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Jonelle Dawkins, a UGA student, sells merchandise as part of her fashion merchandising class at the Couture a la Cart mobile boutique near the UGA arch on March 27, 2019. Dawkins creates bracelets that are sold on the cart. (Photo/Taylor Gerlach)

Couture a la Cart has grown significantly since its rebirth in 2017 and the business has already had some of its greatest success within its first week of sales this year. Now, Couture a la Cart also accepts credit cards, a new service which wasn’t in place two years ago, and it’s running smoother this year than ever before.

In one retail entrepreneurship class held at the University of Georgia, students are not only learning about how to create and grow a business through lectures, but they’re applying those learned skills to run a real business on campus — Couture a la Cart, a pop-up retail shop.

The modified golf cart — which is running for five weeks on various parts of campus — is small, but the valuable experiences gained from the fully student-run business are lessons the students will carry on for the rest of their careers.

Entrepreneurs fostering other entrepreneurs

Couture a la Cart is a semester-long project which is completely run and managed by the students, and the whole planning and preparation process lasted two months before the cart could find its way on UGA grounds on March 20.

The class is split into five teams — management, merchandising, creative, relations and planning. Students are selected for job positions based on their personal top choices by Clair McClure, the professor of the class and senior vice president of the company.

Nicole Crawford, a junior fashion merchandising and consumer journalism double major from Arlington, Texas, is the general manager of Couture a la Cart, which was her first choice. As the general manager, Crawford acts as the mediator between the senior vice president and the other teams, and she also oversees the shop. 

“It’s really great that we got to choose what job positions we preferred,” Crawford said. “It’s not about what you’re already good at, but what you want to gain more experience in.”

Hannah Erger, a senior public relations major from Cumming, Georgia, is the relations director of the shop. She said Couture a la Cart allows her to get “true hands-on experience” and “drive the curriculum” in class.

“We’re entrepreneurs who are fostering other entrepreneurs,” Erger said. “We’re giving other people the platform to sell [their items], and as a team, we’re also applying all our skills that we’ve learned to solve our own problems and run the shop.”

From bracelets to scrunchies

Not only does Couture a la Cart allow students to demonstrate their entrepreneurial skills, but through providing a platform to other sellers, they’re also able to connect and network with the local makers.  

“We always have great stories about all the vendors and we’re super knowledgeable because we work really closely with them,” Erger said. “We build those relationships and we encourage others to support these [local makers].”

Vendors who are featured include students, alumni and some locals from the community who share a passion for creating products.

Jonelle Dawkins, a senior fashion merchandising major from Decatur, Georgia, is the event planner for Couture a la Cart, but she’ll also be a vendor for her second year in a row, selling handmade string bracelets.

What initially started out as a way to fund Dawkins’ study abroad trip to Ghana last year is now a business she’s now passionate about. The bracelets are composed of natural gemstones, lava stones, glass beads and charms. 

“I try to make sure that everything is sourced from communities around the world so that it helps the local economies,” Dawkins said.

Another product found on the cart includes an assortment of scrunchies, which are all hand-sewn by Julia Rhinehart, a senior fashion merchandising major from Fairmount, Georgia, who is in charge of vendor relations for Couture a la Cart. She repurposes vintage fabric to make the scrunchies.

“The scrunchies incorporate my selling skills, and they’re also a way for me to relax and just sit at the sewing machine,” Rhinehart said.

Through Couture a la Cart, Erger hopes people who come by not only buy products to support local curators but also share the excitement in entrepreneurship.

“We’re a great group of people who are super enthusiastic about what we’re doing,” Erger said. “I think it’s a great experience for people to see students being excited about their majors and what they get to do.”

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