This fall, Max Hall and Austin Jones, rising juniors at Old Dominion University (ODU) will launch CampusWise at the University — a new textbook service allowing students to buy and sell from one another directly and make payments online.
Hall, co-founder of the CampusWise website, dabbled in entrepreneurism before college. In high school, he sold fireworks and started a small candy business with a friend.
“I’ve always been really interested in starting my own business [and] I hoped that I would find that in college — that I would find a need and then try to answer that need,” Hall said.
For Hall, this “need” turned out to be the college textbook system.
“I went through the same thing everyone else did — you go to the store and pay $200 for a book and then return it at the end of the semester for $10,” Hall said. “I saw everyone having the same problem.”
In addition, Hall wasn’t satisfied with alternatives. Sites like Amazon and Ebay have the potential to decrease book costs but come with the inconvenience of shipping charges and concerns about receiving books on time, he said.
While another option for bargain hunters, Facebook pages, lack the problems associated with shipping, Hall said the large quantity of daily posts make it frustrating for students trying to buy or sell books and sales through Facebook require students to have cash and, potentially, meet a stranger to complete the exchange.
The high expenses, inconvenience and safety concerns of the college textbook system gave Hall the idea for CampusWise. Before going home at the end of his first fall semester, Hall proposed his idea to Jones and the two began their relationship as business partners.
“College is really the perfect time to start [a business],” he said. “You’re surrounded by such a huge group of peers and everyone has so many different viewpoints and backgrounds. I never would’ve met Austin if I wasn’t here. We have completely different backgrounds, but it really balances out.”
When they returned from winter break, Hall and Jones started to work on developing the website. Throughout the spring semester, Hall focused on the design aspect and Jones began creating a functioning site and writing the code needed for the website’s launch.
Halfway through last fall, the website was finished and in the spring semester, CampusWise launched its first sales.
“When you’re buying from other students, you’re getting the best deals because you’re cutting out the middle man,” Hall said. “We were trying to make it as connected to students as Facebook, but as simple and easy to use as Amazon.”
Since the CampusWise process is student-to-student, it requires a university email to become a user. In addition, all CampusWise sales go through the site using PayPal, which reduces safety concerns.
“By keeping the money online, you only have to exchange the book,“ Hall said. “It’s just a safer environment to be in [and it adds] another level of security to the process.”
Additional concerns students have about meeting with strangers are further diminished through CampusWise’s optional delivery service. Students can purchase a delivery through a Campus Representative, who picks up the book from the seller and delivers it to the buyer. When a Campus Representative delivers a book, he uses a card reader to collect a $5 payment.
CampusWise is currently used by 17 schools, mostly located in Virginia. However, Hall and Jones have plans for expansion.
“We hope to have some west coast schools by the spring semester and then, hopefully, we’ll move on to smaller schools across the country,” Hall said. “We’re trying to reach as many schools as possible and as many college students as possible.”
Now, going into their junior year of college, Hall and Jones are co-founders of a successful, growing business.
“We’ve really grown to be a part of [the entrepreneurial] community here,” Hall said.
Inspired by this community, Hall and Jones created CampusBiz, a feature of the CampusWise website, for other students starting their own businesses.
“We tried to use the experience we had and we were helping other students doing the same thing, making the web service part of it easier,” Hall said. “We wanted to encourage others to do the same thing and make it even easier.”