The SUNY New Paltz chapter of Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE), an international organization, is on the move, with several community-based projects in the offing. The group is currently preparing for its Student Vendor Festival slated for this Sunday, April 1 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Water Street Market in downtown New Paltz. Members will showcase and sell a variety of art, photographs, ceramics, metals, knitted items and paper beads, the proceeds of which will go to Project Hope, helping women in Uganda to be able to sell their beads worldwide and lift them out of poverty.
Rachel Carr, a senior at SUNY New Paltz who is poised to graduate this spring with a bachelor’s degree in marketing, has taken the local SIFE group to a new level. “When I joined last year, there were only three other members, all of whom graduated,” she explained. “So we began this year with a new team, and we have 15 consistent and enthusiastic members that are just a pleasure to work with.”
Carr explained that the concept behind SIFE is “to use what you’re learning in school and apply it to real-life situations that also help to give back to the community you’re living in.” To that end, one of the projects on which the group is working is to create a business plan with a warehouse in New York City that has excess backpacks and school supplies. Those will be brought back to New Paltz and offered to the school district for those students who are in need or who have families who have difficulty paying for the supplies that their children need for school. “We’re working with the school district and this not-for-profit warehouse in the city to find a way to bring these goods to local students and find out what exactly they need.” Not only does that help these college students learn to negotiate contracts and create business plans, but it also provides them with hands-on experience prior to graduation that they’ll need once they head out into the world of business, marketing, social services and other fields that they’re studying.
Along the same track, SIFE is working with the New Paltz Middle School to create a junior SIFE group. “SIFE emphasizes leadership skills,” said Carr. “The earlier you begin to instill these leadership skills, the better. So we want to have a junior group that learns real-life skills like selling snacks and drinks at school sporting events: learning how to do inventory, handle money, reporting back to us on what the cost was, what proceeds they were able to gather and then where those proceeds could go to help strengthen the school.”
There are several SUNY New Paltz SIFE members who are excited about the junior SIFE group and have offered to hold weekly meetings with the middle school students and pursue ideas that they have, one of which is a pancake breakfast. “The kids will learn how to run meetings, how to plan for events, market their events…things that instill confidence and give them the opportunity to develop skills that they can use throughout their life.”
As for the Water Street Market event, Theresa Fall, director of marketing and event programming for the market, said that she was looking forward to the Student Vendor Festival. “They’ve done it here in the past, but I have to say that with Rachel on board, it’s taken on a new level of planning and professionalism. She has been in constant communication with us, mapping out the tables and planning live music. It’s going to be great.”
That said, Fall was quick to point out, “This is also what Water Street Market is about. We are the epicenter of community support, whether it’s for Family of New Paltz, local farmers, filmmakers, artists, musicians or students. We’re not doing this to attract more people to Water Street Market on a Sunday; we’re hosting this so that these students, who are a critical part of our community, can have the real-life experience of marketing themselves, getting to know local business owners and showcasing their work.”
Michelle Walsh, of the Mudd Puddle, who was helping to map out the various tables with Carr and Fall, concurred: “I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for college students to learn about business, marketing and having to adapt to various circumstances. It could rain that day, it could be windy, it could be beautiful — and they’ll have to adjust their event based on those unknowns, just like people in business have to on a daily basis.” “It’s not going to rain!” said Carr with a laugh. “I already planned that!” ++