When I sold my first summary to a classmate I had no idea how much money I was going to make over the next year.
Back in 2011, when I was a first year a friend and I tried to get our fellow Actuarial Science classmates two make the ultimate collective summary. An online google document was made where everyone could add to the notes. The idea was that collectively the best possible notes could be compiled to everyone’s benefit. Unfortunately only 9 or 10 people actually contributed to these documents while the rest benefited from it for free.
By the end of the year I was so fed up with this competitive anti-sharing culture that I quit University in 2012 and took a sabbatical. Upon my return in 2013 I switched to Investment Management and didn’t know anyone in my new course. I thus started making summaries on my own for myself, but it felt like such a waste to spend so much time on a summary and then be the only one to benefit from it. Initially I didn’t think of making money from my summaries at all, but I also did not want to send it to everyone without getting something back. At that stage I was running a blog about things to do in and around Stellenbosch and was in need of facebook likes to promote the page. So I sent out an email to all my classmates stating that I will send them a summary for free in exchange for liking my Facebook page. Later on I did the same with Copy gigabytes. Soon afterward however students started to ask for more summaries, saying that they are willing to pay for it.
Turning it into a business
The demand got so intense that I had to find an easier way of keeping track of who liked what and what summary needs to be sent, that I started to look for an easier way to sell my summaries. One day on campus I saw a poster of Stuvia. Stuvia is an online marketplace for buying and selling summaries. I immediately uploaded my summaries and sent an email to my classmates saying they can now download it from there. This worked to an extent, but Stuvia took 30% commission and a lot of people didn’t want to sign up for yet another website or simply didn’t have a credit card. So I ended up having to ‘manually’ sell most of my summaries. At this stage my summaries were priced between R50 and R70 for a summary containing all the work needed for a test or exam. By the end of the June exams I made R5000 through Stuvia and another R5000 from people who did EFT’s or met me in person to pay with cash.
The next semester I sent an email to 1800 first year Economics students about a summary that I was going to sell for R100. I saw this as a crazy ‘experiment’ and didn’t expect a big turnout. In the email I said that I would be in the Neelsie, the student mall, for 2 hours accepting cash payments after which I will email the summary to them. When I went to the Neelsie I took a book with me thinking that I’ll just be waiting around for most of the 2 hours. To my surprise there was a line of people waiting for me. I started taking their cash and emailing the summary from my iPad. It felt like there was no break for the full two hours. I just kept throwing the money into my backpack not taking in how many summaries I’ve sold so far. At the end of the 2 hour period I quickly walked back to my flat where I threw the money on the ground. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There before me laid R10 000 in hard cash.
The birth of StudentSummaries
I realised how big the market for summaries was, but also that I can’t spend all my time selling summaries in the Neelsie and then walking with that amount of cash in my bag. That’s why StudentSummaries was born. I didn’t have to pay commission to anyone, users don’t have to create an account to be able to download a summary and there are plenty of payment options.
Over the next few months until September 2014 I made more than R70 000 selling summaries. I even featured on the frontpage of Die Burger for this. You can read the article here: Matie rol in geld na hy met notas smous.
Over to you
Have you sold something casually that later turned into a profitable business? Tell us in the comments below.