an idea earlier in the summer, became a mission to make the market a reality. Cecilia previously worked with Linda Vega Dance Studio, and recently has been working as a photographer, but she had never had any experience with the bureaucratic red tape of running a nonprofit. She wasn’t sure how to get started so she reached out to the community for help.
“I’ve never done something this big,” she said. “I just started sending emails.”
Luckily, she says, the Santa Barbara community, including city officials, were helpful in walking her through the process of registering the nonprofit and finding a place to hold the market. “It was not as hard as I thought, they were very helpful,” she said.
After reaching out to a couple of potential venues, Cecilia said the Community Arts Workshop seemed like a perfect fit.
The wokshop, located at 631 Garden Street, is a project of the Santa Barbara Arts Collaborative, a nonprofit committed to sustaining and growing all forms of the arts in Santa Barbara, according to its website.
There are currently 17 youth makers signed up for the first Market, selling everything from jewelry to clothing to homemade baked goods. Cecilia hopes this event draws enough community support to encourage more youth to participate, and allow the young entrepreneurs to feel like they can be self-starters.
“To make them feel creative, empowered,” Cecilia said.
Aaliyah said she is excited to see the turnout. “I wanna see how many people come,” she said. Both her and her sister Bella want to sell out of their wares, and said if they do they plan to save the money and invest it into their next projects.
Cecilia said she hopes people show up for the youth, and that the community support is necessary for them to feel like they are part of something bigger. “I want people to come, to just buy one or two things to let them know they are seen and heard.”