The School-Pak Story, Part 2

Don't know how this was missed but apparently it was never posted. Here's part 2 of our story.

Crayola became our first company to deal with.

Like most big companies that get approached by a start-up, Crayola wouldn’t give us credit. But they did come up with an interesting program.

All we had to do was send them $2,500 to start our account. (That wasn’t real easy. You see, our total start-up cost was $500. So coming up with 5 times that amount was taking a bit of a stretch.)

As we had things sent to us, Crayola would deduct that from our account until we were almost at zero. Then, another $2,500 was needed.

It’s time to step back a little at this point. In 1993, Terri was working as a group leader in the outpatient department of St. Joseph’s hospital. Her schedule had her working second shift 2 days a week for one week and then 3 days the following week. It didn’t bring in much income but it provided health insurance.

My only source of income came from an interesting place. In 1986 I became a partner in a small company, Station WVCR. We had a vending machine for VHS tapes. We were the forerunner of the Red Box, just 25 years early!

We ended up closing the business as Blockbuster became the major force for renting tapes. We couldn’t afford to keep up with the number of new release copies they provided and eventually had to close our doors.

Our main benefactor, Bill Kesselman, was the financial loser, close to $500,000. Yet, as I’ll write about in the future, he became one of the best mentors I’ve ever had.

I kept the tapes and started a small service, placing films in grocery stores (without the vending machine) and shared in the rental profits. That was now my way of earning a living.

It was tough but we held together for another 5 years before Terri could come on full time. In the meantime, I was the “missionary”, traveling across SE Wisconsin, talking to principals and parent groups about School-Pak.

It was a new concept then and it was pretty difficult getting schools to sign up. Yet a lot did and now we had another problem.

School-Pak outgrew our house!

To be continued.


Unethical Business Practice

In 1991, I founded School-Pak with the core beliefs of providing quality products, a high level of  customer service and a fair price for school supplies.

I have been unable over the years to match the sale prices of items offered by WalMart, Target, Kmart, etc., as School-Pak does not carry underwear and socks, the items that these stores want you to buy. They offer the sale prices on school supplies as a loss leader to their store.

I understand that sales model. It works for them and they will continue to do that. They don’t offer the same level of customer service and convenience that School-Pak presents.

However, I can no longer stay silent about the practices of Educational Products (EPI). I have found that our pricing has shown to be lower than theirs in many cases. EPI, however, will state that they will discount any lower bid than theirs by 3% in order to get the business.

I believe that to be the highest level of unethical business practice.

Consider the following:

You, or someone in your family, is applying for a job. The interviewer asks you what salary you need. After offering your number, another applicant, not having the same skills as you, responds that they will take 3% less than you. And you lose the job.

Or worse. Someone comes into your employment and says they'll do your job for 3% less. And you lose your job.

I can’t change the mindset of people who believe that the lowest price offsets business ethics. I can only believe that most people will do the right thing.

Terri Schulist
Founder, School-Pak, Inc