Turning the page for opportunity

Adela Talbot

The last year of classes was a busy one for Ivey Business School graduate Chris Janssen.

In addition to the pressures and schedules of his academic and personal lives, Janssen sat on a committee that needed to come up with a new idea to raise money for the Terry Fox and Shinerama campaigns, which Western students take part in during Orientation Week.

“I noticed a lot of people had old textbooks around, collecting dust and a lot of them were the same versions first-year students were buying. So, we got the connection there, got a few books, sold them and made about $500 for the two causes,” Janssen said.

Janssen teamed up with fellow Ivey grad Tom Hartford and just like that, Textbooks for Change was born.

The initiative collects used textbooks either for resale to university students across Canada, or ships them to African universities for libraries. The money raised from sales funds a microloan program that helps small African entrepreneurs get up and running.

“We started working on it part-time, a couple hours a week, trying to see the kind of impact we could actually make, kind of as a larger trial run. We kept it grassroots to see if this model would work,” Janssen said.

It did. Textbooks for Change is now growing, with three new full-time staff members, and another on the way. It’s currently fully operational on five campuses, soon to be eight. From collections, libraries and personal pick-ups, the group gave more than $30,000 in microloans, donating thousands to non-profits, all the while recycling and reselling thousands of used textbooks that otherwise would have continued to collect dust.

Pursuing this while continuing his studies was certainly time consuming, Janssen said. His grades sometimes took a hit; his social life suffered.

“But the experience I got building this, and the networking that I’ve built along the way was worth it? I would definitely do it again,” he said.

His advice? No matter what you are doing, build and foster a network with those around you. Work and talk with like-minded people, and you never know where those conversations could go.

Story originally appeared in the Aug. 21 edition of Western News.