Arjun Subedi '10 is founder and CEO of Books & Circle, a company that specializes in used textbooks.
Four recent Monmouth College graduates have partnered to for a start-up company that is not only entrepreneurial but international in scope.
Arjun Subedi ’10 and Bishnu Bista ’11, both natives of Nepal, put their heads together with American brothers Tyler ’10 and Ben Morrow ’11 to establish an online marketplace for used books called Books & Circle.
The company eliminates the “middleman” traditionally encountered when buying books by enabling students to buy books directly from their peers on campus.
The idea originated from Subedi, a business and economics major who graduated in 2010. While at student at Monmouth, Subedi saw the problem that the cost of textbooks created for students, and he decided to tackle the issue last fall while enrolled in an MBA entrepreneurship program at Loyola University in Chicago.
“I was working more on creating ideas than focusing on my MBA,” he said. “So I dropped out of the program after the first quarter and focused my energies on the start-up.”
Subedi created a network of engineers in his native Nepal, and “designed every function in detail. We were not sure about what we were making and how the final product would look, but I was thrilled to see my ideas turning into actions. My biggest challenge was that I had to gather funds from various sources to pay to those engineers in Nepal.”
A little more than a year ago, Subedi met up with Tyler Morrow in Chicago. “We talked about doing something on our own,” Subedi explained. “We got strong support from the Morrow family. We kept on working hard and finally were able to release our product in August.”
Subedi is the founder and CEO, Ben Morrow is the director of marketing, Tyler Morrow is the director of development and Bista serves as the director of product development.
According to the National Association of College Bookstores, the average student spends $667 on books per semester and $267 extra in other non-tuition related fees and expenses. Linked with Facebook, Books & Circle connects students with other students on campus who have books they want to buy or sell. The company does not make any money from the transactions, and instead acquires its funding from advertisements on the website. By using this new company, students are able to see the current list price of their textbooks and can then create their own desired selling price.
Currently, the company’s headquarters are in Chicago, while the tech hub is in Nepal. There are six people working in Nepal, including two who share equity in the ownership. Subedi explained that starting a new company was relatively easy in Nepal due to its “cost effectiveness.”
By networking with Monmouth’s faculty and current students, the four MC alumni have designed a marketing campaign that is helping connect college students to the website, with minimal advertising costs. Books & Circle has eight interns promoting the website at Monmouth College and 15 at Illinois State University. More than two dozen colleges have begun to use the site, and its followers are growing by the day.
“We can’t thank Monmouth College enough for how we were taught and the importance of learning how to think,” said Ben Morrow. “When we’re in group discussion, we can accomplish so much because we understand each other and the background of why we reach the conclusions that we do.”
Future plans for the company include being present on every campus in the U.S., reaching one million users by January 2013, and going international.