Student Holdings, after $80,000 in summer revenue, rolls into new school year


Stephen Council/Daily Senior Staffer

The boardroom in Student Holdings’ new office space. The independent nonprofit split away from Northwestern club status in 2017.

Stephen Council, Social Media Editor

At the height of the fall recruitment wave, October is a high-stress month of job and student group interviews for many Northwestern students. Some are juniors and seniors knee-deep in consulting recruitment, going through cases and flashing their business savvy. Others are freshmen, looking to join their first extracurricular.

Through Student Holdings, the two groups overlap.

The student-run nonprofit holdings company has one main goal: educate undergraduates in business. For juniors and seniors in the company, that means hitting the job field with strong credentials and live experience. These benefits seem to appeal to newcomers as well — 105 applications poured in for what CEO Bharat Rao said are five to eight open spots.

Student Holdings members currently manage and operate four businesses within the company: RezEssentials, RezLaundry, InkTank and NU|Tutors. With more than 30 members, the group is split amongst finance, upper management, marketing, operations, sales and tech roles.

Rao, a McCormick senior, said that students in the company learn business acumen and gain real experience.

“You also grow in your communication and grow as a person, grow empathetically,” he said. “And that’s the beauty of being in an organization that actually is like a real business.”

The nonprofit pulled in $80,000 in revenues this summer, after totaling over $98,000 last fiscal year. Since its 2007 founding, Student Holdings has secured $2 million in revenue across 14 businesses, according to Rao. All the money goes back into the company, Rao said, paying to keep businesses running and fund any Student Holdings overhead.

The recent growth is partly due to 2019’s launch of RezLaundry, which, similar to Lazybones, takes bags of dirty laundry from students and returns them clean a day later.

InkTank has contracts with outside t-shirt designers and NU|Tutors hires Northwestern students to tutor their Evanston high-schooler clientele. However, Student Holdings members carry out much of RezLaundry’s brunt work. Rez general manager Henry Forcier, a Weinberg junior, said it’s both valuable for the company and a great learning experience for the students to work in the field.

“They can much easier say, ‘Hey, so I was delivering laundry bags on Tuesday and I noticed, you know, if we could do this it would make our ops X amount more efficient, we would save X amount more time,’” he said.

Forcier pointed to the challenge of incentivizing that work during a busy time like midterm week. He said he’s working at instilling a culture of ownership into his team, where the students feel personally attached to the company.

Cristina Barclay, a Weinberg sophomore working as finance manager on Forcier’s Rez team, said that her favorite part of Student Holdings has been “getting to do actual work,” and seeing its direct impact on the company.

That passion for the work goes beyond school for Forcier.

“For me, it’s important that Student Holdings isn’t on the line on a resume, and something that you use or you leverage to get a job, but rather something that you leverage once you’re there to be more effective at what you’re doing,” Forcier said.

For those later jobs though, Rao said the line on the resume does at least help. He guessed that it might get someone past a screening or impress an interviewer, but said that explaining Student Holdings experience is the real crux.

Katie Ostazeski (SESP ‘17) led Student Holdings as CEO in 2016 before rising to senior associate consultant at Bain & Company.

She said that many of the things she learned at Student Holdings have carried over to her new job: interpersonal communications, the ins and outs of running a business and the ability to gain quick credibility in a field. Ostazeski and Rao estimated that around a fourth of Student Holdings graduates go on to work at top-tier consulting firms.

Rao said Student Holdings is trying to leverage its strong network with a new formalized student-alumni networking system. The mission of educating students in business is being combined with the pre-professional role of the extracurricular.

“Ultimately, what balances that out is the work that we’re actually doing,” Rao said.

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