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Good Samaritan: Juniata Student Business Owner Donates Furniture

(Posted November 21, 2011)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- A family in southern Huntingdon County was facing large replacement costs when a flash flood ruined most of the furniture in their house. Luckily, a Juniata College student had some extra furnishings to spare.

Although it may be strange to some that a college student had lots of furniture to spare, but Cheryl Mariani, a senior from Delran, N.J. is not an ordinary dorm dweller who makes do with a desk, chair and TV stand. She actually started a furniture sales business through the Juniata College Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership and had some extra inventory.

Mariani contacted the woman whose home was flooded from stormwater runoff and invited her to look at the furniture left over from Eagle Furniture Exchange, the business the student had started as a sophomore in spring 2010. "She picked out some small shelves, a futon, a toaster oven and a rug," Mariani says.

Mariani, the daughter of Cindy and Joseph Mariani of Delran, N.J., is closing her business -- in large part because she is tying up loose ends before she graduates in the spring, but also because her business model didn't quite work as she had planned.

Eagle Furniture Exchange had a sound idea. She would buy furniture and other items for students anxious to downsize their baggage burdens when leaving campus in the spring and then sell it to incoming students in the spring at a small markup.

"More people wanted to sell their furniture than those who wanted to buy it so I ended up with a surplus," Mariani says. "It was a good experience, though."

The resourceful student was able to keep the business, which was started by a $4,000 JCEL grant, going for two years and until recently had stored her inventory at Moove In Storage on Route 22 outside Huntingdon. After donated to the flood victims, she also donated 16 pieces -- including fans, tables, rugs, lamps and a microwave -- to a Juniata activity, Habitat for Humanity's annual Yard Sale.

The remainder of her inventory is stored at JCEL's offices at 14th and Moore streets. She has about 20 items left.

"A knowledge of business is very important for whatever field I go into," she says without regret. "This was a great way to take the initiative and figure things out."