The days are getting shorter and the air is growing colder, which means that students across the country are trodding back to school once more. For a subscription e-commerce startup called Co-Ed Supply, that means it’s time to really get down to business — their forte is curating and shipping much-needed care packages to the country’s college students.
I know, I know, the world now has another subscription service. And it’s not even the only one out there catering to the needs of our nation’s in-bound college students — Pijon launched in early August and has talked up the strength of its distribution deals with our own Romain Dillet.
Was the launch of a close competitor worrying to the Co-Ed Supply team? Of course — especially since Co-Ed actually quietly launched a few weeks earlier. When Co-Ed Supply opened its doors in late July it was more concerned about drumming up interest in person than anything else. The team started with pilot marketing programs at Miami University, Drexel University (go Dragons), and the University of Cincinnati, and planned to line up campus ambassadors at some 15 other schools. Now they’ve got about 30 ambassadors stationed at schools across the country trying to spread the Co-Ed Supply gospel, and the first batch of boxes were shipped to subscribers yesterday.
The concept is a basic one — the student (or their caring parents) can select from either the Classic or Deluxe care packages, which costs roughly $20 and $35 per month respectively. The big difference between the two? You get 7-9 goodies in a Classic box, and between 12-15 in the Deluxe package. Simple enough, right?
And what’s inside those boxes? A curated selection of what co-founder and CEO Marissa Hu calls “college essentials” — toiletries, diversions, and of course, food. Contrary to the popular notion that college students subsist on a diet of Doritos and cheap beer, Hu says that healthy snacks top the list of things that students have asked for.
Co-Ed Supply’s big angle is that it shares consumer information with the brands and companies that provide their supplies. Players like Procter & Gamble, Epic Records, and Dollar Shave Club get access to a slew of young consumers they may not have otherwise reached, and more crucially, they net information about how well-liked their products are amongst the members of Gen Y by way of a follow-up survey. From Hu’s perch, that’s a valuable stream of data that isn’t always accounted for when it comes to those sorts of school-time brand interactions.
“When school starts, the brands are going around campus and giving out free samples,” Hu explained. “That sample sort of walks away with the student, and the brand has no data about that student or how to target them.”
If everything goes according to plan (which is always a big if), Co-Ed Supply may be able to turn those consumer insights into cold, hard cash. As you’d expect, the lion’s share of Co-Ed Supply’s revenue comes in the form of those recurring subscription fees, but Hu hopes that the sort of consumer feedback those surveys yield is valuable enough to be worth a chunk of a company’s market research budget. Hu says that just about half of Co-Ed’s subscriber base is made up of students ordering boxes for themselves which doesn’t help either — it’s her hope that the people who willingly throw their hat into the ring will also be the ones who are most open about sharing their product perspectives.
Now that those first shipments are safely out the door, Hu feels even more vindicated that the team is on the right track. Even with a new competitor to worry about, the plan is to stick with what has been working: building out that personal presence on college campuses through move-in day, homecoming, and beyond. The world may not be big enough for two like-minded startups, and I suspect we’ll soon see which of these companies really has the right stuff.