As families everywhere start gearing up for the new school year, a couple of enterprising mums have taken it upon themselves to lessen the financial burden of the inevitable trip to the book store and uniform shop.
With five school-aged children between them, Lisa Neilson and Kirsty Masterson know the rising cost of education and all its associated expenses as good as any budget balancing mum.
But instead of making concessions elsewhere, they decided to tackle the challenge head on with specialised online classifieds site SchoolSeconds.
“We couldn’t find good quality second hand essentials anywhere, so we thought we’d do it ourselves,” Neilson says.
The site facilitates buying and selling good quality second hand school wear, books, sports gear, instruments, and pretty much anything else a child needs to see it through the next four terms and beyond.
“Because kids grow out of their school clothes, and move on from things like sports and musical instruments, it just makes sense to have a market place where these things can be passed on," Nielson says from experience.
“Especially as buying new adds up to a huge cost for parents.”
And the take up has been terrific so far with the classifieds selling out as quickly as they’ve been listed. The challenge now for the two school mums is expanding their site to share the benefits.
“We’ve set it up so that schools get something out of the process too, with 20% of sales commissions generated by the site going back to the school of the buyer.”
“Schools simply register on the site and get commissions back to spend on whatever they need,” Neilson explains.
“We only launched in late October, but since then, every school we’ve approached has said yes.”
It’s been so well received that some schools are even closing up their second hand shops and shifting the service onto SchoolSeconds. And because those shops are often volunteer run, the schools have been hugely appreciative.
The main categories are obviously uniforms, textbooks, musical instruments, sporting items, and technology, however the site also provides an outlet for a wider range of school age relevant things with items like formal wear, camping gear and sports stuff also listed.
It really is second hand heaven for parents of school age children.
Items must be in good or excellent condition to be listed on the site, and sellers must also guarantee the gear is in line with school dress codes, so any headaches about odd uniforms or out of date books are left at the log in.
It’s an extension of the collaborative consumption model that is challenging traditional businesses, with sites like eBay, Airbnb and GoGet leading the charge.
Understandably, once the words out with these sort of businesses, there is usually a rapid uptake as consumers realise the cost savings and convenience of sharing.
But, as Neilson and Masterson are finding out, getting the word out can be the biggest challenge.
“As a start up without the big marketing budget, getting the word out there has been difficult, particularly interstate,” Neilson says.
“But that said, the social take up has been really, really good with our Facebook and Twitter, along with a monthly newsletter, providing an important outlet for us to spread the word.”
Looking across their newsletter they’re doing all the right things to engage their market too, providing school saving tips, social media activated coupons and listing hints.
So if you’re gearing up for another school year spending blitz, consider this your heads up. You’ll save a bunch on your bill, collect a carrot for your kids’ school, and support two Australian mumpreneurs while you’re at it.
You won’t find a much greater feel good factor than that.
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