A business started by a group of McDaniel College students won last week’s Carroll Biz Challenge, including nearly $13,000 in prizes. But the founders of bookSwap now have to change their name.
McDaniel students Dajuan Price, Hunter Metcalf and Brandon Cortese founded the company as a way for students to buy and sell books on campus.
Since the company won the audience award at McDaniel’s Innovation Challenge last April, Price and Metcalf have graduated and the company’s focus has broadened beyond books after the feedback they received at the Innovation Challenge. The company’s app will let students sell each other more than just books while also creating an Uber-like service for tutoring.
“That’s too limited. You’ve bottlenecked yourself if you just do books,” Price said bookSwap was told. “What if you moved outside of that?”
Now, the team is looking for a new name for the company. They like the idea of keeping “swap” in the title, but so far, nothing has stuck.
Cortese, a senior at McDaniel, is the company’s developer and is still building an iOS app. Price said bookSwap is looking to start testing on the campuses of McDaniel, Towson, the University of Maryland, Gettysburg and Carroll Community College this fall.
Despite the existence of websites like Craigslist and Facebook’s Marketplace, Price thinks the closed college audience will give bookSwap a chance.
“There’s a trust factor there,” he said. “There’s also an immediacy. As college students, there’s something about the immediacy of being able to make a purchase.”
Students can sell their books, video games or dorm room decorations to other students, meet on campus and even exchange cash as part of the payment. But the tutoring services could also be a big part of what bookSwap ends up doing.
Price said the company is still working on the details, like making sure tutors are qualified, but he said having an Uber for tutoring could help students too. While schools offer tutoring services, they can be hard to find the night before a big test, when a procrastinating college student might just realize how much help she needs.
BookSwap started when Cortese suggested the idea to Price at the McDaniel dining hall. Now, the former McDaniel football players are trying to make it work.
After graduating in May, Price has been focusing on the company full time. The Clinton native will be moving back to Westminster this fall and said he has the full support of his parents, despite the company not having a product yet.
“Everyone in my life has been very supportive of it, especially my parents,” Price said. “No one knows what can happen with this. It’s not one of those things where you can clearly see how you can get from point A to point B. …It looks kind of unstable to some people, but we decided we would rather try this and fail than not try it at all.”
Winning the Carroll Biz Challenge, sponsored by the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce, was a big morale booster for the company. Price knows there is a long road towards making the idea work, but he believes the camaraderie of the team will help make it happen.
“There’s a chemistry that we have that’s going to make this work,” he said. “It was a relationship formed in friendship. They’re my friends first and foremost before anything else.”