"If you look at apartment complexes and realtors in the area, they have practically no web presence and the information is scattered," says Sterling. "You would have to go physically to the apartment complex or the house to check it out."
Well aware of how college students use the web to order pizza to their dorms and Google the answers to their homework, Sterling and Fleisch seized the opportunity to bring apartment-hunting to the fingertips of their peers.
The business model is simple. Purplerenter.com is a portal of apartment complexes in Fort Worth that aggregates information, including prices, number of bedrooms, square-footage, floor plans, amenities and photos. In return, apartment complexes and realtors trying to catch the eye of TCU's junior and senior apartment hunters advertise on the site.
Having a web presence is expected to win these advertisers favor among the web-savvy renters.
As current undergrads, the astute Sterling and Fleisch saw that they had unique access to their customer base in order to reach and research them.
Through a market study of 150 classmates, the TCU juniors learned that a majority rank the Internet as their top source for apartment information. With that supporting data, the duo relaunched their website about a month-and-a-half ago, and orchestrated a major promotion through online ads and by tapping into their demographic via Facebook.
According to Sterling, traffic on their site "doubled, maybe tripled" following the push, and to date, Purplerenter.com has signed roughly half-a-dozen advertisers. (Why purple, you may asking? School color -- and that pride runs deep.)
In addition, the response ignited momentum for the business idea to spread to other universities throughout Texas.
In December, Sterling and Fleisch unveiled a sister site, utrenter.com, for the students at The University of Texas at Austin. After seeing interest in the Dallas market for Southern Methodist University and in the Lubbock area for Texas Tech, the Purplerenter co-founders are looking to expand statewide by next year.
Next up, they'd like to take it to a national level. With a growing base of "price-conscious" students, expanding college enrollments, and new developments offering alternatives for campus housing, Sterling is confident that the dynamics and timing is right.
Rented Spaces already has the apartments search covered in the Fort Worth (and other Texas cities) area, you can start your search here.