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CSS In the News

CSS In the News

Welcome to the official press center for Chicago School Supply and SchooDoodle.com!
 
Here you will find the most recent articles and newsbites about our company, the executives and owners.
 
If you are interested in receiving updated information about Chicago School Supply, or need to schedule an interview, please contact our corporate office at (630) 214-9498 or email webinfo@chicagoschoolsupply.com.
 
Thank you for your interest in Chicago School Supply and SchooDoodle.com!

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 13, 2010

 

Contact:         Mike Ockrim: Chicago School Supply

mike@chicagoschoolsupply.com

(866) 648 2668

2010 Pink Ribbon Office Products to Benefit The Breast Cancer Research Foundation

Chicago Based Office Supply Company Is Asking Customers to “Shop Pink” for October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Chicago, IL- Office Supply Sanity, a branch of Chicago School Supply, has announced this week they will be carrying 2010 Pink Ribbon Products in their office supply catalog and Website. Chicago School Supply Founder and CEO, Michael Ockrim, says he is eager to bring additional awareness for the fight against Breast Cancer this fall as October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

"We are always looking for new ways to give back and I am hopeful we can offer a significant amount of support to fight this terrible disease;" says Ockrim.  "Everyone can contribute to this fight just by changing how and what you buy."

Office Supply Sanity has added over a hundred 2010 Pink Ribbon Products on their website.  Ten percent of each purchase will be donated to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation.  Ockrim says they support this organization because of their commitment to achieve prevention and a cure for breast cancer through ongoing research and education campaigns. 

The Breast Cancer Research Foundation is an independent 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization. Last year, 88 cents of every dollar donated went to breast cancer research and awareness programs. The organization provides critical funding for innovative clinical and translational research at leading medical centers worldwide and increasing public awareness about good breast health.

Office Supply Sanity is a branch of Chicago School Supply; an Illinois based company that provides the resources educators need to enable their students to perform at their highest possible level.  Chicago School Supply serves office and school administrators, parents and teachers throughout North America, Europe and Asia.  Office Supply Sanity offers free shipping on all orders over $100 and has next day delivery. 

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 12, 2009

Contact:
Mike Ockrim
Chicago School Supply
mike@chicagoschoolsupply.com
(866) 648 2668
 

A nickel's worth of free advice can go far

By: Dee Gill October 12, 2009

Not quite ready to build a formal advisory board for your company? Entrepreneurs can still get tailored, regular advice from experienced professionals by taking advantage of free mentoring services.

Score Chicago, a partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration, builds a mini advisory board for a small business by assigning two or three mentors to meet regularly with the owner. The mentors, often retired business owners, are chosen specifically because they have experience in areas the entrepreneur does not.

With free advice from three Score mentors, Michael Ockrim, 30, built up Chicago School Supply LLC, which sells supplies, furniture and equipment to school districts. His barely three-year-old company posted more than $1 million in revenue in 2008, and he says he expects higher sales this year.

Mr. Ockrim's advisory group crams into his tiny Willowbrook office quarterly. He says the meetings help him solve practical problems, such as setting up a benefit plan for his three permanent employees, structuring expense reports and figuring out how to hire and compensate independent sales people.

"The advantages of this are you get access to people who have experience and have the time to work with you," Mr. Ockrim says. The downside: It's easy to follow their suggestions, he says, when it would be better to consider whether the changes really fit into your own philosophy and long-term business goals.

FEMALE ENTREPRENEURS

In a similar program, the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center sets up temporary advisory panels for select female entrepreneurs through its free AthenaPowerLink program. A non-profit affiliate of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, the Entrepreneurial Center opens its services to non-chamber members.

Athena is aimed at women-owned companies with annual revenues of $250,000 to $7 million doing "something that separates them from the rest of the market," says Jasmine Moore, the center's program director. Athena puts together a panel of five to seven local professionals with experience the entrepreneur needs, and they meet in five two-hour sessions over the course of about a year. "They take the (entrepreneur's) big ideas and help her boil them down into actionable strategies," Ms. Moore says.

Small Business Development Centers offer free one-on-one mentoring to entrepreneurs. (To find an SBDC, go to www.illinoisbiz.biz/dceo and follow the business assistance, then entrepreneurship options.) SBDC staff can hook up entrepreneurs with any expert they may need.

Entrepreneurs also can turn to MicroMentor.org, a non-profit that recruits volunteers to guide entrepreneurs online at no charge. Business owners post a profile and a request for help and pick a mentor from those who respond.

