One Student Makes Life Easier for Many College Parents founder Sarah Schupp

When Sarah Schupp was a business major at the University of Colorado, she noticed that when her parents came to visit her they had no idea where anything was in Boulder. And why would they? They weren’t from Boulder. So they didn’t know where to stay, what to see, or even where the best restaurants were. Of course, since Sarah was a student she knew the answers to some of these questions, but let’s face it, her parents probably didn’t always want to frequent the same student hangouts as her friends. Plus, they’d rather make their own travel plans before they actually left home.

When Sarah looked for resources for her parents, short of AAA, there was nothing. Thinking this probably wasn’t an isolated incident for her family, Sarah got in touch with the Director of Parent Relations at the University of Colorado, and asked if they’d assist her in developing a guide that provides important information for parents of students. The university thought this was a great idea, and with their help Sarah created

Putting Parents in the College Loop

Along with providing the contact information of local services near campus (for example, where to stay, eat, and play while in town) expanded to include important school dates and deadlines (that parents wouldn’t know otherwise), frequently asked questions about student academics, university contact information, student healthy and safety, how to manage school-related finances (including financial aid), and student career planning. No issue is too big or too small. The website even helps parents do little things like arrange to have a personalized cake sent to their child (while away at college) on his or her birthday.

Started in 2004 when Sarah was only 21, has grown to include colleges and universities from all over the country. Now with 180 institutions listed on the website, the schools range from small and private like Lewis and Clark College in Lake Oswego, Oregon, to the state-funded biggies like University of North Carolina in Greensboro.

When asked how a college can become listed, Sarah responds, “Colleges and universities mostly contact us directly, or our colleagues at other institutions recommend us. We work with almost any type of four-year, not-for-profit college with more than 1,000 students.”

A Grateful Customer Base Leads to Growth

Over time has evolved and now the website is just one aspect of the whole business.

“We also produce parent handbooks for orientation, parents’ weekends, and campus tours,” says Sarah. “All of these parent guides can be downloaded from the website.”

Her business also helps schools inexpensively create e-newsletters and general information parent guides. (So the website benefits the participating schools, just as much as it does the parents of students.) And Sarah distributes her own e-newsletter “News Just For College Parents,” which publishes articles of interest for parents on topics such as college student health, education, business, and related headline news.

That’s all well and good, but the true test of success for any business is what the customer thinks. Fortunately, for Sarah the responses to have been great.

“We get tons of positive feedback from parents, advertisers, and the schools we serve,” says Sarah.

For example, Tracy Clark, an administrator from the University of Nevada in Las Vegas writes, “I just wanted to thank you for the beautiful guides! We are in the midst of Family Weekend check-in and have had RAVE reviews from our parents!”

And Ms. Clark is not the only fan. The compliments and kudos go on for pages and can be seen as testimonials on the website.

The Secret of Success

So what’s the secret sauce for a small business like this to thrive? Sponsor and advertiser driven, the idea behind is not new (i.e. a Web repository of information), however, the concept is quite unique. Designed to cater to a large, niche market, answers questions that millions of parents of college students have BEFORE they even know what to ask. With everything families have to do to get their kids settled into college, the needs of parents have traditionally fallen through the cracks. Fortunately, Sarah had the insight to see there was a necessity out there not being addressed, so she took the initiative to close that gap. Which is the hallmark of any successful business—supply and demand, find a common need and fill it.

Seven years later Sarah is still very hands-on in running With more schools hopping onboard every year, this service-oriented business that caters to college parents just keeps growing. It started out helping only University of Colorado parents and grew into a nationwide resource that many schools and families have come to depend on. Back when Sarah was an undergraduate that probably wasn’t what she had envisioned for herself once she got her degree, but I’d say it’s all worked out nicely, not just for her, but also for grateful college parents all over the country.

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