A perfect match

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April 30, 2010

Bradley senior Tatenda Furusa entered the Project Springboard competition last year as a junior thinking that if he didn’t win the annual entrepreneurial contest, he’d enter the following year.

“I didn’t need to,” said the international business major.

Furusa and four teammates won the 2009 Project Springboard competition with their entry, now called Matchio.com, a user-driven Web site that facilitates textbook exchanges among Bradley students. He and his friends noticed a lack of places to exchange information on campus.

“There was no local place to exchange textbooks, to find out about apartments,” Furusa said. “There’s no bulletin board that’s online for Bradley. We saw a gap in the market that we could take advantage of.”

After winning Project Springboard, Furusa and his team took home $10,000 in cash and prizes, as well as more than $120,000 in in-kind services and crucial management advice. His team, now based out of Peoria NEXT Innovation Center on Main Street, is comprised of new members who will continue to develop the site.

Furusa spent the semester prior to Project Springboard researching the market and developing a business plan. He credits Bradley and Project Springboard for providing a place to turn his ideas into reality.

“Project Springboard is huge,” Furusa said. “It really is. It gives the little guy a chance. It gives you a chance to start a business in a safe environment where you’ve got people to nurture and consult.”

Project Springboard and its sponsors support Bradley’s entrepreneurship program by encouraging and educating aspiring entrepreneurs in the creation, start-up and early stages of launching a potentially high-growth business.

Furusa and his team received invaluable advice regarding legal, insurance and accounting measures, as well as accounting software. For example, Converse Marketing helped the team develop a logo.

Furusa has always been entrepreneurial-minded, but received much advice and support from the Bradley faculty and staff. Furusa, originally from Zimbabwe, decided to attend Bradley after his uncle, a Bradley alumnus, praised the school and its opportunities.

Matchio.com launched last week and already has 150 users selling between 300 and 400 textbooks. While the site is limited to Bradley students and textbooks, Furusa said the site could expand to include other services, such as apartment rentals, electronics and carpooling, and onto other campuses. Revenue currently comes from advertisers on the site.

Students directly enter information about selling or buying textbooks onto the site, which alerts users via e-mail or text message when someone wants the book or when the book is available from another student. The site also helps students set up meetings to exchange books.

After graduation in May, Furusa will work full-time at Matchio, getting ready for an anticipated influx of users and textbooks for the summer and fall semesters.

“Matchio is more about helping students with cost savings,” he said. “Being able to trade with other students is the important thing. This is a community service, purely giving students another option, another way to connect.”

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