Brandon and Aaron Knoblauch took a common problem experienced by many college students, high textbook prices, and created a business out of it.
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The two brothers from the University of Missouri (MU) started 1Up Books last fall on MU's campus. Their mission was to "one-up" the competition: the university's bookstore.
The Knoblauchs were officially incorporated last year. After combining everything in their bank accounts, plus some capital from their parents, the two brothers were able to buy 5,700 books from students in their first semester of business.
They later sold them back online. Currently, 1Up Books sells books through pre-existing sites like Amazon.com, but they are launching their own Web site sometime before the start of their fall semester in August. The site URL will be 1upbooks.com.
'We are definitely in a college market. Most of the books we buy are from college students," said Brandon. "We do most of our business during finals week and the month or so before school starts when students are buying books for the next semester."
Brandon said it can be a little challenging to be a student and run a business at the same time, since the majority of their business happens during finals week.
"I still get decent grades, but the most challenging part is staffing our business around everyone's finals schedule," Brandon said.
As far as marketing, the Knoblauch's rely mainly on word-of-mouth between students. Brandon also suggests business owners not only know who their target market is, but how to market effectively to that audience. Last year, 1Up Books gave away a free Nintendo Wii as a promotion to encourage students to sell their books to 1Up instead of the university's bookstore.
Although Aaron graduated from MU last year, he still works on further developing 1Up Books. Brandon said he's not sure where the business will end up, but it's something he definitely plans on continuing when he graduates from the MU School of Business this spring.
"The classes that have helped me most in school I think are the accounting classes," Brandon said. "It's important for business owners to come up with a business model and not underestimate the amount of start-up capital needed to get your business going."
While 1Up Books still primarily targets MU students, they are finding new clients all over the world. The Knoblauchs ultimately want to help college students like themselves find the right books, for the right price.