The way students connect, buy and sell goods is about to change – with an app created by three Howard students called the ScholarShop. The first Instagram post of the ScholarShop, an online marketplace made by students for students reads, “Connect. Empower. Amplify.”
The app recently went live and intends to create a central location for students to access and select products and services from student-owned businesses. The app features a growing selection of businesses ranging from hair, styling and clothing, to photography, models and DJs.
The creators of the ScholarShop, Charlie “CJ” Siegler, Sydney Stokes and Richard Stowe, all of whom are juniors in the School of Engineering and Architecture, commented on the marketplace’s inception and its service to the Howard community.
Siegler said the “notoriously entrepreneurial spirit” of Howard University is what sparked the app’s creation. The junior computer science major from Louisville, Kentucky, wanted a space to see all the various businesses in one place and make connecting the campus businesses easier.
Over the summer, Siegler joined forces with Stokes, a junior computer science major from Baltimore, Maryland, and they began formulating an approach to creating the platform. The duo made it a point to ensure that the idea didn’t die in its first stages.
“We started developing the app and just wanted to get something out there. First, we started to get the bones together on what we wanted the app to be, then it was reaching out to businesses, starting with the people we knew and getting them on the app,” Stokes said.
Stowe, a junior computer information systems major from Anne Arundel County, Maryland, who joined the team shortly before the launch, had a similar idea in mind before beginning his collaboration with Stokes and Siegler.
“When I saw the app, I was scared at first because I thought of it as competition, but then I had the idea to hit CJ up. We had a great conversation and we saw a lot of our goals align, and so I came on board with their permission and made sure I could bring cohesive things to the table,” Stowe said.
The next step was getting student businesses onto the app and the team was able to hit the ground running. Throughout development, the team introduced the idea of the app to various business owners in their immediate network.
“It was super helpful that we had people close to us that we knew were working toward something that we could include and try to showcase that on the app,” Stokes said.
Fezeka Barnes, a junior supply chain management major from Texarkana, Texas, was one of the first business owners to be on the app after Siegler reached out to her and shared the idea. Her business, FezekaWear, sells handmade crochet pieces through Depop and Instagram.
“At the beginning of August, he came to me and told me the idea. He wanted to create the app and asked me if I was interested. I knew the concept but I didn’t know what it was going to be in terms of functioning on Howard’s campus,” Barnes said. “It was them, including me. They saw my business and wanted it to be one of the starting businesses on the platform.”
The app is fully accessible by using one’s Howard University email address. It is completely catered to the student body, “made for Howard Students by Howard students,” a sentiment emphasized by Siegler, Stokes and Stowe. They also added that they would eventually like to expand the app to deeper Howard networks including alumni and families who are looking to support Howard student businesses. As Siegler put things, the app would be “a one-stop shop for all things Howard.”
“I think it’s going to be very beneficial to student-owned businesses on campus because we are students, and so, marketing budgets and things like that are usually lower. A lot of times, people’s businesses are only known by word of mouth and our own smaller networks, and it can only be spread to a certain extent,” Barnes said.
It embodies mutualism, giving business owners something to offer the campus community another form of marketing and traction, while also giving students the chance to see what goods and services are available to them right here on campus.
“People come to Howard, they don’t have the same services they had had at home here, so it gives them exposure to having these services and it’s just much more beneficial than having to try and outsource that in D.C. because things are much more expensive. So I feel like it’s beneficial on both parts; the business owners and everyday students” Barnes added.
The ScholarShop is truly working to make it all easier. The webpage and app feature tabs entitled business, categories, and feed. Users can scroll through with a service in mind, then once they spot something that interests them, the business owners’ information is presented to them, whether that be directing them to an Instagram account of a photographer for their next photo op, or a booking page for that next necessary haircut.
The trio has no intention of stopping here, according to Siegler, they are working towards making more changes to the app and prioritizing the businesses they represent.
Copy edited by Whitney Meritus