Oakton alumna’s business helps families save money and reuse children’s items
(Nov. 29, 2017) According to Oakton Community College alumna Maggie Pawelko, “It’s not who you are, but who you are about to become.” Yet even she may not have predicted the success of the Swapadventure® business she founded with business partner and fellow Mount Prospect resident Angelika Babich in 2013.
According to its website, Swapadventure offers live swap meet events, social events for moms and a way to give back to the community. It also offers great resources on top products, savings, fitness, health, travel and expert tips for families.
In 2016, the company was recognized at the 26th Annual Awards for Business Excellence in the small-sized business category. Since the first Swapadventure meet-up of approximately 10 people at a local Chick-fil-a, the company has organized more than 140 swap events averaging between 75 and 100 attendees. More than 13,000 mothers and children have swapped nearly 24,000 bags of children’s items, estimated at nearly 120,000 toys, 71,000 books and 1.1 million apparel items, saving each family approximately $200 per swap event. The company has also made approximately 120 donations of surplus items to 18 shelters, two orphanages and six programs for low-income families. Although it seems like an overnight success, Swapadventure’s growth did not come easy, according to Pawelko.
“My partner Angelika and I have had our share of setbacks that we had to endure in the last four years,” the 37-year-old mother of three children says. “But it was those harsh and rewarding challenges that helped us attain our successes and be where we are today.”
Pawelko says her business acumen and persistence may be traced back to an accounting class she took at Oakton.
“I really appreciated how hard the professor made us work. He challenged us to our fullest capacity and gave us the hands on experience to fully understand the nature of accounting and business,” she explains, recalling an assignment in which she had to create a jewelry business from scratch. “We had to figure it out and take everything into consideration—business model, financial, accounting, marketing and staffing—and do a full presentation in front of the class. The entire process pushed me and motivated me to be an entrepreneur one day. The project completely took me out of my comfort zone, and I realized I enjoyed every minute of it.”
Pawelko’s experience at Oakton before graduating and finishing her bachelor’s degree at Northeastern Illinois University is among the reasons she is a strong advocate for community colleges.
“I feel I made the best decision by going to a community college first, where I was able to save tremendously before attending a university,” she says. “I believe that is one of the best and smartest decisions a family can make for their children as they get older.”
She shares the following advice for current and prospective students: “Always dream, big or small; listen to your heart and follow your passion. We often overlook what our heart is telling us or what our passion is in life. You can’t achieve it if you don’t dream it. Passion is the greatest fuel to get you where you want to be. Pay attention to your interests, what your good at and where you can bring most value. Your heart speaks of truth and will lead you to where you need to be.”
Up next for Pawelko and Babich is their annual holiday swap event from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9, at Belvedere Banquets, 1170 W. Devon Ave., Elk Grove Village. In addition to raffle prizes, seasonal crafts and holiday music, children can get a free photo with Santa. Admission is free for families bringing a donation of at least one toy, book or article of clothing for a child in need. Visit www.swapadventure.com/en/events.html for more information.