The Beginnings of School-Pak, Part 1

The Beginnings of School-Pak, Part 1

I had mentioned on our facebook page that we were entering our 23rd year. Boy, that time went fast.

Someone messaged me asking how everything began. So I thought I’d share a little bit about our story.

It was August of 1991 when Terri went shopping for our son, Nick’s, school supplies. Like so many people, she grabbed that list and went off to the store. We didn’t have WalMart’s in Milwaukee back then so the first destination was Target. She couldn’t find everything on the list so the next stop was K-Mart. Not good. Office Depot? Office Max? Walgreens? It didn’t matter. No one carried all the things needed.

Back in the 90’s, there was an organization named SHOPA that catered to all the major suppliers. They were the ones who selected colors for the upcoming sales year. Purple colored folders were available in 1990 but not in 1991.

Terri followed a mother and daughter from store to store looking for that elusive purple folder. Finally, the mother grabbed a folder from the shelf and a Sharpie. She wrote “purple” on the folder and gave it to her daughter with the instruction, “She can take it up with me”, referring to the teacher.

Of course, the little girl was in tears realizing she was the only kid in the school without a purple folder. Which actually wasn’t the case in the end.

So Terri came home, sat down at the kitchen table and said, “There has to be a better way for families to enjoy summer than getting into arguments at the store.” And so, School-Pak took root.

We spoke to our son’s principal at St. Catherine’s school in Milwaukee about providing a kit with everything on the teachers’ lists. She agreed to let us give it a try and also let us use her name with some other Archdiocesan schools.

That first year we worked with 7 schools. We still provide kits to St. Catherine’s, St. Monica’s, St. Jude’s, St. Mary Visitation and Holy Family. Unfortunately the other 2 closed, as so many Catholic schools do in large cities.

Buying product was the real issue. If we bought it at retail, we couldn’t make any money selling it to the parents. So we started searching for sources. Our other son, Jason, made contact with a school supply company in Skokie, IL, Swenson’s School Supplies. Karen Swenson was kind enough to help us get started by providing items at a very minimum markup.

We also started shopping the sales at the stores, but we knew that couldn’t work for long. We needed to find a way to buy direct from manufacturers. Our first contact was with Crayola and it was an interesting start.

To be continued