MicroMentor was started by Mercy Corps, a non-profit that recruits volunteer professionals to help solve social problems. It has backing from several other non-profit groups, including the Citi Foundation, the eBay Foundation, Google Grants and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

While such mentors are very good at helping entrepreneurs build particular skills, they are not replacements for advisory board members, says Scott Whitaker, assistant director of entrepreneurship programs at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management.

A mentor is a coach, not a connection, Mr. Whitaker explains, while an adviser is a partner who not only coaches but also uses his or her own time to advocate for the company. Ideally, these temporary mentoring relationships are stepping stones to forming formal in-house advisory boards.

Mr. Ockrim has been thinking about what kinds of advice he will need when his business outgrows the Score board. A large, unexpected tax bill helped clarify the issue. If he does build a permanent advisory board, he says, it will include a really good financial adviser.

©2009 by Crain Communications Inc.

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SCORE Success Stories
Chicago School Supply - A Story of Growth
 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 23, 2009

Contact:
Mike Ockrim
Chicago School Supply
mike@chicagoschoolsupply.com
(866) 648 2668
 
Chicago School Supply is pleased to announce that it has been selected as one of SCORE Chicago's Success Stories for 2009! This recognition is awarded to a few select companies from the group of hundreds of corporations and entrepreneurs that SCORE Chicago counsels each year. Below is an excerpt from SCORE Chicago's announcement. View the listing on SCORE Chicago's website.
 
In September 2006, Michael Ockrim began selling school and office supplies, as well as furniture and equipment, to schools in the City of Chicago. His company, Chicago School Supply, LLC, sought to take advantage of a gap in the school supply market to fulfill the needs of Chicago schools. Michael came to SCORE in need of help in expanding his business.
 
Three SCORE counselors, Gene Migely, Norm Letofsky, and Phil Hartung, worked with Michael to develop hiring, training and compensation plans and to deal with a multitude of business issues. They continued to meet with Michael every three months to review his progress and to advise on actions and plans.
 
Since it started, Chicago School Supply has added three sales representatives, an office manager and three e-commerce websites - SchooDoodle.com, OfficeSupplySanity.com, and TeachingSafari.com. Chicago School Supply also makes free science fair lesson plans and resources available on ScienceFairSanity.com. In 2008 the company achieved over one million dollars in annual revenue, which represents a 180% growth, and the company continues to grow.
 
Michael had the following to say about the help he received from SCORE:
 
“As an entrepreneur, it is important to surround yourself with smart people that challenge your thoughts and business model. The SCORE coaches inspire critical thinking and provide excellent outside perspective. Oftentimes, as business owners, we become so consumed by our day-to-day corporate minutia that we fail to see the bigger picture or analyze the core competencies that have made us successful. Thank you SCORE for taking the time and effort to work with me and Chicago School Supply!”
 
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Professional Educators and Parents Invited to Attend 'Games in Education Forum' November 22, 2008

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 13, 2008

Contact:
Mike Ockrim
Chicago School Supply
mike@chicagoschoolsupply.com
(866) 648 2668

Professional Educators and Parents Invited to Attend 'Games in Education Forum' November 22, 2008

Free Educational Forum Co-Sponsored by Chicago School Supply and Games for Educators is a State of Illinois Certified Provider of CPDU Credits Event.

Chicago- Parents, teachers and school administrators who want to learn how to incorporate games into the learning process are encouraged to attend the Games in Education Forum a free event taking place on Saturday November 22 from 1-6pm at Navy Pier's Festival Hall A. Participants in this educational event will attend professional development seminars on how and why to use games in the curriculum. Chicago School Supply CEO Mike Ockrim a presenter and is co-sponsoring this event with Games for Educators. "Creative play has always been an important teaching tool and I think this forum will help anyone interested in learning how to incorporate fun learning in their classrooms and homes" says Ockrim.

Other forum presenters include Ben Takemori, a Kapla Master Builder; Barbara Olsen of Jax Games; Pat Fuge of Out of the Box Publishing; representatives from Renaissance Knights Chess Organization; Graeme Thomson, a columnist for Games for Educators and Director of HL Games; and Patrick Matthews, Publisher of Games for Educators and President of Live Oak Games. Speakers will be presenting such topics as why games are good for the brain, how to evaluate games for their educational potential and demonstrate how some teachers are already integrating games into their educational programs.

