by Grace Weinstein
Questrom sophomore Lucas Berstein is always awaiting the next business phone call or email. He consults his calendar and Excel spreadsheets as if they are the bible guiding his entrepreneurial life. Berstein recently launched a “one-stop-shop” website to find off-campus housing.
“I have a spreadsheet of ideas that I have. When I was interning this summer, I was like let me take one of these ideas and make something out of it,” Berstein (Questrom ’18) said.
Berstein has been a proud businessman since seventh grade when he got busted for selling sticks of gum to his classmates. Though his blossoming middle school venture was cut short, Berstein was definitely bitten by the entrepreneurial bug.
As he entered high school, Berstein’s first business plan came into fruition. He and his best friend bought and sold a Rolling Stones floor ticket to a show in their home city for a profit of $700. This became the North American Ticket Organization, aka NATO.
“[NATO] is kind of behind a wall, it’s not a brand image,” Berstein said.
Enter: BUOffCampus.com. Berstein made some money from realtor referrals while he was looking for his own apartment off-campus after his freshman year. This was the idea that translated into a business.
“I’m passionate about business. I wouldn’t say I’m passionate about off-campus housing,” Berstein said. “I’m passionate about the fact that it’s a new experience for me, working with other people, not just working on my own,” Berstein said.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY STEPHEN VOCATURO
He has one main real estate agent he is working with currently and has yet to expand the team for fear of having “too many chefs in the kitchen.” For now, the team is small and will stay that way until Berstein can build a standard pricing model. There are currently 28 employees, 25 of whom are marketing ambassadors.
The ambassador team is key. These 25 students spread the word around campus about the resources that can be found on BuOffCampus.com. Apartment seekers can select what area around BU’s campus in which they would like to live. Next, the user selects the number of bedrooms and bathrooms and total budget, followed by specific amenities. The final product is a match with a realtor. If a personal search is preferable, a user can scroll through listings themselves.
This does not mean Berstein is a realtor—he does not want to be a realtor at all. His goal is to expand to other schools to create a nationwide off-campus housing network. This is tough work for a student with such a rigorous schedule.
“It’s been a lot of leadership experience,” Berstein said. “It’s me learning—somewhat—how to be a leader.”
His leadership skills are succeeding. BUOffCampus has generated over 300 leads from students interested in finding apartments off-campus.
A BU Dean had a supportive response, despite the fact that BU has just launched its own off-campus site. Berstein is not worried about the competition; he feels he is just providing a safe space for BU students to find housing. He is even working with a few BU student-run organizations to move things along.
For the future, he is not just limiting himself to expanding to other schools; he wants to be the destination of all things off-campus.
“If you want to sell your furniture to another student who lives off-campus, you should be able to do that on my website,” Berstein says. “If you want to sublet your apartment for the summer, you should be able to do that. I want to be a complete resource.”