From the classroom to the internet: marketing students turn a group project into e-business

In the spring of 2011, five WMU students were assigned a group project in Paul Cartwright’s marketing 2500 class where they were challenged to design a product and create a corresponding business model. Little did they know that by the end of the semester they would get a lot more than they bargained for.

Students Michael Hoover, Eureka Jackson, Michael Kelly, Julie Biondo Ledbetter and Emily Yager decided instead of building upon an existing product or service for their project, they would create something entirely different. Their idea, URTextbooks.com, is an alternative for students who are tired of paying  retail prices for textbooks and selling them back for a fraction of what they paid. URTextbooks.com offers a new and innovative way of buying, selling and trading textbooks directly between students with no middle warehouse or retailer.

Throughout the semester the students learned valuable lessons in teamwork, how to combine different opinions and ideas into one finished product. They developed independent thinking, the importance of meeting deadlines and many other lessons they will use daily after graduation. “Most importantly we learned that hard work pays off,” says Hoover. And it did, the students worked diligently on their project all semester in hopes of earning an A, but they ended up doing even better.

After their final presentation, Cartwright asked the group to stay after class. “We thought we did something wrong or were getting a bad grade,” recalls Biondo, but it turned out to be quite the opposite. Cartwright was so impressed by the students’ commitment to the project and their in depth presentation, that he offered them a business deal on the spot.

Work on the website began right after classes ended. The group met with Cartwright every Wednesday throughout the summer, and worked through the fall to get the website up and running by spring 2012. They worked tirelessly to give URTextbooks.com an edge over other book buyback sites. Not only do they offer student friendly prices for buying and selling, but also act as a national voice for students, listening to their concerns, lobbying for their issues and helping students achieve a healthy, productive and fun college experience. The website provides support for all college students whether they are trying to get adjusted to life on campus, applying for internships, seeking a tutor, finding housing or searching for a job after graduation. “The website is for students by students. We all agree that with more guidance as freshmen we would have done some things differently, and we want to provide that support for future students,” says Yager.

So what is the group’s vision for URTextbooks.com? All of the students are seniors, but plan to continue working on the business after graduation and are excited about the possibilities for the future. For now, they are getting the word out through social media, expanding service to large colleges throughout Michigan, and seeking out investors to help with web building costs. “I’m impressed with what they’ve done so far, but we know we need to do even more,” says Cartwright. Within the next few years they will begin traveling out of state, eventually creating a nationwide presence. The students’ hard work and diligence paid off through the success of their project, and now they will continue to apply that dedication to their ebusiness.

Editor: Cindy Wagner
Haworth College of Business
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Western Michigan University
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