StudentBeans.com: James Eder

The network of university brand ambassadors helping students to stretch their loans with special offers from big brands

When undergraduates arrive at their fabled institutions the reality is cash only goes so far after fees. Nevertheless, as the future graduate population they represent a very attractive market for many of the biggest brands.

The problem then has been that while companies know this, they – bar the likes of Pot Noodle maker Unilever – have often struggled to communicate with their target audience. Brothers Michael and James Eder sought to remedy that with the creation of studentbeans.com a bulging online directory of student discount offers on food, drink, clothes, TVs, laptops, mobiles, travel and magazines.

Everybody wins. That’s why after setting up the business in Birmingham initially with the help of a £2,000 Prince’s Trust loan plus £7,000 of their own savings, the site had half the student population registered within six months. Like every start-up story though, it wasn’t without a bit of pain and the odd cock-up, as James recalls. Their ‘bean character’ – a Teletubby-like furry bean – suffered the indignity of being heavily rugby tackled at a Freshers’ Fair. Unfortunately for James he was inside the suit.

There was also the email newsletter sent out in haste – and in Latin. The site took off though, with the Eders hiring student campus brand managers to promote it within as many universities as possible, providing a fantastic opportunity for students to earn while studying.

The opportunity was endorsed by the Chartered Institute of Marketing and StudentBeans partnered with Proctor & Gamble on the initiative to provide an introduction to one of the world’s largest marketing-led companies, as well as speeches, tutorials and workshops.

Eder also negotiated a partnership with Jelly Belly to hand out packets of Jelly Beans in exchange for branding, and managed to convince the Accor Group to provide a hotel room for him in key cities when on the road.

Such a creative approach to bootstrapping a business has paid off with the company now profitable on a turnover exceeding £500,000 and has Daniel Nabarro, the founder of online lingerie retailer Figleaves, on board as a non-exec.

It has more than 200,000 registered users with around 500 joining each day looking to take advantage of the offers that promise a combined £3,333.24 in savings. With the recession now strangling everybody’s wallets, you suspect the rest of us would like something similar.

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