Barsema’s Closet to take students from class to classy

Barsema’s Closet is in business after opening for the first time Feb. 13 and now serves students business attire. 

By Kierra Frazier

DeKALB — Two seniors have put their business skills together and created Barsema’s Closet, a retail store on campus for students to purchase gently used business attire at an affordable price.

Emma Stettner, senior social entrepreneurship management major and Cordnei Gibson, senior leadership management major, developed the business as a result of their personal experiences as first-year students.

Stettner said she was in a situation where she needed to dress professionally and didn’t own many business clothes at the time.

“It came to me that the College of Business should have a place where students can get business clothing fairly easily at a discounted price,” Stettner said. “We wanted the prices to be cheap because we, as college students, are all struggling to make ends meet sometimes.”

After a year of planning the business, Stettner presented her idea to the Dean’s Student Advisory Board in 2017, when she met Gibson, who took an interest in her presentation.

The business opened its doors from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 13 in Room 309 of Barsema Hall. All business clothing and accessories range from $1 to $25 and are available for men and women.

Stettner said the business doesn’t have set hours yet but hopes to be open once a week from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Gibson said she believes students should have access to affordable business clothes because an outfit at the mall can cost as much as $100.

“These expensive prices can cause a lot of stress for students, especially when it’s already stressful enough trying to go to an internship, career fairs or interviews,” Gibson said. “So having this resource in Barsema allows students to not be so stressed out and to feel confident once they get the outfit they need and feel supported by the college.”

Stettner and Gibson said the store will be accepting clothing or monetary donations for the rest of the semester in Room 145 of Barsema Hall because they want this to be a permanent resource for all students on campus.

Stettner said she named the business Barsema’s Closet as a tribute to Dennis Barsema, who inspired her to develop the project and is someone who she said is always willing to help others.

“Starting a business is what I want to do in the future and specifically to help people,” Stettner said. “I’ve learned that people really do want to help. Looking at all the donations we receive, we were not expecting this much support.”

Barsema said he and his wife Stacey Barsema never cease to be amazed by the entrepreneurial spirit and caring concern of students.

“This effort to address a very real issue facing many of the students on our campus is amazing. We were tremendously impressed with the opening of Barsema’s Closet and look forward to the on-going sustainability of the store for the benefit of all students who are members of the NIU family.

Gibson said she wants to thank everyone who helped them accomplish their goal, including the JCPenny in Aurora, which provided all of the racks, hangers and mannequins for the store. They also want to thank Kelsey Johnson, senior director of Operations and Financial Strategy at the College of Business.

Johnson said she thinks the grand opening was a fabulous success and she’s really excited to see how the business will evolve going forward.

“The idea and very hard work was done by [Stettner and Gibson],” Johnson said. “Everyone here at the College of Business is so proud of them.”