CRYSTAL LAKE – When heading off to college, most students don’t have “business attire” as a line item on their packing list.
When Prairie Ridge alum Emma Stettner entered her freshman year at Northern Illinois University, she interviewed to be part of Delta Sigma Pi, a coed, business professional fraternity. Her closet and wallet didn’t offer much in the way of dressing the part.
Stettner found many other students in the same situation and took action to help her fellow Huskies through Barsema’s Closet, a store that offers new and gently used business attire for students to access at a fraction of the cost.
“Dressing professionally makes a good impression on a recruiter or interviewer,” Stettner said. “You look put together and like you have good hygiene and that says something about your personality. It shows you are professional and will treat your job more professionally. We thought it would be good for the college of business to have a resource of this manner for all students.”
The Crystal Lake native now is a senior at NIU, graduating in December with a B.S. in management with an emphasis on entrepreneurship and social responsibility.
Stettner is on the Student Advisory Board whose duty is to better enhance the College of Business. Barsema’s Closet is a joint venture between Stettner and fellow senior Cordnei Gibson.
The store is located on NIU’s campus in Barsema Hall, the store’s namesake, in the College of Business, room 309. The building is named after alum Dennis Barsema, who donated to build the structure. Barsema was present at the store’s opening on Feb. 13.
Freshman Brooke Berry, 19, is an accounting major at NIU and an acquaintance of Stettner’s. Berry heard about the store and went on opening day to see what it had to offer.
“They have really good quality clothes and great prices,” Berry said. “I bought two tops for $10 and will definitely use them in the near future. Some of the meetings for the organizations I’m involved in require business casual dress and we have to go to professional events.”
Berry said she was surprised at all of the options they had. She had expected a few shirts and blazers but was pleased to find that they offered more, including pants, shoes, belts, briefcases and even socks.
“It’s a great way for students to have access to this type of clothing,” Berry said. “Coming in as a freshman, I didn’t realize I would need business professional clothing for events and meetings. It can be expensive for college students and this is a great way to not spend a lot of money while you’re saving to pay for your schooling.”
Barsema’s Closet is volunteer-run and is not open daily. Information on store opening dates will be posted via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Emails and flyers with details also will be distributed to students. Stettner and Gibson would like to open the store weekly but currently it is open on a monthly basis. The girls are planning to have a March date.
Donations of new or slightly used women’s and men’s work attire can be dropped off in Barsema Hall in room 145, Advancement Office, or they can be shipped to Advancement Office, Barsema Hall, Room 145, 740 Garden Road, DeKalb, IL 60115. They are in need of more men’s suits, shirts and pants as well as some smaller sizes for men and some larger sizes for women.
Stettner and Gibson are in the process of developing a management team to take over as they are both slated for graduation this year. They are recruiting students to become part of the Barsema’s Closet team.
“It’s a great initiative and intend to keep it going,” Stettner said. “This is all done through donations of time, clothes and location. A big thank you to all of our donors so far. We can’t make this store happen without our donors and we can’t keep it going without them either.”