Student company delivers products to dorms, apartments
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A first-year graduate student has made it possible for others around campus to have anything from shampoo to chips at their fingertips.
The startup company, ProductsU, was founded by Michael Van Kleunen, a first-year law student. Personal care and food products can be ordered on the company’s website and delivered within 30 minutes. Van Kleunen said he started ProductsU to give students an affordable alternative to shopping at Walgreens.
“Walgreens can be so expensive and it’s really the only convenience store in this area,” Van Kleunen said. “There’s roughly 4,000 freshmen and sophomores that don’t have a car, so they don’t have another option.”
Erin O’Toole, a freshman in the College of Nursing, said she shops at Walgreens because of a lack of other options on campus.
“I don’t have a car on campus so I can’t get over to Target all the time,” O’Toole said. “Sometimes I use Zipcar, but you have to pay for that too. Delivery would be a lot easier.”
ProductsU started delivering to students at the start of second semester. It services many dorms, apartments and academic buildings. The company was initially funded by Marquette’s Office of Research and Innovation and the Kohler Center for Entrepreneurship. Van Kleunen said the service often provides brand-name products at a cheaper price than competitors can provide.
“I’m buying in bulk from a distributor so I don’t have to mark it up like Walgreens does,” he said. “I didn’t need a wide range of goods, I just needed about 100 different products that were tailored to the students.”
This fall, Van Kleunen did research to see what products he should provide to students. He found that many students sought items already provided for them in the dorms, such as better quality toilet paper and trash bags.
“I looked at those problems that students were facing and anchored around those products,” he said.
Meg Flynn, a junior in the College of Education, said she could see ProductsU benefiting students who might not want to leave their residence.
“There’s times when you’re like ‘oh no, I’m out of toothpaste,’” Flynn said. “You probably don’t want to go to the store so you could just use this service.”
Right now, Van Kleunen is the only person working at ProductsU. However, he plans to employ Marquette students as the company grows. The products are stored in a storage closet at Redeemer Lutheran Church and Van Kleunen does the deliveries himself.
ProductsU has serviced 10 customers so far. Van Kleunen said it’s been a struggle to find out what students respond to.
“I thought that just doing social media would be good enough, but students aren’t responding to that like I thought they would,” he said. “It’s something I needed to figure out. You’ve gotta start somewhere.”
Van Kleunen said as ProductsU grows, he could see it expanding to other universities.
“I’d like to say if I were to scale this at other universities, it would be something that would be connected to their entrepreneurial department,” he said. “Maybe there’s an entrepreneur student that wants to run their own business and see how that unfolds. They could run ProductsU with some faculty support and make their own business.”