Guide to Make $3000 While in College Selling Ad Space

Are you ready to run your own business in college with minimal effort and make big money? Of course you are! This is‘s guide to make an easy $3000 a month selling ad space on your university’s cafeteria food trays.

How to make money selling ad-space on food tray inserts

So this guy, putsomecolourson,  from Reddit/r/Entrepreneurs subreddit posted a creative way on how to make money by selling ad space in their college’s cafeteria. The premise is quite simple, get the go ahead from the administration of the college to place ads on tray mats for the cafeteria then sell that ad space to local businesses that would love consumers who are college students.

Businesses could engage with students and also get an ultra concentrated demographic to market to. 

1. Set up 1 year contract with the university:

Set up a year agreement with the university to let you supply the university with placemats every month (pretty easy sell as we are students of the university and they wanted to support a university startup).

2. Source a Printing Service:

We selected a FSC certified paper to cut down environmental impact. You can search on Google “Your city’s Printing Services,” and find a ridiculous amount of businesses willing to work with you and give you a college discount, all you have to do is ask!

3. Create a brochure:

Ad-Space brochure sampleThis is what you will send to all your local businesses. You need minimal Photoshop skills, and if you don’t I’m sure you could find someone on campus for next to nothing. You want to email this and mail it to all local businesses. We found that cold calling and letting them know that you are sending it resulted in a MUCH higher sales rate. We also suggest carry a bunch of these on yourself, and walk around your local business areas handing these out to the business owners/managers. We suggest using this sample as a template to create your brochure. Notice all the information on it to help the business owner make his/her decision. You will also have to replicate this brochure on a webpage.

4. Make a webpage:

This is actually not as hard as you think it is. The first step is to register a domain (it’s the URL) and then get a web host (this is for hosting the domain). We suggest because it’s cheap and fast. DO NOT go to GoDaddy, they are really slow and lack the customer service you want. Simply put, for only $3.95/mo, you WILL get awesome customer service, awesome speed, a reliable web host and a FREE DOMAIN NAME

We suggest register a domain name that has to do with the business such as “” or something of the sorts.

Next step would be to build the website, we suggest find a simple one page landing page for a WordPress theme and work with that. is a great option, TRUST ME, it’s EASY, don’t feel intimidated.

Web Hosting

*What to include on the website:

  1. Contact info: Email & Phone number.
  2. Ad sizes and costs and run time (How long it will be on the tray insert, one month is what we did).
  3. What’s not allowed (We got inquiries from strip clubs! Against the University’s policies.
  4. What college’s you serve at and how many students dine there (Include the entire campus count!)
  5. Advantages of using
    • Much more affordable marketing solution compared to other methods
    • 10-20% of your city’s population are students and reaches this lucrative audience
    • Direct exposure in front of 12,000+ students a month
    • Your advert in front of international students who may not know the area well
    • Links your business with the University Campus
    • Highly reliable and friendly customer service
    • Eco friendly paper and printing used

5. Repeat:

You can start off with one university and then grow to the surrounding colleges, this could potentially grow into an empire if you’re dedicated. We ended up serving 2 colleges before we graduated and moved on to other ventures.

6. Take Away:

  • Little to no startup capital to get it off the ground.
  • Each individual advertising slot was sold for $150 and clients could merge slots for bigger adverts.
  • We had 10 slots per university per month so if we sold all our spaces at both universities we would turnover ~$3,000 per month.
  • Printing costs were low, around $600 per university per month.

What was your sales pitch like for both the university and the client?

We offer an innovative affordable and unconventional marketing tool which uses A3 paper placemats as a new marketing solution for local businesses to target students while they are eating. The placemats will be in front of students for up to 45 minutes.

The placemats are going to be on every tray in the cafeteria of the University and will be updated on a monthly basis. The placemats will offer a low cost solution for businesses that can target thousands of potential customers per week.

  • Further exposure on
  • Cost of 1x Adspad Advert: only $150 per month

How did you collect money owed? Did you set up an account for each customer or did they pay in cash each month?

We tried to deal with cash as little as possible. We were a private limited company and did everything by the book. We would invoice clients on a monthly basis and request payment through bank transfer or check. Some clients paid cash, some paid check, most paid bank transfer. It all went into our business bank account so we could keep track of our financial accounts.

We used 30 day payment terms. Most companies paid within the 30 days.

What was your COGS (Cost of goods/services) and ultimate profit margin?

Our main cost was printing ($1200/month for both universities). That was by far the largest cost. We also paid a graphics designer around $150/month for the design. It’s a really simple business model so they were the main two costs. Worked out to about a >50% margin.

Do you have an example of your tray inserts?

Tray Insert Sample Tray Insert Sample

*Notice besides advertisements we included crossword puzzles, Sudoku, and other fun stuff for students to interact with.




We hope this helps and let us know if you started this and succeeded.

  1. EdC August 28, 2015 at 12:04 PM

    Do you think I can do something similar for my local mall?

    • Rick August 28, 2015 at 12:09 PM

      I don’t see why not, I do think the mall would have some regulations, they might even request a fee

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