For Originals. By Originals.

Van Aken Entrepreneurial Initiatives

For inquiries about the Van Aken Entrepreneur Initiative, please email

Van Aken District Makers Market Application: Our final 2022 market is November 26, 2022. We have closed applications due to an overwhelming response. Please apply for 2023 when the schedule is released!

Van Aken District Carts Application: Now accepting applications for Thursdays-Sundays. Click here to apply.

Van Aken District Cohort: Applications for the 2023 cohort coming soon.

The Van Aken District has always endeavored to be a collection of local and regionally owned small businesses providing unique products and experiences with an equally intriguing story. Our tagline and driving force is, “For Originals. By Originals.” We are proud of the unique mix of products and service offerings as well as the diversity of vendors and business owners in the Van Aken District.

The new Van Aken District Entrepreneurial Initiatives program is designed to enhance this mission by offering early-stage entrepreneurs – especially people of color, women, and all underrepresented entrepreneurs – the opportunity to showcase their ideas, products, and services within the Van Aken District community. Our goal is to lower market barriers and minimize risks associated with starting up or expanding a business. Through a holistic set of support services from other merchants, non-profits, and partners, including the City of Shaker Heights, we hope to grow these burgeoning entrepreneurs into the future restauranteurs and merchants in the Van Aken District and beyond.


Want to showcase a creative line or several products?
Fresh entrepreneurs can lease a small retail space on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

Want to feature a single product? Fresh entrepreneurs can lease shelf space in an existing store to showcase a product and tell their story.


Are you a caterer or have a few great recipes that you would love to use to open a restaurant? Or perhaps you a ready to transition from your food truck? We have just the place for you to experiment and grow.

The leasable space within the bustling Market Hall is pre-built for all food preparation needs and can be customized to meet the demands of the individual entrepreneur and its customers

Sample Support Services


Learn from Van Aken District merchants


Access to programs and seminars on business development


Marketing support from Van Aken District and professionals


Invitation to participate in the Van Aken Business Association


Business plan creation assistance


Connections to assistance with MBE/FBE certification processes

Retail Opportunities




Makers Markets

Mobile Retail Carts

The Corner

There’s so much creative talent out there.

Apply to our Cohort Entrepreneur Initiative 2022 Relaunch!

Why? We want to know more about you and what you’re creating. As part of our continued mission to collaborate with entrepreneurs and provide retail opportunities, we are proud to announce we have relaunched our Entrepreneur Initiative by implementing an additional resource for entrepreneurs!

What is it? We have reimagined the Van Aken District as a classroom for entrepreneurs to embrace and learn from both internal and external resources. By applying and participating in the Entrepreneur Initiative, the Van Aken team will provide you with a classroom, including workshops, mentorships, and speakers. We have partnered with our merchants to create workshops for you to learn best business practices and strategies. Further, entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to participate in a mentorship with merchants, who will act as one-on-one mentors sharing advice and knowledge from their own experiences. Each Thursday evening, a speaker, either a Van Aken merchant or an external resource we have partnered with, will speak on relevant topics to an entrepreneur’s journey. We’ll recommend resources based on your goals, tailor coursework/workshops to your goals, and track your progress for you. We can’t wait to see you succeed.

What’s in it for me? By participating in the Initiative relaunch, entrepreneurs will be invited to participate in one of Van Aken’s entrepreneurial opportunities: the carts or Makers Markets hosted by the Van Aken District. Entrepreneurs desiring to engage in the Entrepreneurial Initiative and therefore complete the coursework of the Initiative will have completed a major and critical step in their business planning process: initiative. The entrepreneur may decide that the Initiative has enabled them to continue their own work towards achieving their entrepreneurial goals or they may reenter the Initiative, seeking additional resources provided by the Van Aken District. In either case, upon completion of the Initiative, the entrepreneur will have established new goals and completed coursework relevant to their previous goals, now achieved.

Ok, go on… Upon completion of the Entrepreneurial Initiative, a scholarship will be available.  The scholarship will take the place of any required fee for all retail opportunities available at Van Aken, including and limited to the carts, and Makers Markets hosted by the District!

I’m in! What do I do next?  Apply to the program! Our applications have closed for the next cohort. Please check back for the next cohort application opening or email