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Media Advisory: iPhone 5 release fuels student’s entrepreneurial venture

Wake Forest University sophomore launches a smartphone buyback business in his dorm room

By Stephanie Skordas, 336-758-3826, skordas@wfu.edu Office of Communications and External Relations

When Wake Forest University sophomore Lee Lowden heard about the Apple iPhone 5 release in September, he wasn’t only thinking about how to get his hands on the new technology, but also what to do with his old smartphone when he switched.

“I figured if I had this problem, other students would too,” Lowden said. “I wanted to make it easy for people to sell their phones and upgrade to a newer model. If I could solve my problem, I could provide a service for many others.”

Lowden’s website, Buyback Boss, launched in August, just as students were returning to campuses nationwide. With the newest iPhone released just weeks later, business took off.  At first, the site handled just iPhone, iPod and iPad models, but now buys Android and BlackBerry devices. His entrepreneurial success comes even before he is able to declare a major, but Lowden says he plans to study business and entrepreneurship and social enterprise (ESE), Wake Forest’s fastest-growing minor.

“Through our ESE minor we believe that enhancing critical thinking skills, taught in a liberal arts setting, coupled with the ability to innovate and create helps students create their own career opportunities,” said Polly Black, director of the Center for Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship at Wake Forest. “In Lee’s case, he brings a natural entrepreneurial spark to the equation, which makes him more likely to learn from his business growth, find resources and create his own opportunities.”

Lowden says his summer job caddying funded the Buyback Boss launch, and a history as a serial entrepreneur helped make him more resilient. “I’m always looking for new ideas. In high school I ran a textbook buyback business which taught me the e-commerce model I’m using for Buyback Boss,” Lowden said. “I’ve dabbled in designing polo shirts, which are sold online and in one store in Martha’s Vineyard. That taught me a lot about tracking down materials, suppliers and buyers through the Internet.”

Lowden says his family has encouraged him, as far back as age 13, when he started his own business cleaning and reselling golf balls. “I’ve always been good at solving problems and figuring out how to complete an idea,” he said. Lowden is not only buying and selling phones himself, but has started an affiliate program for referrals. He said he has been advertising through word of mouth on campus, and some ads on search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing.

“I offer competitive prices, and keep an eye on what my competitors are doing,” Lowden said. “I find that most of the time, people are honest about the conditions of their phones, and they know I’m honest about my quotes since I pay them for their phones promptly. It’s like a bidding war all the time. It’s the thrill of the hunt that makes this business so much fun.”

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About Wake Forest University:

Wake Forest University combines the best traditions of a small liberal arts college with the resources of a large research university. Founded in 1834, the school is located in Winston-Salem, N.C. The University’s graduate school of arts and sciences, divinity school, and nationally ranked schools of law, medicine and business enrich our intellectual environment. Learn more about Wake Forest University at www.wfu.edu.

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