By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend
Next week, Eric Wehler will be one of more than 500 students to graduate from Penn State Erie, The Behrend College. Like many other successful graduates, he has a job lined up, but he also has a unique connection to Behrend that likely will not be ending anytime soon.
In December, Wehler created StudentTrade.net, an online marketplace where members of the Penn State Behrend community can exchange or purchase textbooks, school supplies, appliances and furniture. The site began as a class project for Wehler’s MIS 430: Systems Analysis course but has expanded since then.
Today, StudentTrade.net has more than 90 registered users and forums for nine different colleges and universities. Earlier this month, Wehler established the site as a limited liability company (LLC). There have been growing pains along the way, including a redesign that resulted in the loss of previously registered users, but Wehler is committed to the cause.
“It keeps fueling me because I really believe this has a chance of succeeding,” says the senior project and supply chain management major who will begin work as a supply chain associate at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in May. “It’s really just a better version of a classifieds website, but it’s able to help students save money. I feel as if this could be the next big thing.”
Wehler is not alone in his enthusiasm for the project. Faculty members in the Black School of Business have encouraged him to continue enhancing and promoting the site, and Wehler sees Penn State Behrend as an integral part of any future success that the site may have.
“I’m aware that it’s going to take time, but if it takes off at Behrend, then I think it will just grow from there. I give so much credit to the college, the School of Business and the Office of Marketing Communication for their help with this. Even if the site grows, I always envision it being ‘housed’ at Behrend,” he says.
Wehler envisions the site remaining a free service for students, but he hopes to eventually charge property owners for posting information. He also believes the site could generate ad revenue.
For any of that to happen, however, StudentTrade.net needs significant web traffic, which is what Wehler is working to increase during his final days as a student at Behrend. Right now, the site is running a campaign in which students are automatically entered to win a $25 gift card if they post an item on the site.
“The site is like a second full-time job for me, and I plan on continuing to do what I can, so it eventually will become my full-time job,” Wehler says. “I see myself one day going from college to college and pitching the site to schools. In the process, I hope that I will also be able to inspire students to pursue their own paths as entrepreneurs.”
Wehler will certainly continue pursuing his.
“As long as the site is running and it’s helping students out, I’m committed,” he says. “I plan on running this thing for as long as it lasts.”