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Students Create Marketplace for Textbooks, Dorm Supplies

By SARA CASARETO

At the beginning of each semester students find themselves in search of new supplies and new textbooks, and often these students are looking for the cheapest options. At the end of the semester, students find themselves with textbooks they no longer need and supplies they no longer want, and many hope to get these off their hands for the best price.

Three UT students founded a company called UniMates to remedy this problem. Ekatarina Meshcheryakova, CEO and a junior finance and management information system major; Hanna Grevelius, chief marketing officer and a junior international business and entrepreneurship major; and Askhat Saiapov, chief technology officer and a sophomore cybersecurity major plan to make the UniMates app available by April of this year.

“At the beginning of this Spring 2017 semester I struggled to find one finance book for my class,” Meshcheryakova said. “I am not a fan of buying textbooks from the bookstore, they are too expensive, so I had to search through Facebook groups and was very frustrated with the process – there was no structure, no organization, it was very cluttered and some items that students post are non-searchable. Then I realized: Why not create a marketplace to solve this issue that arises in schools around the US?”  

For many college students, budgeting is essential UniMates hopes to help students save and make money by countering the high cost of textbooks and balancing out the demand for dorm supplies with those thrown out at the end of each year.

By using UniMates, students can sell and obtain college necessities quickly and efficiently by engaging into the marketplace the app will provide. Students can advertise and promote their creativity and skill sets. The beta version of the app is currently finalized, and if all goes well students should be able to use UniMates to get rid of textbooks just in time for summer.

For one of the founders of UniMates, it was simple mathematics.

“Students worry about two things: food and money,” Grevelius said. “As we realized how expensive the university life is when it comes to dorm life and textbooks, we looked into how the problem potentially could be solved. This semester there are about 400 UT students who take Criminology 101, and there will be the same amount of UT students who will take the class next semester. But the current [Criminology] students will most likely lose a lot of money by selling the book back to the bookstore for a low price, have to pay a lot of money by selling it on Amazon, or not sell it at all. When they could be selling to the other 400 UT students who will need the same book next semester.”

The entrepreneurship center has been helping the UniMates founders in their development of this company. Through the Entrepreneurship Club, they were notified of the Daveler Entrepreneurship Competition at USF.

As of March 13 of this year, the UniMates team has won $2,500 from the Frank and Ellen Daveler Entrepreneurship Program and earlier this week they were informed that they are able to take part in the pitch competition on April 8 within this program. If successful, the team will be awarded an additional $2,500 to invest into their company.

After the launch occurs, UniMates will be tabling in Vaughn to spread the word about the app, get students to download and use the app, and get direct feedback from UT students. From there, they will host an event, which is yet to be planned, where students can meet each other to directly exchange books and products before finals.

For UniMates founders, UT is just a springboard to developing a nationwide company that has bases in every state. UniMates is open to accepting students for an internship. Internships will be doled based on individual talents, be it coding, marketing or sales.

Sara Casareto can be reached at sara.casareto@spartans.ut.edu.

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