"This event is not limited to teachers. We hope to see parents, school administrators and future educators benefit from this information" says Ockrim. Admission to the Games in Education Forum is free and open to the public but a reservation is required . To make a reservation, email mary@gamesforeducators.com or call 847-677-8277 with your name and your school to reserve your seat.

Chicago School Supply, http://www.chicagoschoolsupply.com/, serves public and private school administrators, principals, teachers and parents throughout North America, Europe and Asia. Their online retail store, http://www.schoodoodle.com/ and their weblog, http://www.schoodoodle.com/blog/ are resources for teachers and home schoolers seeking tips, free lesson plans, articles and educational materials.

Games for Educators is a Web site provided by the Chicago Toy & Game Fair and Live Oak Games to promote the use of games in education. Visit their site at http://www.gamesforeducators.com/ for more information.

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PRESS RELEASE
 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
 
October 22, 2008
 
Contact:
Michael Ockrim
mike@chicagoschoolsupply.com
866 648-2668 
 
Chicago School Supply Competes in Blogger Challenge 2008  to Raise Money for Local Schools
 
Education supply retailer pledges to raise money and complete classroom projects for underserved Chicago area schools.
 
Chicago, IL- Bloggers around the globe are competing this month to raise money for U.S. classrooms on DonorsChoose.org for the Blogger Challenge 2008Education bloggers like Chicago School Supply CEO Mike Ockrim are up for the challenge. "Our goal is to raise $2,500 and complete 20 classroom projects this month" says Ockrim.  "This is our first time competing in such a project, and it is really exciting. Many of our projects are already 65-75% funded and just a few more dollars will provide these Chicago classrooms with the resources they need to enhance the learning process".
 
DonorsChoose.org is a non-profit organization developed to provide students in need with much needed resources often lacking in the public school systems. Teachers submit project proposals for their students onto the Website and the ideas become classroom reality when individuals, called 'Citizen Philanthropists', choose projects to fund. The idea behind the this challenge is for bloggers to inspire their readers to become 'Citizen Philanthropists'.  The blogger that mobilizes the most readers will receive a lunch with Yahoo! CEO Jerry Lang,  In addition, Yahoo! will pay for a field trip for the kids at a school of the winning blogger’s choice (up to $5,000).
 
Proposals range from "Magical Math Centers" ($200) to "Big Book Bonanza" ($320), to "Cooking Across the Curriculum" ($1,100). Any individual can search such proposals by areas of interest, learn about classroom needs, and choose to fund the project(s) they find most compelling.
 
Chicago School Supply, http://www.chicagoschoolsupply.com, serves public and private school administrators, principals, teachers and parents throughout North America, Europe and Asia.  Their online retail store, http://www.schoodoodle.com  and their Weblog, http://www.schoodoodle.com/blog/ are resources for teachers and home schools seeking tips, free lesson plans, articles and educational materials.

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PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
 
Sanity for Science Teachers
 
Free educational website promotes science curriculum and activities for students and teachers.
 
Chicago, IL-Students all over the country are headed back to school and will soon have this question in mind, "What am I will do for the science fair this year?"  Although science fairs are developed with the best intentions; they frequently bring elevated levels of stress and headaches to educators, students and parents as poorly planned projects go awry while supportive parents rush to gather the necessary materials for their child's project.
 
Science Fair Sanity, http://www.sciencefairsanity.com, is a free resource developed to address the fears most commonly associated with science fairs: What am I supposed to do? Where will I get the supplies? How am I going to present this?  The site contains free information and resources for students and educators. Teachers can share information and questions on organizing their science fairs and receive assistance finding judges to participate.  They can also find numerous free resources such as the Teacher Guide: Steps to a Successful Science Fair Project and a handout that provides questions for the judges.   Students and parents can download free science fair project ideas and find information on how they can display their work and present to judges.  Links are provided where students can find materials to supplement their science fair project.
 
Science Fair Sanity is the brainchild of Michael Ockrim, Founder and President of Chicago School Supply.  "Science fairs are such an enriching activity for students and teachers to participate in; but I know they can be overwhelming."  Ockrim says.  "I believe educators and students need a place where they can share ideas and learn from each other."
 
Chicago School Supply, http://www.chicagoschoolsupply.com, serves public and private school administrators, principals, teachers and parents throughout North America, Europe and Asia.  Their online retail store, http://www.schoodoodle.com  and their weblog, http://www.schoodoodle.com/blog/ are resources for teachers and home schoolers seeking tips, free lesson plans, articles and educational materials.
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Educational Dealer Magazine
November 2007
by Tina Mazer
 
Michael Ockrim has a lifetime of experience in school supply retail. It’s a familiar story: Until he left for college, Mike helped out in his mother’s teacher store, The Education Depot. He assisted customers, stocked the shelves and worked the register. When he graduated, he returned to help his mother run the store.

