Make a little, share a little is a belief that fuels the newly established American Student Supply, as noted by St. Louis mom Marlene DeNoyer, who conceived the company while considering the annual scavenger hunt supply list that parents face each school year. Although American Student Supply is not a nonprofit, it is an organization built on an educational outreach platform. “We wanted to create a convenience for parents with an online retail store dedicated to the kindergarten through eighth-grade student,” she says. “The act of purchasing from us, whether it is through individual parents, teachers or partnering schools, generates enough revenue that gives us the ability to share with a student in need.”
While supplies purchased from the online store are packed in child-safe nylon drawstring bags called My Packs, DeNoyer explains that schools can partner with the company through its My Pack Gives Back program, ensuring that American Student Supply gives back directly to their educational community based on parent purchases. “Schools have an opportunity to register on our website, and it’s a non-contractual relationship,” she notes. “When they help inform their parents of our services, we are then able to track those sales and give back. We don’t have a set formula, because I don’t ever want to be in a position that, if the number of packs needed is off by a few children, there are kids going without. We’re not letting that happen.” DeNoyer adds that approximately 22 percent of sales was given away through My Pack Gives Back last year.
After running its pilot program the summer of 2011, American Student Supply continues to develop innovative services. “There are a number of reports out there that indicate teachers spend their own money on their classrooms,” DeNoyer says. “Starting this month, teachers can go to our website, register to shop the catalog, buy in bulk and receive 15 percent off their purchase.” There also will be a new free service scheduled for the 2013- 2014 school year that will allow teachers to select specific products from a visual supply list that, in turn, American Student Supply will publish for parent use. “Some teachers are very specific with their supply lists, and some are not—and that can confuse parents. A picturebased supply list also provides consistency in the classroom.”
Open to all 50 states, the company’s current focus is primarily on St. Louis area schools. And another consideration that is not taken lightly is quality. “We only offer brand-name products, because we don’t want parents in a situation where they have to replace items after a short period of time,” DeNoyer explains. “We were very fortunate that, when the manufacturers and suppliers learned the philosophy of our organization, they became very aggressive on their wholesale pricing. That put us in a position to be competitive with the big-box stores and, at the same time, support our mission of helping students who really need it.”
DeNoyer says the response to American Student Supply has been overwhelming, not only with parents, but with school administrators, as well. For parents, the online store can alleviate at least some of the back-to-school anxieties. “I actually had a mom tell me how nice it was to not have her daughter asking for a little pony folder that wasn’t on the teacher’s supply list (and cost three times more than the folder on the list). We provide affordability and convenience, with free local home delivery. And we’ve got orders coming in at 11:45 p.m.! So how convenient is that?”