9 Q&A: The college care package tradition is better than ever thanks to Cincinnati's Co-Ed Supply

CINCINNATI - Today's college students may be totally immersed in the digital world, but at least one old-fashioned practice remains beloved: the care package.

The Cincinnati startup Co-Ed Supply merges new and old ways with a monthly care package subscription service. Think Birchbox or Naturebox for the dorm and quad crowd.

Each month students receive deliveries that contain healthy snacks, personal care products and entertainment items for $20 a month. The growing company already ships to 49 states, with plans to eventually go international.

9 Questions for Co-Ed Supply co-founder and CEO Marissa Hu

1. How did you come up with the idea of Co-Ed Supply?

My co-founder Andy was looking for a care package to send to his brother, and realized that the options out there were just awful: expensive and filled with junk food. At the same time, we knew that brands are spending millions of dollars on marketing to college students by handing out samples on campus, without getting valuable data or feedback in return. We realized we could create a solution to provide a better experience for everyone involved with Co-Ed Supply.

2. How do you pick the products for the packages?

We curate them very carefully to make sure they are quality, fun, and useful for college students. We really want to set ourselves apart from traditional care packages, and deliver the latest on-trend brands to students. We take feedback from our student customers every month to help us select what goes into the boxes. We really want college students themselves to have input on what they want to get from Co-Ed Supply each month.

3. What types of items do you look for?

We always send products in each of three categories: healthy and alternative snacks, personal care items, and entertainment. At the same time, we also want to make sure the products in each box are relevant to what’s happening in a student’s life. For example, if we know it’s almost finals week, we’ll make sure to send extra energy and snacks to satisfy them while they’re studying. When it started to get chilly, we sent touch screen gloves so they could stay warm while using their smart phones.

4. Do parents purchase subscriptions more often or students?

We actually have a great mix of both students and family members sending Co-Ed Supply subscriptions. I’ve noticed a number of older brothers and sisters signing up for us lately too, and telling us they wished they could have received it while they were in school!

5. Do you seek out the brands to work with, or do they come to you? Or is it a little of both?

We still do a lot of outreach to brands that we think are a great fit for the college market, but brands definitely come to us as well, especially when they’re interested in launching a new product. We provide them with a great opportunity to gain awareness, engage with students, and get feedback very quickly.

6. How are people finding out about the company?

Many of our subscribers find out about us online when they’re looking for care package options, which is great. We’ve found that word-of-mouth is especially strong and effective for us in a college setting, when students are often living together, spending so much time together, and sharing their lives with each other.

7. How many colleges are you sending boxes too each month? Are they mostly in the Midwest?

We’re actually shipping to 49 out of all 50 states already. The Midwest is definitely a strong customer base; in fact, we’ve heard that parents in the Midwest send nearly twice as many care packages as the rest of the U.S.!

8. Do you have plans to expand the service outside the U.S.?

We’ve definitely had quite a few requests from students outside of the U.S. to get a Co-Ed Supply package. We want to really focus on building a customer base here in the States first, but expanding outside the U.S. is on the roadmap. I’d love to be able to do it when we have the resources.

9. What's next for Co-Ed Supply? Anything new?

We’re working on some really fun features over the next few months. We really want to focus on engaging with both parents and students more, and building the best customer experience we can create. We have such a great opportunity to connect with students while they’re going through a pivotal point in their lives, and we want to help them through it as much as possible. 

Connect with WCPO Contributor Feoshia Davis via Twitter: @feoshiawrites

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