This post is a part of a series focused on Birmingham Start ups housed at the Innovation Depot. We at The Modern Connection love our small biz buddies and are excited to spotlight a few of them. If you are a small business or know one that would like to be featured, contact Nicole– she would love to meet you!
It’s that time of year: the holidays.
If you’re a college student, it means the culmination of the semester in a caffeine-induced zombie-like state due to all-night studying. That’s right, finals. Finishing up those papers before enjoying the sweet, sweet freedom of a winter break at home before doing it all again in the Spring semester.
With students looking to be rid of textbooks from last semester and purchasing new ones for next, this is a busy time for the folks at FreeTextbooks.
Back when I was a college student, I knew of the company as Samfordbooks. The idea was to purchase books online and have them delivered by a fellow student, a campus rep, who could buy it back from you at the end of the semester. This idea was transformed into what is now FreeTextbooks: 200 campus reps on 20 campuses from Texas to North Carolina revolutionizing the college experience. Every college student has experienced the frustration of spending hundreds of dollars on textbooks, only to receive a fraction of that in return when selling them. It was the idea of closing this gap and saving students money that drove Jonathan Robinson to start the company in 2009.
They offer students the opportunity to buy or rent new or used books from their website with free shipping. Students get 5% of their order into their “FT” balance and can earn more credit through referrals and other promotions to use on future purchases (Hence the ‘FREE’ part in FreeTextbooks).
They have found that their niche is student to student. By becoming a Campus Representative or Campus Director, students get to run a small business on their campus for their peers. They have flexible hours, receive valuable training, and have the opportunity to create hands-on revenue growth while using the social networks they are creating. It’s really an internship like any other.
If you are a future innovator with an entrepreneurial spirit, the FreeTextbooks team is always looking to grow at the campuses they currently serve and new ones. Learn more here. I’m sure there are some bright college students that could bring FreeTextbooks to Charleston, the home of TMC HQ. Here in Birmingham, I’m told that they are piloting some new programs at Samford and Birmingham-Southern. So exciting!
They had this advice to entrepreneurs: Don’t have expectations. Just exceed them. Remember that companies grow at different rates at different times. They are no bad ideas, just those that don’t work now. Don’t be intimidated by larger company’s budgets, be strategic and creative. And remember that each customer is valuable.
They have spent a few years with Innovation Depot, and have moved a few times within the building to accommodate their growth. They are thankful for the freedom the Deopt has given them to expand quickly and know that they have benefited from other Depot businesses and their cycle of learning and teaching.
The FreeTextbooks team spent this summer at Techstars in Austin. During the school year, when not working to get mountains of textbooks to students, they can be found playing skeeball at campuses across the state or passing out donuts during finals week. Follow their adventures on social media and their blog.
Thanks Jonathan, McCall, Megan, Bill, Jay, and the rest of the FreeTextbooks team for your time. Can’t wait to watch you explode in 2015!
As a Digital Marketing Consultant for The Modern Connection, Nicole Williams connects businesses with the digital world. From social media marketing to web design, she helps tailor solutions to fit each client’s goals and objectives.