From the Delaware County Daily Times
Chester firm a clearinghouse for foreign-study opportunities
March 29, 2000
By PATRICK BURNS
CHESTER -- School is never out for Mark Shay and Mark Landon.
The owners of the Chester-based Educational Directories Unlimited Co. (EDU) have seen quick growth since surfacing from a small college marketing firm to launch Gradschools.com and Schoolsabroad.com -- Web sites that essentially match schools with students.
EDU is an example of a company that was not born from the Net, but evolved through it. Shay, EDUís majority owner, started marketing American Express cards and other items on posters while he was a student at Syracuse University in the early 1980s.
"Mark (Shay) began marketing by hanging posters on bulletin boards in college when he was at Syracuse 15 years ago. He kept at it even after he graduated and worked as an engineer. It was a good income so he went back to it full time in 1990," said Landon, EDUís vice president.
Landon joined him after leaving a newspaper-advertising job in 1994. Before turning to the Internet, Shay and Landon continued on college campuses selling advertising in class scheduling directories at Temple, Penn, Drexel, West Chester and Rowan.
Studyabroad.com was the companyís first venture into cyberspace in 1996. It evolved from a failed idea Shay had the year before.
Under the name Liberty City Promotions, he began a clearinghouse business, locally mailing foreign schoolís brochures to students requesting information.
"Studyabroad.com came from a marketing idea that Mark had. Before people would send a request to a foreign school, the school would put $10 worth of information in an envelope, then spend $10 to mail the information. The person would get the info five weeks later," said Landon.
"We were right on the cusp of the Internet boom. When we registered our first domain name there were only 50,000 dotcoms. Now there are 16 million domain names and nine million dotcom companies," he said.
The Gradschools.com site has been averaging 216,000 hits per week, while Schoolsabroad.com averages about 139,000.
Gradschools.com allows perspective graduate students to search hundreds of universities on nearly 50,000 different programs.
From both sites, students can get program descriptions, directly e-mail admissions offices and link to the schoolís Web pages.
EDUís Web sites compete with print directories such as Petersonís and the Princeton Review. The sites are advertising driven and free to use.
"There is a definite demand for this type of site," said EDU marketing manager Lori Faunce. "There are over 110,000 students that study abroad and a million grad school students."
Advertisers are mostly schools and academic institutions. Although it costs nothing to be included on the site, 15 schools pay to have direct links to their sites on the top of the Gradschools.com homepage.
"Business has been great. Essentially Mark and I began doing all of the marketing, promoting and selling. But weíve seen that since schools are seeing our tag every time someone links to a school from our site that theyíre coming to us to advertise," said Landon.
Advertisers on the site such as Academic Consulting Institute seek out universities and administrators, while others offer to help find tuition money for students.
"Itís a unique business model. Students can tell you that the more advertising we get, the better the site is. Our advertising ties directly into the information visitors are looking for," said Landon, a 1977 Ridley High School graduate.
Since becoming the third tenant at Widenerís new University Technology Park in December, EDU has tripled it employees to 12 and is currently looking for more help.
The firmís success has spawned several competing companies within the last year.
"If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, weíve been very flattered, Landon said.
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