1998 was a big year for School-Pak.
Having outgrown Corpus Christi’s library, we were in need of some warehouse space. What a shock to find out how much that space would cost.
Years earlier I had worked for and with Bill Kesselman (from part 2 of the School-Pak story). As a well connected Milwaukee businessman, he provided us with a list of his friends to see who could help us out.
That brought us to Max Gendelman. Max, I believe, was the founder of National Hardware and, after selling the company, had a lot of warehouse space available. My meeting with Max went well, with him basically saying, “If Bill sent you over, we can make something happen.”
Our first area was a 40 by 40 foot warehouse space. We moved our computers (we now had 2!), our production shelves and all of our stock into the space. A small corner of the room became our lunch area.
We were so excited to have finally “grown up”. And then, our first business crisis occurred.
A phone call from the our rep at a school planner company called and asked when we had opened up a location in Arizona.
Apparently, some one was using a mis-spelled version of schoolpak.com for their website.
We made a number of inquiries and found a company named Innovative Learning Products (ILP) located in Phoenix. We made contact with the owner, Ray Lopez. Ray suggested we meet to see how we could “work together”.
We flew out to meet with him and were not “sold” on his ideas. His hope was to flood the boxes, inside and out, with advertising from different companies. Schools at that time were very much against providing advertising to their students so we walked away. Ray eventually sold his company to Innisbrook and went to work for them.
Innisbrook continued to use the name as they expanded into the kit business. Customers and potential schools that went searching for us ended up with Innisbrook. Repeated attempts to get them to stop were ignored. We spent close to $9,000 in legal fees and were finally advised that, even if we spent $90,000 fighting them, they could simply stop using the address and we wouldn’t be able to recover any damages. The big guys would win. Except…
We registered a domain with "Innisbrook.com" spelled as "Inisbrook.com". We started getting their email requests. It took less than a month for them to contact us and exchange domains. Unfortunately they continue to use “Back-To-School Packs” for their kits. That still causes confusion in the marketplace but we’ve learned to live with it.
So here we were, back in Milwaukee, making packs and growing. But we needed even more space. So two years later, we broke into the next room and actually ended up with some office space.
We had made it. We thought.