The oldest of five boys, Gabriel Cornejo was always looking for a bargain and a way to make things a little easier. So it makes sense that he took that behavior with him to school at Northern Arizona University.
“I used to spend hours online looking for the best deal for my textbooks,” remembers Gabriel, 32. “At the end of the semester, rather than selling to the bookstore, I would print out ads with my phone number so I could sell directly to other students. As a starving student, I wanted to get the most money I could get for my used books — and the bookstore wasn’t going to do that.”
It was a winning grassroots business model: Gabriel earned a little profit; his book’s buyer got a bargain; and it was convenient for both parties. The budding entrepreneur took that lesson with him after graduating in 2005 with a degree in advertising and business management — but it took six years and a near-death experience for him to put it into action on a much larger scale.
Leap of faith
Gabriel’s career took off after graduation, and by 2011 he was working as the senior planner for a large electric company. “I started to realize that I was capable of working 90 hours a week, but that I’d rather do it for myself.” Then fate intervened. Gabriel fractured his skull in a serious car accident. It was one hell of a wake-up call:
“That experience gave me a new perspective. Was I really happy with what I was doing? Is this what I wanted to do with my life? Was I willing to take a leap of faith? I think it was one of the most valuable moments in my life because it helped me put things into context.”
During his long recovery, Gabriel read a pivotal book, Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months, and started formulating a plan. It was called MyBeeble.
MyBeeble claims space in the textbook market
MyBeeble is an app that aims to change the way college students buy and sell textbooks. As Gabriel explains:
“Whether you went to school 60 years ago or you’re going to school today, not much has changed when it comes to buying and selling textbooks. The publishers have all the control. My goal is to shift the power to the students. I want the MyBeeble app to be the tool that helps create this change in the industry.”
It’s easy to buy or sell textbooks
After you set up a MyBeeble account, you can search for books to buy or post your books to sell. Here’s how to search for available textbooks:
— Enter an ISBN, Title or Author, then a ZIP code and search radius. You can also scan a book’s barcode to price compare.
— Results display for the target title available within the search radius, outside the search radius, and for online bookstores
“We’re helping customers understand true market value, and the big savings happen in myriad ways,” Gabriel explains. “It’s not only about having a centralized marketplace; you save on shipping if you can pick up locally — and you’ll have your book the same day.”
Operating under an affiliate model, MyBeeble gets a cut of every transaction with an online bookstore. But Gabriel says the MyBeeble user is the big winner:
“The reason why the textbook marketplace is the way it is is because it’s fragmented. What we offer is knowledge, peace of mind and convenience because our results give you all the options. Whether you’re looking for a new book, a used book, a rental or an e-book, they’re all there so you can identify what’s available to meet your needs.”
Investing in talent and technology
Ironically, the technology curve has been Gabriel’s biggest entrepreneurial challenge. “I’m well-informed, by my forte is not the technology. My forte is the idea and making it a reality,” says Gabriel, who used PowerPoint to mock up his first website. “I knew that my skill set was limited. If I was going to move forward, I’d have to develop other skills.” Gabriel invested in high-quality hardware and software, and took classes in HTML, CSS, Final Cut Pro and InDesign. He turned to friends for help with website and logo design.
To launch a web-based business, though, he needed more techzpertise.
GoDaddy helped Gabriel get MyBeeble online, with reliable web hosting and the perfect .com domain name — mybeeble.com. That was easy. Now he needed a pro (or pros) to build a custom website and the MyBeeble mobile apps.
Unfortunately, Gabriel found it more difficult to navigate the freelance web development community. “I didn’t know any developers, so I used an online marketplace,” he says. “I went through developer after developer.” Eventually, Gabriel found a pro to build the site and iOS app he envisioned. “In retrospect,” he says, “I learned that it would be beneficial for me to go through an agency who could manage those relationships.”
With the tech end of his business well underway, Gabriel moved to Tempe, Ariz., in 2013 to be close to Arizona State University. “I knew if I was going to make this a reality, I needed to be near a lot students,” he says. “I’m willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen.”
MyBeeble loves social media
Gabriel understands where his target audience spends much of their time — on their favorite social media sites. That’s why he’s spent a lot his time building the MyBeeble brand on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and, to a lesser extent, Twitter. He leans toward fun, shareable content, which means plenty of video and images.
Networking via MyBeeble
MyBeeble users already have a lot in common — they’re in college; they’re taking the same classes; they’re pursuing similar career paths. Social networking naturally follows. MyBeeble makes it easy with a baked-in networking function.
“The real gem of what we do is the relationship building when students buy from each other,” Gabriel says. “Facebook is a social scene and LinkedIn is a professional scene. When you’re in college, you’ve got that grey area. At MyBeeble, we want to become the academic base network.”
Here’s how it works:
- Fill in your MyBeeble profile, including name, school, major, minor, and graduation date.
- When you engage with another buyer or seller, you’re engaged with that person’s profile. Then you can add each other as friends.
- Use the internal messaging function to chat back and forth. You also can opt to receive text messages, emails and calls.
‘I’m already a billionaire’
For Gabriel, the MyBeeble app is just the beginning. After gaining a solid foothold in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, he plans to offer additional services “aimed at getting more value out of the buyer networks that are forming around common interests.”
He’s got no doubt he will succeed.
“I’m already a billionaire,” Gabriel says. “ I’m just waiting for everybody else to realize it.”
Want to hear more about MyBeeble? Check out this article in AZ Tech Beat.