Evanston holiday pop-up offers platform to promote small businesses


Dylan Wu/The Daily Northwestern

Yawa’s African Market & Natural Products sells authentic Afrocentric products and hand-blended natural products.

Selena Kuznikov, Reporter

Evanston residents gathered in the Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center Saturday afternoon to support locally owned businesses at a holiday pop-up market.

Maura Bowen, the owner of Fashionably Accessorized, organized the holiday pop-up to provide a place for small businesses to sell products with lower vendor fees than those typically charged by event hosts and organizers. The pop-up highlighted unique products from shops like Wham! Bam! Glam! and Sugar Baker, as those and other Evanston small businesses return to the market in the pandemic’s wake.

Bowen said she had been searching for venues in the Evanston and Chicago areas to host small business events for entrepreneurs like herself. But she was disheartened by how hard it was to find a location that was nearby and reasonably priced. 

“People have small businesses and want to showcase the stuff they sell, but the vendor fees are too high,” Bowen said. 

To reach other Evanston business owners who may have faced the same difficulties accessing affordable, in-person selling events, she organized the event through Facebook and Instagram.

Working with the community center to set up the pop-up space, Bowen charged vendors $45 per table. She said previous venues she has encountered have typically charged between $150 to $200 for a table space.


Ashley Jean-Paul, the owner of self-care company Soul Onyx, was introduced to the idea of participating in the pop-up after her aunt saw Bowen’s post. Jean-Paul grew her business during the height of the pandemic by selling candle melts online.

The pop-up was her first experience with face-to-face business, which she found far more enjoyable than the virtual marketplace. Jean-Paul said she quickly adjusted to the communal aspect of interacting with customers and other business owners.

“Once we did this, I realized I liked face-to-face more than online because you really get to know the person,” Jean-Paul said. 

Teya-Michelle Covin, owner of Sugar Baker, has been baking her own pastries for about nine years. When Covin began her baking career, she donated pastries to nonprofits around Evanston. As she transitioned to selling her products to everyone, she continued to focus on giving back to the community by routinely donating a portion of her proceeds.

Covin, an old classmate of Bowen’s, connected with her through Facebook while the pop-up was being promoted and decided to set up shop at the event. Although she had been selling products in person since founding her business, Covin took a hiatus due to the pandemic’s onset. Taking part in the pop-up event allowed her to return to a sense of normalcy and interact with community members, she said.

I generally do about two to three events a year, but with the pandemic it was kind of slow,” Covin said.

While the pandemic hit small businesses hard, Bowen sought to showcase the perseverance of Evanston entrepreneurs as they debuted and redebuted their wares at the event. She prioritized staying near Evanston and keeping her event affordable, as vendors and community members connected with each other in a high-energy space.

For Jean-Paul, getting to know other members of the Evanston small business community was one of the highlights of the event.

“At first I was fighting nerves, but it’s been really good.” Jean-Paul said. “I’ve been meeting new business owners and getting new tips from them.” 

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @selenakuznikov

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