When it comes to online shopping, students tend to go straight to large corporations with fast and reliable user experiences. With many retail stores closing their doors, it may seem that face-to-face sales will soon become a thing of the past.
However, a new startup company is looking to increase the popularity of in-person buying, selling and trading on Ohio college campuses such as the University of Cincinnati.
Phuong Dinh is the founder of Mijem, a Michigan-based company which is developing a mobile app designed to connect student buyers and sellers on college campuses.
“Mijem is an app to replace Craigslist and Facebook groups for students to buy, sell, trade and do sublets with other students,” Dinh said. “It is safer and more convenient.”
Students can download the app and create a free account. They can then create listings for products they are hoping to sell, called “gems.”
Mijem differs from other marketplace services. The company sorts their listings by college campuses — a feature they believe may intrigue students.
Dinh’s team is currently working on additional features for app users.
“Right now, we’re working on a feature where students can validate their college ‘.edu’ email and get a blue badge by their profile,” he said.
This feature may alleviate student fears of going off-campus and meeting with random strangers to buy and sell goods. Craigslist, which has existed since 1995, still has a negative stigma behind it.
“I’m afraid of Craigslist,” second-year nursing student Garret Aini said. “It’s scary. Anyone can post anything up there.”
Another major difference, Dinh notes, is that Mijem categorizes items within college communities.
“[Students] don’t like going to different [Facebook] groups to find different things,” he said. “They like that there would be an app built for everything.”
Kayleni Bhide, a second-year graduate student, said her first impressions of Mijem increase her confidence in purchasing used products.
“I think this would be more interesting [than major shopping websites], because you get to see stuff and get to know if you want to go for it,” Bhide said. “If that person has it already, I would prefer meeting them, and maybe I could negotiate the price or something.”
The app has gained significant traction at the University of Waterloo in Ontario — the home college of one Mijem employee.
The company gained 15,000 members in Michigan, Ohio, and Ontario since its launch last year, Dinh said.
His team hopes to gain popularity with students across many Ohio colleges and universities. They visited UC in February and plan to revisit soon.
“When I was doing my exchange in California, my roommate was actually from University of Cincinnati,” Dinh said.
With over 20 college campuses currently supported, the app may soon become a major competitor to retail and online markets.