Josh Kowitt, 24, and Scott Neuberger, 25, are average guys living, working, and hanging out in Boston. What isn't average about these guys is that they are the CEO and President, respectively, of a company called Collegeboxes, and they were recently named two of the Top 30 Entrepreneurs Under 30 by Inc. Magazine.
"We take something simple-shipping and storage-that has been around for a long time and we make it more accessible and affordable to college students and their parents."
Kowitt and Neuberger originally created Collegeboxes as a solution to inadequate storage options available to college students. Today, Collegeboxes is a moving service that helps students move, deliver, and store belongings for students at sixty schools nationwide. "The great thing about Collegeboxes is that it is interactive," says Kowitt, as he takes a minute to sit down with me in the middle of a busy Friday afternoon. "We take something simple-shipping and storage-that has been around for a long time and we make it more accessible and affordable to college students and their parents."
Several years ago, after spending only a month at Washington University at St. Louis, Kowitt founded ResFridge etc, an appliance rental business, with his suite-mates. Meanwhile, also at WU, Neuberger was working as the owner and CEO of University Trucking, a storage company. After meeting through their fraternity, Neuberger asked Kowitt to combine forces. "I thought 'why not?'" says Kowitt. "I was eighteen and had my first merger opportunity. It was crazy!" Kowitt and Neuberger say that their merging and building a rental and shipping/storage company was the genesis of Collegeboxes. "We grew the business five-fold in three years, and then I thought about trying the same business on college campuses across the county," says Neuberger.
After graduating, Neuberger moved to Boston and launched Campus Evolutions, a student solutions company. In 2004, Neuberger and Kowitt merged Campus Evolutions with Collegeboxes, Inc, which was based in Miami. After completing the acquisition of their largest competitor, "we knew that we could make this into a successful business," says Neuberger. But their success wasn't overnight. "We really are a one-box-at-a-time company, one customer at a time, one school at a time," says Kowitt thoughtfully. "We started with one box at one college and grew from there. Now we are at sixty campuses."
No Magic Button
Kowitt speaks of the illusion of "overnight success-- where suddenly a company goes nationwide." He says, "That doesn't happen! I suffered from that idea and that's not really how it goes...With the mass media and the Trump phenomenon, there is this image of entrepreneurship as a fad. But it's not like that. It's a job. And it's hard. The media shows this overnight success, but what you don't see is all the other entrepreneurial businesses that put in time and money and fail. There is no magic button to make it work."
"With the mass media and the Trump phenomenon, there is this image of entrepreneurship as a fad. But it's not like that. It's a job. And it's hard."
Despite the lack of the magic button, Kowitt and Neuberger have certainly found a way to keep their business thriving by exceeding contemporary standards. "That's one of the things we do best," says Kowitt with a grin. "We really put a new spin on shipping and storage. We use text messages and a GPS tracking system so students know exactly where their stuff is." When asked what has made their business venture work, Kowitt thinks for a minute and says "we have made the best of what we got and have kept going, and we have taken a lot of risks. We are no smarter, no better, no luckier than any other entrepreneurial business. We just didn't stop."
Kowitt and Neuberger also work together in a way that utilizes both their strengths. Neuberger, as President and Chief Financial Officer, is in charge of the finance department, national marketing, website development, and investor relations. Kowitt, as CEO, works with the schools and the students and does the "people work," while his partner of seven years does the more behind-the-scenes activities. "It's a good system that works well," says Kowitt. Neuberger agrees: "My favorite part of the job is getting up from my desk and walking around the office and seeing all of the different people and departments working in tandem with each other to execute the best logistics service available for college students."
"Waiting for schools to make decisions on awarding us exclusive contracts is agonizing."
Asked about their career goals, Neuberger admits he had the desire to create Collegeboxes from the start, but Kowitt's career path wasn't as clear. "I had no idea I would be doing this," he says. "I remember telling a friend before graduating from college that I would never touch a box again. I was boxed out! But here I am, and I am really glad it worked out. I had no idea this opportunity was going to happen." The unexpected nature of their success has made it all worthwhile. "At times I felt like I was on a treadmill, and going wherever the treadmill was taking me, but it's pretty sweet where it has taken me," he says with that grin again.
It hasn't all been a piece of cake, however. "Waiting for schools to make decisions on awarding us exclusive contracts is agonizing," says Neuberger. Kowitt speaks of having difficulty being the disciplinarian in the office. "I am too much of a softie," he says. But he acknowledges that the office is a "good mix of a laid back attitude and a hardworking bunch that also has fun." Having the right attitude is also part of Kowitt's success. "I have been at this for seven years," he says, "and there are two ways to look at that. I can say that I have been doing this for seven years (with a groan) or I can say that I have been doing this for seven years and every year we got bigger, better, and more profitable."
Looking to the Future
The most recent development for Collegeboxes is their recent (January, 2007) partnership with GrandCentral for better customer service. GrandCentral uses pioneering linked telecommunication tools that allow one central number and online location for all calls and messages. The combination of the two companies' respective specialties has enabled a one-click call center connection service. With this partnership, Collegeboxes customers will be able to connect to customer service with a single mouse-click. "This was a unique, customer-centric feature that is exclusive to Collegeboxes," explained Kowit. "Providing top-notch customer service convenience is our number one goal."
"Providing top-notch customer service convenience is our number one goal."
The future looks bright for Kowitt, Neuberger and Collegeboxes. "The future of Collegeboxes is focused on bringing new schools on line, 100 total schools is the goal for 2008 and building Collegeboxes into a brand that is known among college students and their parents as a trusted source for logistics services on college campuses," says Neuberger. "We are really proud of this," agrees Kowitt, "and we hope that we have a long way to go."