Student entrepreneurs, grateful for business success, give back to College of Business
Graduates of Florida State University College of Business frequently show appreciation for the education and opportunities that led to their career success by providing generous financial support to the college. It’s less common, however, for current students to be able to do the same.
But three College of Business juniors – all entrepreneurship majors – this week presented Dean Caryn Beck-Dudley with a $500 check as a thank you for encouragement and resources from the college that has allowed them to start up and grow a new and profitable business. Moolaguides.com allows students to upload and sell their class notes online. Since they started Moolaguides.com just over a year ago, the innovative trio reports the sale of more than 10,000 study notes at Florida State University, which has netted students a nearly $90,000 profit.
In the following Q&A, the brains behind Moolaguides.com, classmates and partners David Russell of Coral Springs, Fla.; Alex Wolniewitz of Mexico City, Mexico; and Tom Brady of St. Augustine, Fla., tell us what inspired them to launch their business, how they keep growing and why they made their generous contribution to the College of Business.
When did you start Moolaguides.com and what gave you the idea?
During my (David Russell) freshman year, I started selling my notes, and quickly figured out that the whole selling process was a pain for both me and for the person buying. We would both have to coordinate a location and a time to meet, I would also have to print out all my notes, and I could only accept cash from the buyers. From this, I thought of the idea of a website where students could go online and buy/sell their notes instantly from the comfort of their homes. In fall 2010, I presented the idea to the other Entrepreneurship Program sophomores in the Sophomore Experience class and became partners with Thomas and Alex, who were just as excited about the idea as I was. The class brought us together and gave us the start-up capital and inspiration to put our ideas into action. The program also provided us with great mentors, who were always available and willing to go the extra mile to help us in any way possible. We created our first Moolaguides.com website the beginning of fall 2011 and quickly realized we needed to develop a new, more permanent website. Our first sale of a study guide occurred during the 2010 Thanksgiving break. In addition to the three of us directors/partners, there are three street representatives helping to expand to new universities.
What were some practical things you learned through the Entrepreneurship Program that have helped your business?
This class is mainly hands-on by learning through experience and guidance. Moolaguides.com was one of 13 businesses that started up in the Sophomore Experience class, so some of our motivation and ideas on how to improve came from our classmates. Another tool that we had available to us was the junior and senior class in the program who gave us advice and insight from the experiences they learned with their start-ups.
Why is your service needed?
College can be expensive; between food, rent, and tuition for a lot of college students that means holding a part-time job. Once you add on a full-time course schedule, extra-curricular activities and a social life, a college student’s time becomes extremely limited. Our website not only helps students by freeing up their time, but also provides an incentive for industrious students to be compensated for their hard work. Moolaguides.com was created for students by students to provide another avenue of monthly income for students.
How does Moolaguides.com work?
Note takers upload and sell their notes instantly online, and start making money from the study guides (notes) that they would be taking for themselves anyway. At the same time, note buyers can gain 24/7 access to notes online and purchase them with Pay-Pal, debit and credit cards. Students with less than perfect attendance or mediocre note-taking skills, now are able to gain access to information collected by their peers from class, which will help them in learning the information that they otherwise would not have access to.
How has Moolaguides.com been received by students?
Most students that we talk to are excited about the idea of Moolaguides.com. During the spring 2011 semester, we received more than 120,000 views and sold 3,800-plus study guides. We now have recorded a total of 300,000 views and have sold more than 6,000 study guides. Students are averaging over $100 profit per test. The average note taker sells their notes for about $10, and averages about $108 profit per exam. With this being said, we have had students make more than $1,200 on just one exam. Since we started, we’ve had sales of more than 10,000 total study guides at Florida State University alone, and students have netted a profit of more than $70,000.
How do you judge the quality of notes?
Whenever anyone posts notes on the site, we ask them to take a screenshot of their study guide. This way, their classmates and any other student wanting to purchase them can see what type of content they can expect. We also have a profile system and ratings. When users hit certain landmarks, such as posting five study guides, or an individual guide selling 10 copies, the individual receives a ribbon and a trophy respectively. This shows purchasers that the seller has not had any negative issues in the past. Also if someone buys notes that they are not completely satisfied with, we strongly encourage them to give feedback through our rating system. The note takers on our site are also obligated to respond to refunding issues if the situation arises.
How does the company make money from this endeavor? Has Moolaguides.com made a profit?
Moolaguides.com allows our note takers to name their own price (which is usually around $10) and we receive a 20-percent commission from each sell/transaction. Most of our competitors will take the students’ notes and sell them for however much they (the company) would want, and only give their note takers as little as 50 cents per sale. Moolaguides has been profitable for us so far; however we are always looking for new projects and ways to reinvest into the company.
What is the responsibility of the street representatives?
Part of why Moolaguides was able to take off so quickly at FSU was because every time someone advertises a study guide, they are contacting all of their classmates who now also see the opportunities our site provides for them, as well. Our street representatives are students at college campuses across the country, and their job is to create a spark at a new university by handing out fliers, chalking their campuses, creating social media hype, and telling their friends to develop a solid study guide contribution base from their universities. We are hoping other campuses are similar to FSU in in that just a couple study guides lead to a snowball effect with more and more study guides being uploaded and sold.
How many universities are involved? Which do you get most business from?
We currently generate most of our sales from Florida State, but have active users from Tallahassee Community College, the University of Central Florida, Florida Atlantic, the University of Florida and FAMU. In addition, we have been working with promotion companies that have roots down in South and Central Florida to saturate those markets and several schools in the upper east part of the United States, ranging from the University of Maryland to New York University. We predict that by the end of the spring 2012 semester, we will have expanded to most of the Florida schools as well as a handful of out-of-state campuses.
What is your strategy for growth?
We plan on growing the business to be as large as we think we can handle. It’s hard to say what will happen after that. Our current growth strategy includes using connections from friends at new universities to help flyer, chalk and talk about Moolaguides with everyone they can. We also contribute information to blogging websites as a way to generate interest of their users by urging them to give our service a shot. We’re also working with certain companies that help promote our product at various universities throughout the nation. In addition, we’re looking into social media marketing campaigns, and we will soon be introducing a Moolaguides.com street team which will be able to make a collegiate tour and hand-out free stuff and spread the word about this new cool way for college students to make money.
What prompted you to present a check to College of Business Dean Beck-Dudley?
There are several reasons we decided to donate money to the College of Business’ Y.E.S. (Young Entrepreneurship Society) Foundation. Y.E.S. is the Young Entrepreneurship Society, which is a club based around the 40 students in the Entrepreneurship major. The club usually host events promoting the companies within the program, and sometimes brings in young entrepreneurial guest speakers to talk to the class. First and foremost, the entrepreneurship major and the Sophomore Experience class gave us the resources and motivation to initially start up the company and for this we are forever grateful. Secondly, being a product of the Sophomore Experience class, we know the money will be going toward creating more value by helping finance the next class's businesses, and hopefully aiding and motivating additional students to become even more successful than us! In the future, I would like to see more students, who find success from this program, also give back if they can. The more resources we have available to our successors equates to more talented students entering the program, as well as more connections that will become available to both us and the College of Business!