It has been three years since Mercy College has re-vamped their entire business program – bringing in new business professionals, a new honors program, and more importantly a new philosophy. “Learning by doing.”
However, what exactly does the Mercy College School of Business mean by this? The Impact caught up with some freshman students, who are currently running an actual business, to find out what exactly “learning by doing means.”
The business honors freshmen were each assigned to a specific idea that was intended to develop into a successful start up business. The student’s goal was to cultivate their businesses and earn $1,000 profit by the end of the semester.
BuyOrSwapU is one of the student run businesses here at Mercy College. “Our mission is to create a more affordable and safe college environment through adopting the Mercy College Mission,” said Allison Barnes, Chief Financial Officer of BuyOrSwapU.
At first, the students were very skeptical about starting their own businesses and making them successful enough to earn the profit they were assigned to produce. The assignment was worth 25 percent of their final grade in three of their classes: Info Systems Management, Principles of Marketing, and Principles of Management.
Along the way, the students were required to build an entire business plan as well as create a functioning website entirely from scratch. The students struggled with this because only about half of them have had prior experience doing this.
BuyOrSwapU provides three major services such as an online marketplace, a thrift shop, and the Safe Space. The online marketplace, although is very similar to other e-commerce websites, provides a more unique and exceptional way to buy or trade items for another good or service.
The online marketplace, like any e-commerce website requires a listing free, while BuyOrSwapU offers a much cheaper fee than most other websites. Students are also required to pay a usage fee for its “swap” and exchange features.
One of the struggles that these students faced is differentiating their website from other e-commerce websites. Their main differentiation is that the BuyOrSwapU website has minimal risk for student use.
BuyOrSwapU.com monitors all email addresses coming in, and filters out email addresses that are not “.edu” email addresses. Why is this so important? Only college students are permitted to use this online market place. This limits their exposure to spam, or any other predator out their trying to hack their business.
The website also aids as a way for the users to interact with one other before or while performing transactions. “It is BuyOrSwapU’s goal to get the college community to interact with people they would not normally interact with,” said the BuyOrSwapU team.
The BuyOrSwapU team has earned a lot of their profit by partnering with some of the local businesses around town. Each business had the opportunity to chose a advertising package that best fit them.
For example, if the business wanted their link on the sponsors page of the website, they had to pay $20 a month for how ever many months that they wanted.
If they wanted a bigger package, such as the businesses logo, link, and their menu on the sponsor’s page, they had to pay $100 month for how ever many months that they chose.
With this, BuyOrSwapU was able to help the local businesses around Dobbs Ferry, as well as building their website and again sticking to their mission of trying to make college more affordable.
In addition to the online marketplace, BuyOrSwapU offered a thrift shop every week on the Mercy College Dobbs Ferry campus. All items that they sold at the thrift shop were donated from family, friends, and some of the faculty. As apart of their mission statement, BuyOrSwapU provides a service that is affordable for college students to use.
With that, every item that was sold at the thrift shop was either one or five dollars, depending on the quality of the item. Not only does the thrift shop provide an inexpensive way for students to shop, but it also provides students with a positive social gathering.
“We sold clothes, shoes, and accessories. We also sold books, toys games, and other random items,” said Alison Barnes.
Unlike a normal thrift shop, most of the items sold at the thrift shop are very expensive brand name items. Customers walk out of the thrift shop feeling like they have received a bargain.
“The thrift shop really increased our user base for our website, as well as more clients,” said Allison Barnes, BuyOrSwapU Chief Financial Officer. “We were able to brand ourselves and inform people on who we are, and the other services that we provide.”
The BuyOrSwapU team was able to expand their business even with limited time. Originally, the idea was to stay on one campus and when they were ready, to broaden out to other campuses, they would do so.
Well, the students were able to expand to The Mercy College Manhattan Campus where they had a good turn out, but not as good of a turn out as they do on the main campus.
“Expanding was not as successful as we had hoped only because we had to limit our selves and host the thrift shop on a smaller scale,” said Barnes. “We had to transport all of the goods our selves to Manhattan with suitcases. If we had a different way to get the items to the Manhattan Campus, we probably would have been more successful because we would have been able to sell more.”
Lastly, BuyOrSwapU provides a safe space that is located on the Mercy College campus, for students can meet up and complete their transactions. Whether they need to swap an item, or they need to exchange an item for a service, the safe space will have hours of operation in which students can do so. The safe space also allows for students to submit cash while purchasing or selling an item.
Although these students are only required to run this business until the end of the semester, future executive plans were made to grow this business and potentially make this something that other colleges incorporate.
“We will soon be targeting neighboring schools such as Fordham University, Pace University, and Baruch College,” said the BuyOrSwapU team. Mercy College’s brand is spreading so quickly in such positive way, and BuyOrSwapU is and will continue to help build off of the brand that we have.