There may be no free lunches in economics — but there may be free cups.
A new student-run company has begun offering free 16-oz cups — the most prevalent size of Solo brand cups used at student parties — to students who request them, a campuswide e-mail announced Sunday afternoon. The company, GetFreeCups.com, is an advertising and marketing company co-founded by Ryan Ashayeri ’10 and Anichya Gujral ’10 that distributes free cups bearing advertising from Moe’s Southwest Grill and special discounts at the restaurant for Yale students. While many students initially dismissed the e-mail as a scam, the two founders say the initial response has been encouraging.
The business began as a conversation between Ashayeri and Gujral late last spring. The two, both members of the fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon, mulled ways companies could target college-age consumers more effectively. They finally hit on cups.
“Since we interact with Solo cups so many hours a week, it’s a logical next step,” Ashayeri said.
Students can order between 50 and 500 cups by e-mailing their name, Yale e-mail address, purpose of use, delivery location and number of cups to email@example.com. The promotion e-mail said cups would be delivered between Wednesday and Saturday. If ordered before noon, cups will be delivered by 7 p.m. on the same day.
To ensure that students will use the product, Ashayeri and Gujral decided to offer the cups free of charge. Only one advertiser can buy ad space on the cups at a time, the two said. Starting next week, cups bearing Moe’s advertising will also be available at Southern Connecticut State University.
Ashayeri and Gujral met with a number of New Haven businesses before signing a contract with Moe’s. Ashayeri said Moe’s was a perfect fit because it was both a recent addition to campus and “too good for students to not know about.”
Moe’s owner Jeannine McMillan said the restaurant, located on 46 Whitney Ave., agreed to advertise with GetFreeCups.com because Moe’s was looking to build name recognition on campus.
“We really want to make sure that all the students know that Moe’s Southwest has come to town,” McMillan said. “We’ve been dying to get our party going.”
In over two dozen interviews following Sunday’s e-mail, most students said they had not heard of the business or believed it to be a scam.
“I thought it was spam and so I just deleted it,” Loren Olson ’12 said. “I didn’t even read it.”
But 24 hours after the e-mail was sent out, Ashayeri and Gujral said they had already received over 150 requests for cups. The two said “party” was the most common response to the “purpose of use” question on the order form, with “personal” coming second.
“When I got the e-mail, I put in an order, and they delivered the cups right away,” said Hyatt Bailey ’10, who lives in the Bakers’ Dozen house on 109 Howe St.. “My house was really stoked to get a bunch of free cups for our party this weekend.”
Ashayeri and Gujral said they hope to spread GetFreeCups.com to other college campuses in the Northeast. Potential expansion targets include the rest of the Ivy League, the University of Connecticut and Penn State University. Their goal, they said, is to be at every college campus across America.
For now, GetFreeCups.com is focusing on more immediate goals, such as creating a Web site and making its business model more sustainable. They plan to give customers incentives for recycling cups and hope to launch the Web site — which will allow customers to place orders online — in approximately two weeks.