Monday, May 23, 2011

Spotlight on Mommy -- Jennifer Thompson of The Write Stuff, Inc.

Even though there is only a month or so left with school, why not start planning for September.  I remember as a child, I knew the summer was over when my mother began shopping for school supplies.  But, as we grew older, things changed and she began picking things up during the summer.  This way, it didn't make the end of summer seem so bad.  We were able to enjoy the final days of vacation not worrying about what we needed to pack in our school bags, or if we needed her to buy additional supplies.  Also, our mother didn't enjoy the crazy crowds around the school supply aisles on those hot summer days.  And, with that being said, I want to introduce you all to Jennifer Thompson of The Write Stuff, Inc., a school supply packaging company.  A mom of four herself, she has done her fair share of school supply shopping for sure.  I hope you enjoy my interview with her.  And, don't forget to scroll to the bottom of the interview for a special coupon code that you can use to help you save NOW on school supplies for this fall.  Happy shopping!

Name:  Jennifer Thompson

Company Name/Product/Service:  The Write Stuff, Inc.  A school supply packaging company

Company Location:
St. Charles, IL

Company Website:

Facebook URL:

Twitter Handle: @ supplykitmoms

Age of Company:  12 years

Favorite Inspirational Quotes:
"The only thing more overrated than natural childbirth is owning
your own business"  A tongue in cheek expression, of course. 

Favorite Book:  To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

Tell us a little bit about yourself.  How many children do you have?  What are their ages? Your
hobbies? Etc.  

I have 4 children, 2 girls, 2 boys.  They are 14, 11, 9, and 5.  At this point in my  life, my family is my, they are my passion.  For myself?  I run.  I meet 1-3 other women several times a week in the morning to run on a forest preserve trail in our area.  It is my favorite way to start my day!

Briefly explain your business.  How did it come about?  

A gentleman my husband worked with had actually started preparing school supply kits for his own children's school as a fundraiser for their parent organization.  The word spread, and he began adding other schools in his area.  As this was not his full time career, and did not want it to be, we were able to walk in at the right time and take over. 

We work with school parent organizations to provide children with all the necessary supplies to go back to school each fall.  The contents of each grade level kit is based on each teacher in each building we serve.  Parent organizations then offer these to their parents to buy before school lets out for summer.  Many schools offer it as a service, others increase the sell price and use it is as a fundraiser.

As the internet has become such a strong presence in our  world, we have made adaptations to our program.  Any parent can visit our web site as well and create their own kit.  They simply add the necessary items to their cart, and we will package and ship them to their home for the  start of school. 

What is a typical work day like? 

I work very closely with my sales manager, Michele.  We create  quotes for schools, speak with our customers, and prospective new ones.  We buy direct from  manufacturers such as Crayola, Mead, Elmer's, etc and so there are relations there to foster.   Our philosophy is that it is our job to make the parent volunteer's job easy.  So we stay one step  ahead of them in their sale process to have things ready as they need them.  I believe it has paid off, as we have had many schools as clients since we started in 1999.

What has been a struggle while starting up your company?  

The work and family balance.  In 2002 my 2nd child was diagnosed with Leukemia at age 2 1/2.  Without the help of my  wonderful employees and friends, we may not still be in business today.  I'm glad to say he is  healthy, and so is my business!

What did you do in your past work life? 

I was a middle school teacher and then assistant principal.

What have been some of your major successes? 

I was a finalist in Count Me In's Make Mine  a Million Business competition in 2010.  I competed against several hundred women to finish  in the top 20.  We presented our business elevator pitches to a panel and audience of 600.   It was an amazing experience.  Count Me In is a great resource and platform for women  entrepreneurs.

What have been some of your major challenges?  

Schools are struggling to keep volunteers.  It is a difficult time in our economy, and many parents (those same volunteers) have had to  return to the work force.  This is our primary contact with the school parent organizations, who  are the ones who organize these sales.  We have had to adjust some of our processes to help  those who are only able to speak on the phone in the evening ,etc.  We know that volunteering  is hard, especially for busy parents.  We do everything to make that easier for them.

On those impossible days, what motivates you to keep going?  

Truthfully I know that if I  were to still be working in the schools, I would ne have had the joy of attending my own children's preschool programs, or be able to help with class parties.  I am so grateful for those opportunities, that I have to remember those moments when things start to get me down.

What is your balancing secret in managing a business and family?  

Do something for yourself.   Not all the time, not even every day.  I run.  I know it is good for my health, and that is great,  but that is not why I do it.  I do it because it is for me ,and I enjoy the company of my running
partners.  They are relationships that have gone hundreds of miles (literally) and I can depend  on.  After my runs, I can handle the 4 children and a husband routine with a clearer head. 

What is next for your business?  

Our client base is growing.  We are looking to possibly increase our facility size, and increase our web site's capabilities to help our customers.

Do you have any advice for other mom entrepreneurs that are starting out and struggling, or
are on the fence about starting a business?  

Find a mentor, friend, or someone to talk to.  I  meet weekly via an online video conference with 4 other women who were also in the Make  Mine a Million competition.  We share business ideas, ask advice, and help each other.  It is an  invaluable resource for me.  I consider them my private "board of directors".

Special Savings for Inspired by Savannah Readers!!!!
Make sure to use coupon code "SPOTLIGHT" at checkout to receive $10 off your total purchase of $40 or more.  Act now, as this is only valid until June 15th.

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