Andy Fortson, Co-Ed Supply

Andy Fortson and his partner Marissa Hu offer "curated college essentials" to students via care packages. Their company, Co-Ed Supply, ships items that are in touch with the students' needs and wants—not products dictated by a superficial market study that approximates them by demographics. 

How did you come up with the idea for your business?
My cousin was headed off to college and my little brother is in the Marines, so I was looking for some care package options to send them something awesome. But I was appalled by the options available. Most are super expensive, filled with junk food, and completely out of touch with the modern college student. 

On the other hand, having worked in digital and social media for brands like Red Bull and Sony previously, I knew how much effort they put into marketing to college students, and how inefficient and difficult the current process was.

So my partner Marissa Hu and I set out to create a solution to fix both sets of problems.

What were you doing prior to Co-Ed Supply?
Previous to starting Co-Ed Supply, I was head of marketing at a mobile coupon app called SnipSnap. And before that, I worked in digital and social media for about seven years. My clients included Red Bull, Sony, Fox, Paramount, Gilt Groupe, Microsoft and others.

My partner Marissa was most recently getting her MBA at Wharton. During that time, she was also on the investment team at First Round Capital's Dorm Room Fund—a fund that allows to students to invest money into student-run startups.

How does your business distinguish itself from competition?
We deliver a curated box of college essentials every month. Each box contains healthy and alternative snacks, personal care items and entertainment. And students and their parents can subscribe to this.

As I had mentioned previously, other options out there are expensive, full of junk food, and out of touch with the modern college student.

Marketers currently pay upwards of $5 per sample to hand out their products on campus. That sample walks away with the student, but the marketer has no idea who that student is, if they were familiar with product, if they enjoyed it, went on to purchase, or shared with friends. 

With Co-Ed Supply, we provide these marketers a more scalable, targeted and measurable sampling program with engaged students who are excited to try out their products.

What local resources do you utilize and how do they help?
We've been lucky enough to be partnered with an amazing creative agency during our time at The Brandery. Jason at We Have Become Vikings has been so amazing to work with and has really helped us with our brand and design.

Why did you choose Cincinnati as your company's home base?
We came to Cincinnati as a member of the latest class of The Brandery. We had never been to Cincinnati before, but we knew about the brands and world-class marketers and designers that are based here. We came to The Brandery specifically for help in developing our own brand and connecting with these marketers at places like Procter and Gamble. The wealth of knowledge around logistics and operations has also been extremely helpful. We've gotten so much out of the experience that we're actually staying in Cincinnati and growing our company here.

What’s next for you and your company?
We're continuing to grow and scale. We've just made our first official hire, and our roadmap and upcoming partnerships are really exciting.

Interview by Sean M. Peters