School-supply shopping can be crowd-free
JOHN Kim is an impatient shopper.
Rounding up school supplies for his two girls was annual drudgery. The first store never seemed to have all the required items, which meant additional stops, hunting through crowded aisles and waiting in cashier lines.
There also was the driving, jockeying for parking, knowing and dreading that he still had to shop for clothes for his choosy girls.
"There's got to be an easier way," he thought, standing in line yet again.
Grumbling about it to Heald College classmates in downtown Honolulu, he got an idea, got encouragement, and registered School Tools Ohana with the state in May of 2006.
The online store allows shoppers to order school or office supplies or break-room needs - and have them delivered.
For orders of less than $50, delivery costs $10, but for orders totaling $50 or more, "I deliver for free in the Honolulu area," he said. "If it's Makaha, I have to charge a little fee."
Revenue-wise, "the first year was pretty much a minus, but the second year, we did about 20 to 30 percent profit." He's on track for more growth this year due to customers' word-of-mouth, links on other sites and Google ads.
Kim has filled orders from the mainland and the Big Island, but he is not yet counting on School Tools to keep him housed, clothed and fed. It supplements his income as a warehouse employee.
"I know it's going to get bigger and better, because gas prices are going up, and more and more people are staying home," he said.
But the kids still need cigar boxes, recorders and crayons.
For instance, incoming sixth-graders at Aikahi Elementary School have a 45-item supply list, not counting multiple pencils and such.
Kim buys wholesale to pass on some savings - and assembles kits based on schools' lists, many of which can be found online, some on his site.
The Teachers' Bulletin page in the News button is for specific instructions, should teachers wish to e-mail him.
Kim's site bears potential for advertising revenue, said David Patterson, owner of PRstore Honolulu.
"If you were ... offering back-to-school sales, wouldn't you want to put your ads on a site like this? This is something that I have advised John to look into," Patterson said.
Kim also wants to help the community, maybe with a fundraising walk or a way for site visitors to donate supplies to nonprofits who collect and distribute them.
is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4747, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org