Kellogg Alumni Fill Student Need With Free Notebooks

Laura Schocker

By Laura SchockerThe Daily Northwestern

Northwestern students might have shorter bookstore receipts this quarter – two Kellogg graduates have started a company that distributes free five-subject notebooks on campus.

Avi Steinberg and Alejandro Bremer started the company ABS Notebooks while they were at Kellogg last year after noticing that advertisers spent money on free products students didn’t actually need.

“I have 15 lanyards from last year,” Steinberg joked.

The company ordered 8,000 notebooks, called Shadow, and distributed them at the Norris Starbucks opening and at the Winter Activities Fair.

As of Wednesday, the notebooks were still available at the Norris Information Desk and through Community Assistants in dorms and residential colleges.

Each notebook features student-oriented advertisements, including coupons for STA Travel, scholarship information from FastWeb and credit card information from Discover, Steinberg said.

“When we put in the advertisements, we tried to put a focus on helping students,” Steinberg said. “Our main goal is helping students.”

To help, Steinberg recruited longtime friend Ken Harris, 25, of Montreal, Canada, to the new company.

“I have experience taking companies off the ground and getting them going,” Harris said. “I’ve been building relationships with schools and advertisers and overseeing distribution.”

Student reaction has been positive, Harris said.

“I never thought I’d hear ‘thank you’ so many times in one day, ” Harris said. “Everyone was very responsive. I don’t think we had one person say, ‘I don’t want a free notebook. No thank you.'”

The strong response has ABS Notebooks planning to distribute more notebooks at NU in the fall as well as expanding to other schools, Harris said.

“Northwestern was our first school, and we definitely want to keep that relationship,” Harris said. “But we’re already in touch with other universities.”

ABS Notebooks approached the Office of Student Affairs last year about the project.

“These are Kellogg alums who recognize what it’s like to be a student and the expense of a modern education,” said Burgwell Howard, assistant to the Vice President for Student Affairs. “I was their entry point to undergraduate student life.”

Howard started by compiling a list of important campus contacts and an NU calendar for the beginning of the notebook. He also has helped out with the distribution efforts, unloading trucks and handing out the product.

“The challenge with any project that’s never been done before is that we’re still learning,” Howard said. “But it’s been going well.”

Howard, who helped distribute 2,500 notebooks on their first day available, said students were skeptical about getting a free notebook.

“People thought a big mousetrap would come down on their hands if they reached for one,” Howard said. “Clearly Northwestern students aren’t used to getting anything for free.”

Ultimately, Howard said students appreciated the effort.

“Every Northwestern undergrad could save a little bit of money,” Howard said. “They’ve been very pleasantly surprised.”

Weinberg freshman Sinan Atac, who received his free notebook at Starbucks, said he was among the surprised recipients.

“It’s pretty thick,” Atac said. “You can use it for two courses at least.”

Reach Laura Schocker at [email protected]