Editor’s note: This story is part of the annual report Mosaic Journalism Workshop for Bay Area high school students, a two-week crash course in journalism. Students in the program report and photograph stories under the guidance of professional journalists.
San Jose Made was founded in 2011 with a mission to provide opportunities for small businesses and creators to showcase their work. One of its most recent events is Sidewalk Shops, which was held every Saturday at Moment in San Pedro Square, starting in May and running through October.
The idea emerged when the San Jose Made team noticed the lack of foot traffic in the area last year. Workers were no longer coming to the office and no events were taking place, said Kevin Biggers, chief strategist of San Jose Made.
“We decided that (creating sidewalk stores) would be a really good opportunity for us to not only help storefronts, but also to have high-visibility pop-up opportunities,” Biggers said.
Every Saturday a different group of small business owners showcase their work; the program is displayed on www.sanjosemade.com. Here’s a look at who was at the downtown San Jose pop-up on June 18:
Red Pantz — Petra Neiger:
Petra Neiger of San Jose has struggled with her skin all her life, including battling eczema and beating skin cancer twice. Western medicine did not help her as much as she had hoped, and the doctors could not identify the problems. This encouraged her to return to school and study Ayurveda, a medical system with Indian subcontinental roots.
Neiger launched her brand, Red Pantz, which sells a variety of skin care and tea products to help people with issues that western medicine alone couldn’t solve.
“Skincare and tea work together as a system because a person’s whole body is connected,” said Neiger. “Skincare is what you put on the outside, and teas help things on the inside.” For more information on its products, visit www.my247.store or @redpantzcompany on Instagram.
Kaonti Creations — Erin Larmore
Erin Larmore started her career in high school hoping to join robotics, but after feeling unwelcome she turned to environmental science. Concerned about the flaws in the global recycling system, Larmore wanted to create her own products from recycled plastic. In 2020, she launched Kaonti Creations, a brand of handmade and sustainably produced trinkets and jewelry.
“It’s definitely different from robotics, but I made space for myself because I didn’t see any,” Larmore said. “It allowed me to blossom and reflect on what I really want out of life.”
Larmore said she likes to infuse her weirdness into her work through vibrant colors and recurring characters like frogs and fairies. “It’s very hard to find things that represent you, so I want to make sure everyone can find (something) that looks like them,” Larmore said.
For more information on Kaonti Creations products, visit www.tinyurl.com/kaonti-creations or @kaonti.creations on Instagram.
Coley Made—Cole Balinski
With a background in interior design, Cole Balinski strives to create products she wants to exist: bags, mugs and other trendy and colorful products. Balinski said she incorporates positive messaging into all of her Coley Made brand products.
“The inspiration behind the brand is to throw kindness like confetti,” Balinski said. “A lot of the messaging about my work is inspired by kindness or mental health awareness.”
Balinski said she is grateful to San Jose Made because it allows artists like her who cannot afford retail space to be accessible to the public in a pop-up space.
Learn more at www.coleymade.com or @coley.made on Instagram.
Painting with James — James Mertke
James Mertke is a mechanical engineer, but the 21-year-old San Jose resident explored his creativity through his painting, which he began by giving as holiday gifts to friends and family.
Participating in a 100-day painting challenge made it a habit to create art every day, Mertke said. He put many of these paintings up for sale, and sales became more regular over time.
“I remember trying to display too many things on my table at once. There were a lot of people so I had to be more selective about what I chose to display,” said Mertke said “But it was really good. I met a lot of people and they got to see my work, which is good.
For more information, visit @painting_with_james on Instagram.
Bead to Rhythm – Srinija Godavarthi
Srinija Godavarthi takes vintage pieces, polishes and cleans them and turns them into beautiful earrings for her brand, Bead to the Beat.
“I’m a huge sustainability freak,” said Godavarthi, 24, of San Jose. “There are so many things in the world and it’s almost like we don’t use them. My goal is to make unloved things lovable again.
Because she is South Asian, Godavarthi’s earrings are mostly inspired by South Asian colors and fashion that she has never been able to wear. “I wanted to create a collection of really bright colors, mainly because as a kid I didn’t get to wear a lot of bright colors,” Godavarthi said.
Visit www.etsy.com/shop/BeadToTheBeat or @beadtothebeat on Instagram for details.
Saira Ahmed is a rising junior at Homestead High School in Cupertino.