Volume 6, Number 4, 1997

Directing Students

Michael Paul, BE '88, and John Rafanello, AS '88, have made a business of helping students communicate with one another.

In the eight years since they teamed up to create College Directory Publishing, they have become the second largest publisher of campus directories in the U.S., publishing 54 of them with a combined circulation of over 1 million last year.

Rafanello and Paul met in the summer of their sophomore year at UD, when they moved into the same Newark apartment complex. Rafanello was a chemistry major, while Paul was studying marketing and finance.

While at Delaware, Paul was the sole proprietor of what was then known as College Pro Publishing, which published the University's student directory and several other smaller advertising-based ventures, including College Pro Resume Service.

In 1988, Rafanello teamed up with Paul to expand the company. And, expand it did. Just four years later, they changed the name to College Directory Publishing (CDP) and moved from a rented townhouse to a 10,000-square-foot site in Conshohocken, Pa. Today, the full-time staff has grown from the two of them to 40, and the company is on the vendor list of every American school's purchasing department. CDP's market includes the East Coast, the Southeast and the Midwest.

With the addition of an inside sales force this year, CDP's projections call for sales of close to $4 million, Paul says. Part of that growth is attributed to advertising by such national firms as American Express, Pizza Hut, Mazda, AT&T, Sprint, BMG Music and Columbia House, which are trying to reach America's 13.7 million college students today and in the future.

"Some of the advertisers are after the college student today, but a majority of them are pursuing the spenders of tomorrow," says Paul. "They are looking at building brand and merchant loyalties."

CDP acts as both publisher of directories and, for some schools, as a national sales agent. "When we act only as sales agent, the school sells the local ads and we sell the regional and national ones," explains Paul.

"For the directories we publish, each contract is different. In some cases, we charge the university for creating the book. In other situations, the university receives a portion of the advertising revenues. In yet another scenario, the school is given th e directory at no cost and CDP keeps all the revenues."

Averaging about 300 to 350 pages, campus directories are produced in September, printed in early October and then drop-shipped to the various schools, where they are distributed.

"I absolutely love what I do," says Paul, "and I've found something I can excel at...this entire publishing company stems from the entrepreneurial opportunities I was exposed to at Delaware. If it weren't for that, we wouldn't be doing what we are now."

-Terry Conway