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Re(novated) Rand provides new home for Re(cycle) - The Vanderbilt Hustler: News

Re(novated) Rand provides new home for Re(cycle)

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Posted: Sunday, October 14, 2012 10:30 pm | Updated: 12:44 pm, Thu Feb 21, 2013.

When the renovated Rand space opened last week, it not only added additional seating space and new dining options, but also the first storefront for a student-run business: the bicycle rental company re(cycle).

The company was founded last year by four Vanderbilt students: then-seniors Juliette Cilia and Nissa Ostroff, junior John Ratliff and sophomore Brett Ungashick, who entered their business plan for an on-campus bike rental in the Vanderbilt Ventures competition last fall.

Vanderbilt Ventures is organized by Vanderbilt Student Government and encourages students interested in business and marketing to gain real-world experience developing a business plan and possibly running their own business. The prize for winning the competition was a $10,000 grant from the university.

In addition, re(cycle) received $9,000 from the Vanderbilt Green Fund, which provides funding for ideas that increase sustainability on campus. Vanderbilt officially owns the company, but re(cycle) says it is completely in charge of all business decisions.   

With the grant from the Vanderbilt Ventures competition, re(cycle) says they were able to purchase their first fleet of 20 bikes used for daily rentals. The company said last year they focused on running what they called a “soft-launch” to spread awareness for the business and learn what kind of services students were interested in.

It was through the help of last year’s student body president Adam Meyer that re(cycle) was able to secure the storefront space in the new Rand Center.

“First we just had a desk in the Sarratt Promenade. Adam pushed for us to have our own place. (He) was our biggest proponent,” said re(cycle) Vice President and Cofounder Brett Ungashick.    

According to Jack Davis, director of Student Centers, the goal of having a storefront is to provide the business leaders with real-world experience, and to give them the chance to experiment with what is successful and what is not.

“We want to give the students the best dose of reality possible,” Davis said. “It is the full experience. All finances are their responsibility.”

One finance re(cycle) does not have to consider, however, is rent for the space. Vanderbilt provided the storefront as part of its investment in the company. However, Davis said that continued use of the 120 square foot space is contingent on whether or not the business continues to move forward.

“My hope is that we get more student-run businesses we can find space for,” Davis said. “It adds to what is available to students on campus. I am open to making more space available, depending on what the business is.”

With their new space in Rand, re(cycle) says it hopes to create more publicity for the business.  

“Awareness is high. People are stopping by and asking what it is about,” Ungashick said.

Since opening the storefront, re{cycle} has sold five daily rentals, to add to the fourteen long-term rentals ordered at the beginning of the semester. 

Currently the services offered at the storefront are daily and weekend bike rentals, as well as long-term rentals, which can be purchased for a semester or the entire year.

Students who have purchased rentals will also be able to request bike maintenance at the storefront. However, the re(cycle) managers said that they want the storefront to be more than just a place to rent bikes.

“We want to make the store pop, that’s why we painted the walls green, and have people hang out, and if they want to rent a bike, that’s awesome,” says Ungashick. “At the end of the day, this is a student-run business, so we want to make it as fun as possible.”

“We want it to be fun and practical,” said re(cycle) President John Ratliff. “We want to have fun stuff happening all the time, so that eventually there will be a community of bikers on campus. We are not looking to have a status quo.”

Regarding its expansion, re(cycle) hopes to provide services for students who already have bikes on campus as well. Over the summer, the company says they will be offering storage in a Vanderbilt owned storage space, though the price has yet to be determined.  

On the business end, re(cycle) says it has already gathered revenue receipts between 10 to 15 percent of start-up capital, and predicts, with the help of a storefront, turning a profit halfway through this year.

In the future, re(cycle) may experience some competition from Nashville B-cycle, a not-for-profit bike share program that has been set up in cities across the U.S. and is now coming to Nashville, according to the Nashville Mayor’s Office website.

B-cycle allows riders to pick up bikes from kiosks that will be located throughout the downtown and surrounding areas, and then drop the bikes off at another kiosk when they arrive at their destination.

Though specific pricing has not yet been determined, the bike share system is designed for short trips, so the first 30 minutes of each ride will be free with the purchase of an annual membership. Two locations near the Vanderbilt campus are in the works.

Ratliff said he met with the B-cycle project manager, and that B-cycle is not a thing of competition.

“The services do not overlap. (B-cycle) is targeted to the Nashville population-at-large, not for students. There are limitations for them becoming closer on campus, so there is collaboration, not competition,” Ratcliff said. “Also, the benefit of bike rental is that it allows people to have their own bikes.”  

For students interested in renting bikes from re(cycle), the price is $8 for a 24-hour daily rental, $16 for a 72-hour weekend rental, and the prices for long-term rentals range from $99.99 per semester to $279.99 per year, based on the style of bike. Full pricing for long-term rentals are available on the re(cycle) website: www.universityrecycle.com.

For those students interested in competing in the Vanderbilt Ventures competition this year, the founders of re(cycle) suggest it be something they are willing invest a lot of time in.

“First, you have to fill a very practical need at Vanderbilt. But it is not something you should do on a whim. It is something you should invest in, because you actually have to go out and do it,” said Ungashick.

Ratliff adds that running re(cycle) has been priceless real-world business experience.

“Re(cycle) is the best business class you could possibly take. You learn so much about the university in general, making a sales pitch, working on a team, working through real business problems,” Ratcliff said.  

Re(cycle) is also always looking for new employees who would like entrepreneurial experience, so if students are interested in becoming involved, they can stop by the storefront, or contact re(cycle) at recycle.vanderbilt@gmail.com.

The storefront in the new Rand space is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2p.m.

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