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XAVIER HEGELSON  ‘01

Chief Information Officer

CHRISTOPHER FUCHS ND ‘01

Chief Operating Officer

DAVID MURPHY ND ‘80

Chief Executive Officer

 

BUSINESS VENTURE:

Better World Books

WAREHOUSE LOCATION:

Mishawaka, Indiana

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How 20-Something Booksellers are Making Commerce and Literacy Stack Up

In 2003, former O'Neil hall roommates and 2001 ND graduates Christopher "Freece" Fuchs, Xavier Helgeson and Jeff Kurtzman stumbled upon an innovative business model that turned donated textbooks into dollars for a worthy cause. With the help of the Notre Dame Social Venture Business Plan Competition, IrishAngel Mentor David Murphy (ND '80) and the competition's grand prize of $7,000, they were able to make their dreams as young entrepreneurs come true.

Better World Books has quickly become a profitable business that has generated 130 full time jobs with benefits for its employees — 85 percent of whom are under age 30. They have also channeled some $3.5 million in revenues toward literacy projects around the world and rescued hundreds of thousands of unwanted books from landfills by selling them online, re-donating, or recycling them.

Since inception, the company has collected a total of 10 million books, selling about 5,000 daily to customers shopping at Amazon.com, Half.com, and 14 other websites, shipping to 180 countries around the word.

A proprietary software program, which allows the company to sell across multiple marketplaces and price books optimally, has helped fuel success, says Helgesen, who is chief information and business development officer.

"This was a company that had the ability, as it scaled, to make an incredible impact on literacy and the environment," says Murphy, who was hired by the boys after the first year to become President and CEO. "You also had a model that could be self – sustaining from a business point of view. I thought, 'Wow, how cool is this?'"