10 min 57 sec

Flipping 101: The College Textbook Edition

A college student with a new family to support reads between the lines and turns a $20 used textbook into almost $70,000 within two years. This episode will flip your lid!
Low Startup Potential Low-Tech Reselling Unique Ideas

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What It's About

A resourceful college student finds a way to turn $20 into almost $70,000...flipping college textbooks.

Business Model
Skills Required
Flipping Products & Resourcefulness
Profit Potential

Words of Wisdom

A successful strategy for Marcus when scoring books on eBay was reaching out to the seller directly with an offer. The impatience of youth often worked in his favor, and he’d use this technique early in the bidding when the bids were low since they made his offer look more desirable in comparison.

Fun Fact

Being from two entirely different countries and cultures meant that Marcus and Ashley had a little bit more of a learning curve when it came to communication, but they found healthy ways to communicate with one another and built an even stronger bond between them. The success they found even encouraged them to start their own blog called Our Peaceful Family, and together they hope to help others communicate for stronger marriages.

Notes from Chris

Episode 492
Let’s face it—college is downright expensive. Between increases in tuition and the necessities of living close to or on campus, students and their parents are often desperate to find ways to trim the fat on higher education. Sometimes one of the most surprising expenses is textbooks, which cost much more than any other books. And while second mortgages and loan sharks are popular options, there’s often no easier way to cut costs than to look outside of your money-hungry university bookstore.

And if you’ve been listening to the show for a while, you’ll know that where there’s a problem, there’s a side hustle just waiting in the wings. That’s where our story today begins, and ironically, it all starts with a book that you’re not likely to find in your typical university bookstore. You could say it’s a bit unconventional...

The year was 2012, and Marcus Kusi, found himself between a rock and a hard place. He was a full-time student at a university in Vermont heading towards a promising degree in computer information systems, but money was tight. When he wasn’t cramming for exams, he was working part-time manufacturing furniture and providing IT assistance at the university. And he was also a new father.

His wife, Ashley, stayed home with their daughter so that they didn’t have to pay for childcare (another outrageously expensive industry, by the way), and Marcus was the main breadwinner despite also being a full-time student. There had to be a better way—and that’s when Marcus stumbled across The $100 Startup.

Within its pages, he read about everyday people who were taking less than $100 and turning it into businesses that brought in six or more figures a year. It was exactly the kind of motivation that Marcus needed.

Since he didn’t have much money to spare, he took $5 every month for four months and set it aside for his startup costs—that’s right, $20. And he put on his thinking cap. Unlike some of the people he read about in the case studies from my book, Marcus needed money like yesterday.

That’s when he discovered the wonderful world of reselling. Not only was it low-risk, it was something he could start immediately—a timeframe that was quite appealing to Marcus. Now all he needed was something to flip...

College book prices are a common pain point with university students, and Marcus knew that if you were going to resell something, you had to a) make sure that what you were selling was in high demand, and b) know your product like the back of your hand.

If inflation continued to drive the price of textbooks sky high (fun fact: the avg. cost of college textbooks has risen 4x faster than the rate of inflation over the past 10 years) cheap textbooks were never going to stop being in high demand. And who knows more about textbooks than a college student? It seemed like his best bet, and Marcus was eager to close the chapter on his financial woes.

So, Marcus began his hunt where every resourceful college student finds themselves when it comes time to purchase books for class—eBay. With that $20, he purchased two books and turned around and sold them almost immediately for around $70. It seemed to be working, but was it sustainable?

Within his first year, Marcus pulled in $20,000, and in year two, those profits climbed above $48,000—that’s almost $70,000! Over the course of those two years, Marcus flipped almost 5,000 college textbooks. And it all started with $20 saved in $5 increments across four months.

Just imagine what you could do if you skipped your double shot, nonfat mochaccino with two pumps of caramel once a month!


  • eBay & Amazon: The two online platforms that Marcus used to flip textbooks

  • Our Peaceful Family: The niche blog that Marcus and Ashley started to help newlyweds communicate better


Inspiration is good; inspiration combined with action is better. Now get back to work!

Yours in the revolution,

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Quote of the Day
"If you're going to be successful at reselling something, you need to a) make sure that what you're planning on selling is in high demand and b) know the product like the back of your hand."
—Marcus Kusi #SideHustleSchool

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Chris Guillebeau