CampusWall founder Tina Snyder’s twins were doing what college students do — buying bikes, and looking for a ride home for the holidays — when she discovered how they were doing it. The ride was found on a wall of flyers in her dorm. And the bike? A random stranger was offering it via online classifieds. Snyder was surprised, and as a parent, a little concerned about the safety of either of those systems.
When she looked around, she realized that while some colleges had tried to start online sharing/selling systems, there was no overall site for students in the modern era to address the potential safety concerns in a tech-savvy way that was designed especially for the university population.
“I was stunned to hear that paper flyers on bulletin boards was still prevalent,” says Snyder. But my final “aha moment” came on [the twins’] first end of term move-out day when I witnessed perfectly good items discarded in dorm hallways and stairwells.”
Anyone who’s gone to college or been near one at the end of a semester has seen the extreme waste that goes on, as items that were used for a few months are thrown in the giant dumpsters that most schools have available students to use, lest they trash the streets. Usable items are routinely discarded due to limitations in moving trucks, cars or storage units. Enterprising students or local residents often try to come by and take what was left behind to sell, but that's an imperfect system to be sure.
It was this combination of concern for safety and frustration with waste (and the universal desire for everyone — but college students more than ever — to save money) that motivated Snyder to found CampusWall. “Our mission is to promote what we refer to as the “3 S’s”: Safety, Savings and Sustainability,” says Snyder.
Through research and conversations with students and administrators, Snyder found there was plenty of interest in a college-specific marketplace, and combined with her background in technology, she was able to put all the pieces together to found the company.
CampusWall now has an impressive list of universities who have signed on to the program across the country. Snyder involves both students and university officials to join onto the program, and says that often the first to understand the benefits of such site are those students who are already thinking about sustainability.
“Many of those who first contact us — and often our biggest advocates at a school — are environmentally conscious students and staff who are champions of sustainability, the reuse of goods and sharing services," says Snyder.
Some might wonder what the point of such a program is since students can use Freecycle.org or Craigslist to do the same thing. (Though it’s clear that students aren’t doing so, hence dumpsters filled with perfectly usable items.) It has to do with people trusting each other — and wanting to trade or sell what the other has to offer:
“Having worked for a large company that offered employee-only classifieds, I knew firsthand the benefits of a community marketplace. There is definitely a sense of security that comes from trading with peers. And it’s evident that the demographic on a campus is looking for like-minded goods and services, so a campus-specific virtual bulletin board makes sense,” explains Snyder.
To sign in, CampusWall requires a university email address, which limits who can sign in, and keeps both buyers and sellers (or givers and getters) with some level of safety. And Snyder wants to make it even easier for students and others associated with universities by instituting a single sign-up system. “We had our first pilot integration using single sign-on this past fall, and it went great. Single sign-on eliminates the registration step and allows students to use their school assigned credentials to access their CampusWall. This collaboration is our current focus as we are instituting this technology on several other campuses,” Snyder says.
What’s next for the start-up?
"My goal is to build a partnership with higher education institutions," Snyder says. "We have the site and the means of providing support and technology updates; but the school plays a key role in outreach and promotion."
It's no longer "if you build it, they will come," — with students today, you have to show them that systems are going to work to benefit them. But sharing and selling via CampusWall is pretty much a no-brainer.
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