Local Business

ScholarBuys partners with academic consortia

CARPENTERSVILLE – As many successful businesses often do, ScholarBuys started in a basement.

And as many successful businesses have had to do in recent years, ScholarBuys has flourished despite a tanked economy. It started up in fall 2007, just as the recession kicked in.

Co-founders Matt Ryan of Huntley and Bob Smith of Elmhurst had worked together previously in software licensing, but were let go by that company.

"Bob had a baby on the way and I had a 6-month-old at home," Ryan said. "It was definitely a scary time, but you've got to take some risk to reap the rewards, and it's definitely worked out for us."

ScholarBuys partners with academic consortia throughout the country and negotiates agreements with technology publishers.

"Our primary focus is higher-education independent colleges," said Ryan, who serves as vice president of operations and marketing. "We outfit their entire campus with licensing for products, such as Microsoft and Adobe."

Reasons for growth include a partnerships with North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities, and the Federation of Independent Illinois Colleges.

"We're kind of their technology arm," Smith said. He is the company's vice president of sales. "We work with manufacturers to recognize these schools that all share a common bond."

This allows for special pricing that the schools would not receive on their own, he said.

The fact that the business started during a poor economy was advantageous in that schools are trying to save money in any way possible to stretch their budgets, Ryan said.

"We pretty much were confident that if we went ahead with this plan, we'd be in good shape," he said. "We started out in my basement and we were profitable in about six weeks."

Entirely self-funded with a start-up budget of about $15,000, ScholarBuys was named on Inc. 5000's list of the fastest growing companies in America in 2012.

"Our first year we did around $4.4 million [in revenue] and our most recent year, 2012, finished around $11.4 million," Ryan said.

They've also added six more employees for a total of eight. Three are on the operations and marketing side and five are in sales.

There are plans to expand.

"That's always a challenge, finding the right fit," Ryan said. "The majority of the folks we have working for us are new to the job market, recent grads. All of us have at least a bachelor's degree."

Smith said they've been able to watch their employees grow alongside the company, buying homes in the area.

ScholarBuys started in Ryan's basement, but has moved around a few places and landed in a much better-suited space in the Otto Engineering building on Main Street in Carpentersville.

They don't plan to move anytime soon.

"I think there's room to grow here," Ryan said. "With what Otto has done to the downtown area, they made it attractive to stay."

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What: A reseller of computer software and hardware that negotiates agreements between publishers and consortia.

Where: 11 W. Main St., Suite 202, Carpentersville

When: Service and sales call center is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Information: 847-783-7185 or ScholarBuys.com.

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