The Daily Gamecock

Column: Soda City cultivates student entrepreneurs

Photo of Allison Lambert at her first Soda City as a vendor.
Photo of Allison Lambert at her first Soda City as a vendor.

Soda City Market is a longstanding tradition that supports local entrepreneurs and positively contributes to the community culture in Columbia. This event provides an outlet for students to transition their personal endeavors into profit and jumpstart their businesses.

According to the market’s motto, you will “find everything you need to nourish your brain, body, and belly" there.

One notable vendor Soda City supports is the Student-Made Store.

The Student-Made Store presents an online platform with real-life opportunities for students to gain momentum as small business owners. The organization extends across multiple universities, with a branch serving the University of South Carolina.

The mission of the Student-Made Store is “to bring all of USC together, as a community that celebrates creativity and entrepreneurship.” Student-Made Store helps to promote a variety of eager artists at USC through their participation with Soda City.

Allison Lambert, a fourth-year sports and entertainment management student at USC, is one of those artists. 

When she was a high school upperclassman, she began creating pieces of embroidery as a hobby, but it didn’t take long before her art caught the attention of close friends and family. Once she began receiving offers from others to purchase her work, she said an idea was born.

“I was doing my own social media, but I wasn’t getting the reach,” Lambert said.

Before discovering Student-Made, Lambert said she had never even thought about selling her art at a market. But with the store's support, Soda City was only one Saturday away.

Lambert is a loyal fan of Soda City: “I was there the first weekend they opened, and since then I've missed maybe, like, five or six Saturdays since then,” she said. 

With that impressive attendance record, she couldn’t help but fall in love with the close-knit community of vendors and customers. Lambert said her favorite thing is to see returning customers. She said some of these customers will return to her tent, ecstatic, to share pictures of her work hung up in their rooms.

Community doesn’t stop with the customers. Lambert said one vendor arrives early to set up his truck, allowing himself spare time to help another woman set up her tent before opening. It’s these simple, but intentional, actions that have Lambert (and the city of Columbia) eagerly awaiting Saturdays.

Connecting to the Columbia community is an essential aspect of the student experience at USC. College is an opportunity to meet people from different cities, states and even countries. Part of what brings us together is the excitement of exploring a new environment. Try something new Columbia has to offer — you might find the feeling of togetherness you've been searching for.

Lambert serves as an excellent example of a student who seized the opportunity Soda City presented to her. To folks who feel like they just don’t know where to start, she gives a few words of wisdom.

“Don’t be afraid to market yourself,” Lambert said. “Don’t be afraid to put your voice out there.”

Sometimes, we confuse pride with self-centeredness; Lambert said students are absolutely allowed to take pride in their creations. She said if she hadn’t personally decided her work has value, she wouldn’t have taken the leap.

And, as a professional Soda City-goer, Lambert had a suggestion for next Saturday morning. Try jotting down a few things that catch your attention, so you’ll never run out of ideas to delve into on your next visit. Whether you want to explore a different international cuisine or talk with a vendor you’ve never met, there’s always something new to check out at Soda City.

Soda City is open on Main Street every Saturday morning from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.