Released October 28,2013
Contact: Gail Rost, General Manager, The I.D.E.A. Store
email@example.com , 217-398-2873
In October 2010, the Champaign Urbana Schools Foundation’s board of directors took a leap of faith – based on good research – to open an earned-income enterprise to help support their K – 12 classroom programs in Unit 4 and District 116 schools. The I.D.E.A. Store, co-founded by the current CUSF Executive Director, Gail Rost and Carol Jo Morgan, opened with donated merchandise, 3200 square feet of warehouse and retail floor, ran with a core team of volunteers and was open to the public 25 hours a week for donations and shopping.
“I only knew that we needed to make $20.00 per hour to pay the rent and the bills those first few months. We had a dedicated volunteer team, the good fortune of a $6,000.00 gift from a dissolved non-profit, HomePlanet, Inc. (which was originally started by Morgan), and a no-interest loan of $10,000.00. We started taking donations of materials immediately and quickly started to fill the floor with items that fit our mission – discards, broken but useful bits, factory mistakes, household “kitchen drawers”, partially-used craft items, paper, wood, plastics… At the same time, we hit the promotion scene. Mail, print ads, blowout sales, television opportunities, the talk-circuit and the internet became our vehicles for getting the word out. Thank goodness for Facebook and electronic newsletters. Social media just made a HUGE difference.”
The I.D.E.A. Store of October 2013 has doubled its space with storage capacity, has 60 active volunteers, 1.5 paid employees, interns, many members of the originating team and has made itself dear to the community’s heart as a “beloved community institution” (Chambanamoms, 2013). The vast majority of new small businesses that open up never hit the 3-year mark. Rost knows that they are fortunate their hard work has paid off. Literally. The store has not only met its philosophical goals but has already given the foundation $30,000 of support, paid off the $10,000 loan and has money in the bank. And, it just received the 40 North Arts Council ACE 2013 Business Award, something that she feels is a true mark of success.
“I get calls and email inquiries several times a month to share our “secrets of success”. I had the honor to be recognized nationally because of its success and have had the privilege to speak at a statewide level about our work. It isn’t really a secret about how this happened. It’s just long hours and plain hard work, understanding the market and the issues involved with store management and what we call “a positive Karma” about the place. It just feels good to be in the store, to share ideas, to be doing good social work, to support such a great organization as the foundation and our kids and the environment all at the same time. It is a true marketplace. A community. Plus, the prices of the merchandise are outrageously inexpensive. Our quality gets better all the time.”
What’s next for the store? Rost hopes the store is here to stay and all indicators point that direction.
“We just changed our newsletter format to a blog, The Reuse Shopper, and have stepped up our educational outreach programming to truly promote and integrate the environmental message of reuse. Last year in March we had our first 2-week long creative-reuse arts festival, Hatch. That is happening again in 2014. We have fantastic partnerships with the schools and other community organizations. We are open 35 hours a week and handle hundreds of transactions during that time. More industrial donors are coming on board, too. The next steps are staff and procedural development so that I and the team can move on confidently. So many organizations don’t really think about succession planning. But I know that we must. That is how we can stay vital and continue to provide what the community is looking for into the future.”
For more information about The I.D.E.A. Store, the CU Schools Foundation and how you might get involved, contact Gail Rost, 217-398-2873 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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