Textbook Brokers: "We BOOK the Pack!"
When fourth generation Nevada alumnus Janessa McCombs ('07) first met her husband Jeffrey Loftin, the meeting was more comic book than textbook. A little nervous, Jeffrey made small talk and in the process said something nice about Janessa's sister. Practical and literal, Janessa gave her sister an actual push towards Jeffrey and suggested that he take her out. It was a mess that took months and one awkward sister-to-sister talk to completely untangle.
While studying marketing in Utah in 2007, Jeffrey began working for BBA Solutions, a college retail store operator. An agile company founded in 1996 by two friends named James, Barnes and Batcheller, BBA Solutions now services over 100 colleges and universities in 24 states. With an early emphasis in software and technology development for the college retail store environment, BBA Solutions has also grown to service more than 30 on-campus bookstores as their "white-label" provider.
Jeffrey and Janessa visited dozens of college towns together, looking for a student population that could sincerely benefit from the options that an off-campus textbook store can provide. There was even a spreadsheet showing student population versus textbook prices and opportunities for growth. When Jeffrey visited the University of Nevada, Reno for the first time, Reno rocketed to the top of the list of schools with students in need of textbook options; Janessa was pleased to say the least.
"I saw Reno immediately for what it is: a community in transition, with outstanding resources, an ideal size, grit and independence with a techy future-focus. Reno is an absolute gem and we saw immediately that we could provide a value to TMCC students and hoped to grow within two years to service the University of Nevada, Reno as well."
After a wedding rapidly followed by six months of intensive management training inside a BBA-operated Textbook Brokers branded store that services Arkansas State University, Jeffrey and Janessa were off on an adventure of entrepreneurship. Opening Textbook Brokers TMCC in April of 2010, Reno students responded with vigor to the availability of local options in the local textbook marketplace.
"We broke all the records," Janessa said, explaining that in 14 years of opening stores, Textbook Brokers TMCC saw greater acceptance and turnout from students, proportionally, than any store in the company's history to that time. "College towns in the south and east, even in the Bay Area, may have two or three off-campus textbook stores. Reno students were excited that we were here to do one thing: give them every book they wanted, cheap." Within six months Textbook Brokers TMCC was seeing so many students from TMCC and the University of Nevada, Reno that a second location became essential.
"Developing commercial space near the University of Nevada, Reno is so important. BBA Solutions services institutions of higher learning all over America, and we have seen how commercial and retail space adjacent to the campus strengthens the connection between the citizens of the community and the students on campus. Private development can make a beautiful link, a gateway between the community and the campus itself," Jeffrey explains, adding the local transit authority is discussing plans to eliminate his University of Nevada, Reno location.
"Offering cheap rental prices and providing a free way for students to defer paying for their textbooks for up to 30 days after the start of class; those are the two unique things that Textbook Brokers offers that students responded to quickly," says Janessa. "BookNV.com has been a great way to help students understand our commitment to making textbooks cheap, rentable on mobile, with free shipping, everything students now expect. And while our website, BookNV.com, is growing-we would hate to see our UNR location, which services literally thousands of students, plowed under to make an overpriced bus stop when there's already a bus stop across the street. RTA funds would go much further expanding the existing stop rather than plowing under 11 businesses and displacing 80-plus commercial and residential tenants."
Textbook Brokers UNR is an official corporate sponsor of The College of Business, and employs over 50 seasonal employees, which are all University of Nevada, Reno students. Developing an internship program where students from The College of Business can work a fun job, near campus, and get real world experience in accounting, supervision, supply chain management, and retail management is one of TBB-UNR Manager Mark Mazurowski's initiatives for 2017. "People, I believe, underestimate the scope of business experience that a vibrant entrepreneurial store such as Textbook Brokers can provide."
Mark, University of Nevada, Reno pre-law, explains how he enjoys the challenge of servicing thousands of his classmates from the scrappy location across the street from campus.
"Being a corporate sponsor is one of the best things we've ever done. There is no other company in town that can say that 100 percent of their customers are current University of Nevada, Reno students. Even when we operate on-campus stores, we can't say that because there we know that alumni make up an important portion of that picture. But Rent Now, Pay Later at BookNV.com - getting your textbooks cheaper than Amazon with free shipping, for UNR classes - let's just say that even the best alum DO come knocking for textbooks, but it's not pleasure reading, it's usually for their kids and grandkids."