Business targets Northwestern students with free printing

Students at Northwestern just got a little bit of a break when it comes to school expenses.

Hyde Park-based Freenters recently launched their free printing service on Northwestern’s campus, allowing students to print up to 100 pages per month at no charge.

“It’s just so good for students,” said Kemi Areke, who in addition to being a sophomore at Northwestern studying organizational behavior and philosophy is Freenters Northwestern Branch Manager. “Color printing can cost up to 20 cents a page, and that can really add up for students when you consider all the other expenses students have.”

Piloted at The University of Chicago in 2012, and launched last year, Freenters, whose name is a combination of the words “Free Printers”was created by two University of Chicago students, Hyesung Kim and Rhokook Song.

Both Kim and Song are economics majors originally from South Korea, and both saw a huge need to help students economically, along with an opportunity to sell advertising to both big corporations and small, local businesses on the printed pages.

“It came out of my own concerns,” said Kim, who is graduating in June. “There is so much material to print — sometimes hundreds of pages — which is a huge expense. For businesses, we are offering a platform where you can reach the demographic you want.”

Here’s how Freenters works. After setting up an account on the Freenters website, students upload on the site what they need to print at any time. They can then go to one of six printing stations located at various dorms, campus buildings and the cafeteria on Northwestern’s campus and print out their materials.

With 49 advertisers that include local Evanston businesses, as well as big corporations such as Chase and Citibank, each page has either a small ad or coupon at the bottom.

“It’s a really easy way for these companies to reach out to students,” Kim said. “They can offer 10 percent off a meal, and the banks are interested in students for credit cards, and for those who are graduating, and who are going to get jobs and have banking needs.”

Greg Guttman is the marketing director for MAC Property Management, a New Jersey-based real estate company that manages 80 buildings and 5,000 apartments at the University of Chicago. Guttman was one of the company’s first advertisers.

“Unlike mass media that broadcasts to a large group of people who don’t need your product, this is way to get our ads in front of people who would potentially want to rent our apartments,” Guttman said. “They’re marketing to our target audience.”

In addition to The University of Chicago and Northwestern, Freenters is on the campuses of Boston University and Wagner College in Boston. Kim said he and Song, who graduated two months ago, are on course to be in 10 schools by late March.

“Our goal is to put this in every college in the country,” Kim said. “There’s tuition, books and so many other expenses that add up to a lot of money, and if I can provide something free, that’s a great feeling.”

Because some professors are non-accepting of students turning in materials with ads on the paper, Freenters is working on offering free printing on paper without the ads in some cases by displaying video ads on the website.

“I know the cost that our company is paying for each eyeball that is seeing our ad,” Guttman said. “This is a good opportunity to create brand awareness.”