Big Mama Student Services LTD, a Vancouver-based textbook rental company, qualified for the 2012 BCIC New Ventures Competition. The competition began in Apr. with 146 companies. It is one of North America’s largest technology business-idea events, allowing early stage businesses the chance to network, attend seminars, and improve their business strategies.

Ramona McLeod, founder of Big Mama Student Services LTD, describes the competition as a “business bootcamp.”

“Competitors are given the opportunity to take part in a series of seminars on how best to prepare themselves and their companies for investment. They are coached on what investors are looking for, how to pitch, and what it takes to succeed. Through each round the businesses are judged based solely on the viability of the business on the basis of their submissions, with the competition getting more intense with each round. I think it was a great way to spend my time and I learned a lot. I am a better entrepreneur for having participated,” McLeod says.

McLeod founded Big Mama Student Services LTD in 2010 to help Canadian post-secondary students and their parents save money by renting textbooks instead of buying them from university bookstores. Students can save up to 75 percent on text books through <>

McLeod says she knew firsthand about the extreme costs of textbooks. She returned to university later in life as a single parent, trying to juggle educational costs with family necessities. McLeod realized that she was paying an excess of $1200 a year on textbooks, and was frustrated with trying to sell her books back afterwards.

“I had returned to school in 2002–2005 after my marriage ended so I was familiar with the high cost of textbooks. In early 2010 I was at a transition point in my career and was looking for something more meaningful to do with my life. I realized that American students had the ability to rent textbooks but Canadian students did not, so I decided to do something about it. It also helped that, at the time my eldest son was in Grade 12 and we were discussing costs related to post-secondary education,” McLeod says.

McLeod’s eldest son came up with the interesting domain name. “We were looking at different names and the availability of related URLs. We were having a tough time coming up with something that used the word ‘books’ or something similar, so we kind of threw the bathwater out and kept the baby, if you know what I mean. One of the things we talked about is that I am the heart and soul of the company. We also talked about who I am as a person. It was out of that genesis that the name arose. He was kidding around and said in a very joking manner that the name should be Big Mama because that is who I am. When he said it, we both realized that, all kidding aside, it was an apt name because it embodies all of the qualities that I bring to the business. We are trying to imply that we will do our level best to take care of our customers.”

She believes that university bookstores charge so much for textbooks because they are charged a lot by the publishers. “If you look carefully at the income statement of a university bookstore you will see that they actually run on pretty thin margins and they are struggling to stay in business,” McLeod says.

Students are praising Big Mama Student Services for helping them reduce debt and stress from textbook costs.

“Big Mama textbook rental helped eliminate a lot of stress for a university student like me. The process of ordering textbooks for the semester is quick and easy. Not to mention you save hundreds of dollars! At the end of the semester the added stress of attempting to sell my textbooks was replaced with the simple act of sending them back to Big Mama. Any questions or concerns are immediately answered by the exceptional customer service provided by this company. An overall great experience, and I encourage more students to discover the world of textbook rentals,” wrote Andrea on <>’s feedback page.

The winners of the 2012 BCIC New Ventures Competition will be unveiled at an awards ceremony on Sept. 26.

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