When a friend of UD student Jim Jannuzzio’s gave him her used English book his freshman year, he was able to later sell the book at a campus buy-back for $5. With used English books selling for $120, the finance major came up with an entrepreneurial idea: Eliminate the middleman.
Just last week, Jannuzzio celebrated the one-year anniversary of the launch of his app, BookBandit, something the Salesianum grad likens to the “Travelocity” of textbook sales.
The free app offers a centralized database for finding books through partnerships with online merchants. Jannuzzio said the company has experienced a 988 percent increase in sales from spring to fall semester 2016. To date, BookBandit boasts more than 3,500 downloads.
Now, this finance major is busy “building the company and building the brand.”
“I work two or three nights a week trying to pile back money into this to make it boom,” said Jannuzzio, a senior who takes a full complement of classes and works at night delivering pizzas.
When he started, his first crack at working with a developer from Pakistan resulted in a finished product that didn’t really work and he couldn’t release. He also parted ways with his first partner and lost his initial investment.
“Entrepreneurial startup is like a roller coaster. You get ups and downs, but it’s a thrill, full of excitement,” said Jannuzzio.
BookBandit charges a $2.99 “convenience fee” per book for the first three books. That drops down to $2.49 per book with the purchase of four books. At five plus books, the user pays $1.99 per book. Users are able to search by title, author, ISBN or scan a barcode and can buy new books, used books, eBooks, or even rent textbooks.
Jannuzzio credits his tenacity, his family, and the support of UD’s Horn Program with his entrepreneurial fuel.
“Overall, the Horn Program has provided me with a beautiful co-working space to do my work,” said Jannuzzio. “I’m granted 24-hour access to the Venture On Development Center [meeting and co-working space], business advisory and other services as well as in-kind support.”
He also receives scheduling priority and invitations to special events as well as automatic enrollment into the flexible benefits program for copying and printing, media production, promotional and supply needs.
“Jim was up and running when he came to the center,” said Vincent L. DiFelice, who provides venture support at the center.
Jannuzzio had already taken the first steps critical to identifying a “scalable and repeatable” business model, according to DiFelice.
“In most cases, I have to help students understand they have to get outside and engage people about the problem. There’s no issue with Jimmy, he’s right out there.”
“Out there” includes donning his BookBandit mascot costume to drum up attention from the student population and cold calling potential textbook partners. In between, he seeks guidance from his UD mentors, including DiFelice and Steven Boerner, president of Hatch House Ventures.
“Steve is a guy who I can call at 1 a.m. and he’ll walk me through the problem I’m facing. We have weekly seminar sessions as a group about how to improve our business, such as relationship funnels, sales, and marketing,” said Jannuzzio. “He’s been by my side for negotiation with subcontractors. He’s listened to phone calls and has given me feedback on areas where I need to improve on.”
But Boerner called Jannuzzio a model of perseverance. “He’s doing something all entrepreneurs should do — delivering value before trying to make money. Money is a scorecard on the value he’s delivering.”
“Honestly, I take it day by day,” said Jannuzzio. “I did not think I’d be this involved. I love what I’m doing, I have people reaching out and thanking me for helping me save so much money. There’s nothing better in this world.”