As Fordham approaches finals and the semester draws to a close, it’s a time of year when students may find themselves with items they no longer need. Now, though, Rams have a new option: Zwikk, a virtual marketplace where college students can buy or sell items to other students.
Launched in September by Michael Kungl (GSB ’15) and Luke Johnson (GSB ’15), Zwikk offers a safe online environment that is only accessible to current students at Fordham, NYU and Columbia. Its free registration, which requires a valid e-mail address from one of the three universities, allows users to post things for sale and to contact other members about their items. Products range from textbooks to clothing to appliances.
Where did the idea for Zwikk come from? Michael, a finance major, and Luke, an entrepreneurship major with a double minor in computer science and economics, noticed the high number of students — particularly international students — who were forced to throw out perfectly good items when leaving for winter or summer break because they were graduating, traveling or just couldn’t store them. Using their Gabelli School Ground Floor class as a catalyst to develop a business plan, the two entrepreneurs then reached out to a web-design group in Luke’s hometown of Scottsdale, Arizona, to bring the idea to life via a fully functioning site.
Zwikk, which has about 50 members, is a relatively self-sustaining site in terms of technology, leaving Luke and Michael free to market the business, launch social-media campaigns and run membership promotions. In November, for example, Zwikk held a contest that awarded gift cards to the three members with the most viewers, helping to increase site traffic and signups. Recognizing that other colleges and universities could make use of their virtual marketplace as well, Michael and Luke are developing plans for expansion.
Michael acknowledges that the business opportunities open to a 19-year-old college student may be limited, but he says the hands-on experience of “being able to make mistakes and learn from them” has been incredible. Luke, who took a class in entrepreneurship this fall, recognizes the synergy between his business venture and his Gabelli courses.
“Some classes [allow us] to talk about business, but unless you’ve actually done it, you really can’t know for yourself,” he said. “It’s interesting to learn [something] in class and then apply it to a business.”
Michael and Luke encourage fellow entrepreneurially minded students to “think big” and to follow whatever passion might drive a business plan. With people like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates as their role models, these two young entrepreneurs believe that age is no roadblock to potential.