My last year in college I had a business idea, roped a friend into it, and almost pulled it off. If logistics and a little more capital would have been in place at the time it would have worked. It could still work. Although, I would take a less grassroots approach if I were to attempt it again.
My senior year, I had noticed consecutively for four years — a week before everyone had to be out of the dorm halls, residents would throw out their scrap carpet and rugs instead of taking them home. It was often just too much trouble, or they were too dirty to worry about. Or they did not have a use for it at home and had no place to store it. Piles of carpet in all shapes and sizes would form outside all six residence halls year after year (there are now twelve).
At the time I had the realization I was about to graduate college and was entertaining different business ideas, since I knew eventually I wanted to use my marketing education to work for myself and promote my own business. A year earlier I had listened to a direct marketing home study course that was recorded in 80s my father had given me.
The delivery method may have been outdated (eight cassette tapes and one workbook), but the material was based on proven marketing and business principles which never get old.
Market First Solution Second
One principle I remembered: It’s much easier to realize a need or market and try to come up with a solution than to have a solution and try to fit it to an existing market. This is true for both products and services. People pay to have their existing problems solved, not to fix or prevent problems they never knew they had. This may seem like a minor nuance, but it makes a huge difference.
Seeing the success of the dorm fridge rental business in Dumpster Rental College Station front of the dorm I was staying year after year made me think of another resident hall nicety students would be willing to pay for – carpet. I had the brilliant ( I thought at the time) idea of selling or renting dorm carpet in front of the residence halls for the first week of move in. We would take orders the first week and deliver a custom fit carpet for each order the next week. The best part of it all — free inventory. I thought, why not scoop up all that carpet being thrown out by the 1000s of residents, clean it, and sell it to the students the next year?
I had dreamed up fliers and how I was going to advertise the supply the following fall semester. I wanted to do this right so I attempted to get permission from the person in charge of housing. She was OK with my friend and I collecting the carpets. She even liked the idea. But the campus police didn’t. I recruited two friends, paid one guy to make a few trips in his truck and we had 30 carpets in my apartment. I just wished I would have had a place to store them. Storing them would not have been a big issue. It was the cleaning and drying logistics that were mindboggling.
Looking back I could have taken the same business model, but gathered inventory instead by speaking with general contractors who tear out old carpet in houses and replace it with new carpet. They typically have large scraps of new carpet that would have not required cleaning. It would have most likely cost something since I would have told them I planned on using it for commercial purposes, but it would have been a fraction of the price. Over time I could have then formed relationships with multiple contractors and had an never-ending cheap supply of high quality clean carpet year after year.