“GARDYLOO!” is shouted overhead as a stack of textbooks fall from the sky, flung from an upper window of a house onto the street below. This may not be exactly how the start-up Gardiloo operates, but this was the inspiration behind the name. In old Scotland, it was customary for people to yell “gardyloo” to warn passersby to cover their heads as they threw out their unneeded possessions. Gardiloo is a start-up company co-founded by Fouad Nader and Hossam Sleiman that offers an online hub for student services. The company has recently undergone the launch of their service, enabling students to buy, sell and exchange their used textbooks. The website is now live, and students at the University of Windsor and St. Clair College looking to take advantage of this service can visit www.gardiloo.com.
Sitting down with the two entrepreneurs offered a behind-the-scenes look at what it means to be a start-up within the EPICentre, as well as the excitement and challenges they faced along the way to their first product launch.
- How did you come up with your idea? How did you start-up your business? Is it a partnership?
The idea really began two or three years ago, when we were working as taxi drivers. In the back office we came up with a business idea, which we had called UC Sales for University and College sales. This past May we had decided to try and implement this idea. We knew there was a market need for this – It’s tough to find textbooks. All kinds of Facebook groups were created to meet this need. It was not the ideal solution. Both of us had been on campus for 4 years and came across this problem and wanted to build a solution.
- How did you get involved with EPICentre?
Fouad had been a business student and knew all about the services EPICentre offered. He had applied once previously to the EPIC Founders program. We were coming up with random business ideas all the time. For information on how to implement our ideas we sought out help from the small business centre, who then pointed us to the EPICentre. One day we decided to stop by and take a tour. It all escalated from there. Shortly after we were applying for office space. This was a welcomed change from our previous work space in Hossam’s garage, fighting wasps and bees and the heat. Motivation was decreasing, and this set up would not have been ideal for winter.
- What stage is your business currently at?
Currently we are in the validation stage, and also in the launch stage. We are building out to become a student hub for all kinds of services. Textbook exchange is only one of these that has come to life. It’s not easy to develop. We couldn’t build the entire platform all at once. Eventually we’d like to include a whole host of other services to provide a better student experience. We have to see what’s needed most, and where it’s needed. The feedback we have received so far is positive and we are looking to include suggestions in our ongoing development of the Gardiloo platform.
- What sets Gardiloo apart from other companies providing similar service?
Gardiloo is student specific. When building our product, every decision is made with the student in mind. As you type to search for a book our list automatically renders based on what is typed. It was designed to be student friendly and as easy to use as possible. Without having to specify a field, you can search by typing in the book name, author, ISBN, or even your specific course number. Most of our competitors are generic classified sites. Many students were using Facebook or Kijiji previously and posting in a lot of different groups or areas on the site to sell or seek out textbooks. We are centralizing this search experience.
- What advice would you like to share with local tech entrepreneurs?
Go for it! Something I (Hossam) heard once, and it’s kind of cliché, is that entrepreneurs are successful because they did what they said, rather than just talking about it. Entrepreneurship is becoming really romanticized. Understand that it doesn’t happen overnight. A lot of people have this misconception that it’s something you step into and you make a bunch of money right out the gate. That’s not how it works. It takes a lot of time to develop. Gardiloo just got to launch now. We took up our space in the EPICentre in May and gave up our summer to work on it. Really though this has been about two or three years in the making. It’s rewarding and you can do it if you’re dedicated and stick to it. To end off on another cliché – Keep pushing. Everything you want is one step outside your comfort zone.