Sleeping bag, sharpies, shaven head: Founder promotes Holly app

Ethan Moran, Contributing Writer

Tulane Alumus Alex Leiman slept on McAlister, let students shave his head and draw on him with sharpies — all to promote the new app, Holly. (Courtesy of Evan Dray)

Earlier this month, Tulane University alumnus Alex Leiman tabled on McAlister Drive to promote his app Holly, a platform for students to buy and sell used items. He vowed not to leave his spot until 1000 users signed up. 

After 36 hours, a newly-shaven head and a face covered in sharpie, he met his goal. 

“I let people buzz my hair,” Leiman said. As part of his marketing stunt, Tulane students who registered for the app could spin a prize wheel. “Everyone who landed on the ‘buzz my head’ thing got to shave my head,” he continued, “We let people draw on me with Sharpies. So I kind of looked like I was all tatted up.”

Leiman’s 36-hour sign-up event is not his first dip into viral marketing aimed at college students — he is also the co-Founder of SexyCakes, a late night breakfast delivery service. His main focus is launching Holly, but Leiman said he is still involved with SexyCakes and recently helped sell the business to Bruno’s Tavern.

After watching his friend try to sell her clothes in a group chat with hundreds of other students, Leiman said he brainstormed a solution. As students shuffled in and out of her room trying on the items, he saw an opportunity. 

“Immediately, I was like, why are people using these group chats on GroupMe to buy and sell us clothing, instead of a marketplace,” Leiman said. 

Holly is similar to other resale platforms but is only open to students with a valid school email address. Leiman said that he thinks of Holly as “Depop for the college campus.” 

Senior Jordan Moskowitz said she has made over 100 dollars selling her used items on Holly. Moskowitz said she started re-selling her clothes on Poshmark at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and that Holly has been a lucrative tool for supplemental income. 

“It’s a way to make extra cash and spend it leisurely or save up for my other plans after graduation,” Moskowitz said.

Most of the items she sold she wore only once. Moskowitz said that she likes that Holly does not take a fee or require users to ship items compared to platforms like Poshmark. 

“I didn’t have to pack up an item, print out a shipping label, and then find the USPS carrier to ship it out,” she said. 

Although the platform was initially launched to sell used clothing, Leiman said users have been listing phones, laptops and furniture on the platform. Leiman said he wants students to connect safely and wants to encourage buying and selling used goods. 

“Fast fashion is not good for the environment, and I think we should all try to shop second hand more,” Leiman said. “The goal of Holly is to create a platform to support people and increase sustainability.”

Freshman Sydney Gusick said Holly has helped students who need an item in a pinch. “I needed a dress for my date party that night, and I was scrambling,” Gusick said, “So I turned to Holly just to see what the deal was, and I got a red dress. She said the process was seamless and it felt good to buy from another Tulane student.

Leiman said he is now rolling out Holly on college campuses nationwide, using similar marketing strategies to attract new users. “You got to do something to get people’s attention. You have to do something different,” he said. “A lot of people aren’t willing to sleep out on the LBC quad and spend 36 hours to get 1000 people in their app. But that’s the exact kind of thing that I’d love to do.”

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