This week’s Gustie of the Week is Junior Weston Lombard, an Accounting major from Stillwater, MN and co-founder of School Shark LLC.
School Shark is a business founded by Lombard and his baseball teammates, Juniors John Campisi and Christian Johnson, with the mission of providing college students with a better option for buying and selling textbooks.
“What we are is a peer-to-peer textbook sales platform for students on campus,” Lombard said.
School Shark began as a project for Business Modeling, a 2019 J-Term course taught by Visiting Assistant Professor Tom Clement.
“We basically created a business model for it [and] did customer research [and] market research, and through that we found out that there was an actual problem that needed to be solved, and at the same time, there was a market for a business to be able to solve that problem,” Lombard said.
After the J-Term course ended, he and his teammates decided to make School Shark a reality.
By the end of the school year, they had about fifty textbooks listed, but the defining moment for the business’s future didn’t come until the day following the release of book list for the 2019 Fall Semester.
“Someone bought two or three books, and they messaged us saying that they saved $250, and this whole idea that we had been creating, this big hypothetical thing, [was] tangible now, and we actually really helped someone out,” Lombard said.
“One in three students use financial aid to pay for their textbooks, and that’s something that shouldn’t be a thing, so we’re trying to help fix that problem for as many students as we can.”
According to Lombard, the business exploded once they’d posted the customer’s testimonial. School Shark’s first trial-run was a success, thanks to many hours of hard work.
“When you start something and you’re in college, you don’t have a lot of money to delegate anything, so you kind of just have to wear all the hats,” Lombard said.
However, he described the process as an enjoyable experience and a great learning opportunity, including the marketing aspect through Facebook and Instagram.
“That’s been a really fun learning process of putting different pieces of content out and figuring out what gains more traction,” Lombard said.
According to Lombard, he and his colleagues value the great support they’ve found in the Gustavus community. Not only from professors who have advocated for School Shark in their classrooms, but from students as well.
“I think the biggest support that we got was just from students [because] they had faith in our site, and that really meant a lot to us,” Lombard said.
Today, School Shark lists 300 books from Gustavus students, and its founders want to build on that success in order to service as many students as possible.
According to Lombard, his own drive to improve the business is derived from his athletic background, especially from his participation on the Gustavus baseball team.
“You kind of fall in love with the grind and trying to get better, and as soon as you start to see a little bit of success, then it just gets you really hungry to just get more,” Lombard said.
One aspect of their expansion plans for School Shark is improving the website so that everything is automated.
“Since the summer, we’ve been working with a professional web-developer out in India, and it’s been over a three-month project,” Lombard said.
“We’re hoping that it’s done by the end of next week,” Lombard said.
Lombard and his colleagues also hope to expand School Shark’s services to other schools. So far, they’ve established partnerships with Loyola University Chicago, St. Cloud State, and University of Minnesota Duluth.
“We [want] to one day become a one-stop shop for all the college students in the country,” Lombard said.
“One in three students use financial aid to pay for their textbooks, and that’s something that shouldn’t be a thing, so we’re trying to help fix that problem for as many students as we can,” Lombard said.
Not only has School Shark helped students with their textbook needs, but it has also allowed Lombard to discover his own passion for entrepreneurship.
“It’s definitely ignited an entrepreneurial mindset that I didn’t know that I really had,” Lombard said.
Lombard also founded Vaga, Gustavus’ student entrepreneurship society, in order to help further this passion for other students on campus.
“We really think Gustavus is a place that has a lot of people that can do really well in entrepreneurship and have great ideas,” Lombard said.
“We want to try to build that society to get more people interested in the idea and [to] explore the possibility of just what you can create with your brain and the people around you,” Lombard said.
After Gustavus, Lombard wants to pursue a career in entrepreneurship where he can make a difference, whether that is through School Shark or something else.
“I want to be someone who can help change the world, which is a really big dream, but if it’s not crazy, then I don’t think it’s a big enough dream,” Lombard said.