There comes a time when the neighbors start complaining about semis coming down the block leaving off pallet loads of glue and glue sticks. We knew it was time to move out of the house.
The first idea we had turned out to be the best. I called on the principal at Corpus Christi school, Barbara Nehrbass, and asked to use the cafeteria during the summer. She said that the cafeteria was used for Bingo, coffee & donuts after Mass, etc., and suggested we take the library. And we did.
The problem was that Terri was still working at the hospital and I was out calling on schools so when the trucks were ready to deliver product, they would call us at home and we'd go to the school to meet them. Terri would arrive, dressed for work, and have to help unload the truck and get them to move fast so that she wouldn't be late.
Now at that point, we didn’t own any kind of shelving or work tables. We put the library tables on concrete blocks so they would be easier to work on and started buying some shelving units.
We kept all of our stock in the library and put the finished packs into the gymnasium. As the end of summer approached, we rented a UHaul truck and began delivering the packs to the schools. We kept that up until our growth took us out of the Milwaukee area.
One of the first things we discovered was that teachers really liked the idea of having pre-sharpened pencils. We contacted the pencil makers and asked them about purchasing the pencils sharpened. No one would do it so we bought an electric pencil sharpener and began sharpening them ourselves. Then we bought another one when that one burned out. Then another one. And finally, the summer was over before we needed another one.
Eventually we were told that we could buy them sharpened but we were charged a free for each pencil! After constantly asking, today every pencil manufacturer provides sharpened pencils and it’s become the standard for all kit companies to offer them.
We also would label all the items for the student, including handwriting their names on the Fiskars scissors. It was pretty work intensive and we finally decided to offer a sheet of labels with each pack. That was back in 1994. Now every company provides name labels. This was the second idea that we had that changed the kit supply business.
It’s also when we started hiring some help. Those first couple of years they came from family friends and our main source of students, Marquette University High School and Divine Savior/Holy Angels High School. Our son, Nick, a student at Marquette, would provide us with his friends and they worked out extremely well.
But, as we continued to grow, it was time to move on. I began looking for a larger place, hopefully a warehouse. Like anyone else, I looked to friends and associates for help. I had my own “Linked-In” program to use.
Next: The early years in the warehouse.