The textbook market is one that has always intrigued me and one that I have entered into before myself, as well as done a fair amount of research on. However, each time I’ve developed an idea, there have been different reasons why I did not pursue them (whether it was business or industry related, or completely unrelated). So when I get a chance to talk to someone that is in the textbook industry and trying to revolution the way things can be done, as well as make textbooks cheaper for students, I always jump on the opportunity. Christopher Blythe found Dorm Room Biz and dropped me an email telling me about him and his business, Skoobit.com, which is a textbook rental business. I’ve spoken with many people who have started different textbook trading and selling websites and marketplaces, but this is the first time I got a chance to discuss a textbook rental business with someone.
Below, you will find our quick interview and some of Chris’ business tips for you to check out. If you are a current college student, and have not picked up your book for the upcoming semester (maybe you start Monday or already started?) then check out Skoobit and look into renting your books this time around!
Start off by telling everyone about yourself – age, location, education, etc.
I was born and raised in Jamaica and came to the US to pursue my college education. I am an alumnus of both University of Miami where I earned my undergraduate degree in 2005 and Nova Southeastern University where I did my MBA in 2007. I just turned 25 in September and I am located in Weston, Florida.
What sparked your interest in starting a business? Was there one event in specific that made the light bulb go off or was it a string of events and then things just came together?
I always wanted to start my own company and to be my own boss probably since high school. I was inspired by the .com startups like Sergey Brin and Larry Page from Google, Jeff Bezos from Amazon and the future of social networking Mark Zuckerberg of facebook. It has always amazed me how powerful the internet is and how far of a reach it has, being accessible to everyone across the world at one time is still mind boggling.
Your business, Skoobit, is in a pretty tough market, textbooks. What made you want to enter the textbook arena and how did the idea of Skoobit come alive?
Textbooks are a pretty tough market especially with textbooks changing on average every 3 years. However with the huge market some outdated textbooks are still used by the smaller Universities which make it a very lucrative market. Skoobit actually came to mind when I was pursuing my undergraduate degree at UM. I was in my last year and I was taking a strategic management class, doing some cases on dell and netflix. After doing these cases I realized that a lot of the traditional business models are changing and eventually the bookstore on campus would be mostly online. To take it a step further I wanted to save students money and I thought that setting up an online book rental company would be a great opportunity similar to netflix. In this case students wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be stacked up with books they donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t need and if they want it at the end of the semester they will always have the option to purchase the book if they want.
What are a few lessons that you have learned since starting Skoobit and growing it?
I think having access to funding was the most difficult because of what is going on in the market right now and the economy. It was very difficult to get off the ground, but thankfully I got help from my parents who believed in my company. However as the business continues to grow this will definitely be one of the major challenges I will face.
From your experiences, what is one thing that you think every entrepreneur needs to know or remember for when they are starting their business up?
Make sure they are able to finance it, whether it is from personal financing or loans and investors. Secondly, pitch the idea to friends and family and brainstorm your SWOT analysis ensuring you cover your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Your friends and family might also point out something to you that was overlooked, so that is very important, to consult with them and get their advice. Once your strengths and opportunities outweigh your weaknesses and threats and you are able to overcome them you are in good standing and it is a viable venture. Finally make sure your heart and soul is in it, it shouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t just be about making money, it should be something you love to do and have the passion for, once the passion is there whatever it is you will make it work.
WhatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s next for you? Say short term (6 months) and long term (1-5 years). Where do you see yourself, doing what, involved in what, etc?
In the short term my goal is to heighten the awareness of my service showing students how much money they can save by renting textbooks. In the long term I look to building more relationships with schools and publishers so that I will be able to offer my books online for reading because I believe thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s where the market is heading and I want to be able to capitalize on it. Most students prefer to have the physical book now but in a few years or less all that might change, where students would prefer to have the e-books accessible on their computers or listening to audio books.
Now for the fun stuff-
Chris is a regular Dorm Room Biz reader, so if you have other questions you’d like to ask, go ahead and leave them in the comments and I bet he will be more than willing to respond!
I hope you were able to gain something from this interview. If you are an young entrepreneur and would like to participate in an interview on Dorm Room Biz, then please do not hesitate to contact me about yourself and your business.