Virginia Tech, Vanderbilt, NC State, Ohio State, Oregon
Date and time:
Fall, Winter, and/or Spring (this depends on the volume of orders you’re expecting, how many members you have, and how quickly you can purchase and prepare coolers)
Typically Spring, during fraternity formal season. However, there are some events in the Fall & Winter.
At these universities (and other universities around the nation), during a formal weekend for each fraternity, female students who have been invited on on the trip by a fraternity member typically spackle, sand, prime, paint, and decorate coolers by hand and fill them with snacks and drinks for herself and her date. This process, if done by hand, takes up to 5 or 6 hours for each cooler! After this, the coolers typically sit around in fraternity or sorority basements.
Our Chapters noticed this pain point for female students and decided to help. Each Chapter’s members purchase or collect coolers, spackle, sand, and prime them. Then they sell them using our very own website! When orders are placed, the Venture Director (or the Coolers Committee Chair) receives an email with the customer’s name, phone number, and delivery address. Coolers can either be made to order or made to stock, learn about the differences, advantages/disadvantages, & which might fit your chapter here.
From Vanderbilt: “We set a week that students could place their order for a cooler of their choice in size (small, medium, large). The following weekend we gathered the supplies we needed (coolers, sand paper, sanders, primer, paint brushes, tarp). Then we set time slots for members to come prepare coolers. We emailed people to pick up their coolers from the art room we made them in when the coolers were dry. The idea to sell coolers was appealing to us because all of the girls who get asked to go to formal prepare coolers for their dates. We wanted to help alleviate some of the stress that may be caused by having to sand and prime coolers by taking care of that step in the process for people having to get coolers. It was a great way to bring attention to Nourish and our cause while helping students at our school.” It also makes a good amount of money.
This year, Coolers For A Cause will be one of the Venture Toolkits, which will summarize the essential aspects of this Venture in order to streamline the process of implementation and adaptation to your campus.
Email through sorority list-serves, Facebook posts, visiting sororities during dinner announcements, go to fraternities to pick up unused coolers.
Revenue and Expenses:
Each cooler (if purchased at retail price) typically costs about $15-$20. Supplies like an electric sander, sand paper, primer, paint brushes, and spackle must also be purchased.
Each cooler typically sells for $30-$40, but we recommend doing market research to determine the price your customers would be willing to pay. In 2014-15 the Virginia Tech Chapter made approximately $1,700 in revenue, however, they receive a discount for purchasing coolers in bulk and have sanders from previous years. Contact the VT Chapter, or talk with your Chapter Support Mentor, about the bulk discount option.
Oregon earned over $300 in revenue its first year running this Venture but spent a good amount of money (about $100) on materials.
Check out this example coolers shopping list!
Profits and Other benefits of Venture (Marketing for an upcoming event, advance ticket sales, social value created, etc.):
The Virginia Tech Chapter profited approximately $1,200 from their ’14-’15 Coolers For A Cause Venture.
Since the pre-primed coolers save customers a significant amount of time, they are willing to pay a premium price for them.
Also, it has the potential to be a much more green Venture (recycling coolers).
The coolers take a significant amount of time to spackle, sand, and prime so Chapters must plan ahead. If coolers are prepared ahead of time to meet high demand, storage space becomes a challenge. It also takes time to go to fraternities and ask for old coolers and to visit sororities during dinner announcements. However, if the Chapter plans this Venture well, the profit potential is enormous. Consider selling the coolers to other campuses nearby or to festival-goers in your area and providing incentives for recycling coolers.
One way to improve the profitability of this Venture is to collect coolers that fraternity or sorority members don’t want at the end of the year. A Chapter could then clean, prime, and resell them the next year. Some Chapters are exploring incentives for recycling coolers, like a discounted price for returning customers.
Marketing is essential. If your campus has this tradition, the market is huge, but you have to make sure the potential customers know about you. Once you do start this Venture, following years are easier because students remember you. You can even take pre-orders after you gather all of your coolers.
From Vanderbilt: “We bought all the coolers at Walmart. Price your coolers at 50 that have wheels because time is money too. You’ll make a profit of around 25 dollars for them. Sand with an electric sander. We invested in one but if you don’t want to Home Depot lets you buy sandpaper and use their sander. Buy 80 grit and don’t listen to their recommendations because they don’t really know about sanding plastic there. Buy two cans of primer, the gallon kind. I recommend Zinsser brand cover stain primer. It’s cheap and works well. You have to get OIL based because water base won’t work with their paint. Get 4 cheap paintbrushes. Get brush cleaner because the paint is oil based and super hard to remove. Those are my main tips. It’s super stressful but honestly worth it so good luck!”
Would you recommend to other chapters?:
Yes, but only if your Chapter has enough people to help with the spackling, sanding, and priming. See the Coolers Production Methods PDF to get more in-depth info about producing coolers.
Virginia Tech: firstname.lastname@example.org, Chapter Founder, Katie – email@example.com
OSU: Chapter Leader, Akram – firstname.lastname@example.org, Venture Director, Leah- email@example.com
Miami (OH): firstname.lastname@example.org
JD (Chapter Support Mentor on NINO Staff, Founder UO Chapter): email@example.com