Over the course of six years, with Michael’s help, the store’s size doubled and revenue tripled. The Education Depot established a Web presence and brought in catalog sales. There was just one problem: It was moving too fast for mom, and too slow for Michael.

“My mom, Deborah, is a retired teacher and she always enjoyed running the store. She likes working with the teachers and setting up the bulletin boards. Her outlook on the business is much simpler than mine,” he explained. “When it got bigger, she became overwhelmed. We started working on a transfer of ownership, but we just couldn’t come to a meeting of the minds.

“In August, 2006, I spun off and started Chicago School Supply,” he continued. “I took a few of the niche markets I was serving with me – Title I programs and staff training and professional development for educators and administrators. My mother wasn’t interested in those markets. I partnered with a well-established school supply dealer to sell via a 600-page full-line catalog and built a website from scratch called SchooDoodle.”

Chicago School Supply’s competitors are the bigger dealers in the industry and big box office stores. Thanks to Michael’s business philosophy and fresh perspective on the school supply industry, he can get and maintain market share.

“Some vendors may be able to provide books and an easel stand, for instance, but they don’t provide ink or computers,” he explained. “That’s where we’re different. We try to be full service for our customers. We sell large volumes of software, computers, printers, ink … we sell big copy machines! There are all different budgets within the Chicago Board of Education. I get my clients what they want.”

Michael enjoys working with the Chicago City School system, “a huge bureaucratic machine” that allows for a significant number of players rather than just a few vendors. Michael’s modus operandi is to establish relationships with the decision makers in the school system, working with the administrators on down to the teachers.

“We do e-mail marketing and direct mailings, but I find that forming relationships does the most to build the business,” Michael said. “I try to remember what’s going on in my clients’ lives so that we can chat about it when we meet. I know it sounds cheesy, but for me it works. That kind of marketing has been very valuable for me.”

In terms of overlap with his mother’s store, yes, there is some. Mike has found, however, that The Education Depot customers are the kind of people who want to look around in a store, as opposed to shopping online. “We got a call today from a lady looking for a specific resource book,” he told us. “I told her we were affiliated with The Education Depot and I gave her the store’s phone number. By the same token, when my mother gets requests for furniture and equipment kinds of things, she forwards them to us.

“Our customers go online to buy, not browse,” he added. “But what they buy is all over the map. That’s why we have to offer such a broad line of products.”


Follow the money trail

In addition to Chicago School Supply, Mike owns two other companies. One is a real estate management company; he owns the strip mall where The Education Depot is located. “I’m actually my mother’s landlord,” he said.

The other is called Chicago Education Consultants. It came about simply by following a money trail. “There’s always money for education, you just have to know where it is and follow it. In doing so, you find the niche markets,” said Michael.

It started this way: Among Chicago School Supply’s clients was a particular group of educators who had significant funding for classroom materials and furniture. Even after he filled their order, a large chunk of money remained on the table, earmarked for specialized educational materials and additional instructors. Michael thought he could help them spend that money. “On a whim, I put together a proposal for the Chicago Board of Education for some field trips. They accepted it, and I’ve done a series of field trips for disadvantaged kids living in a group home,” he told us. “We hired guides and took them on tours that taught them about the architecture, the culture and the ethnicity of Chicago. I’m really enjoying it, it’s needed and it’s rewarding to me personally. I get to see the kids’ faces light up when we take them out on a boat. It’s a cool component of our business that I’d like to see grow, once I contend with issues like liability.”

It’s not the only area of the business with growth potential, but the challenge going forward is to manage all the irons in the fire with limited human resources. Michael doesn’t appear worried about it. “I like being able to control my own destiny,” he told us. “I like to follow what looks good to me. I’m young enough – 28 – to have no fear of risk. I might fall on my face, but I guess if I’m going to do all this stuff, it’s good that I’m doing it now.”


Commit to the Internet

In order to see significant revenue from online sales, school supply retailers must commit to their websites. “I understand that there are a lot of dealers in our industry who see it as a side component to their physical store, but they don’t understand the full potential,” said Michael Ockrim.

He does. “We’re building a huge footprint online,” he said. “I’m trying to build the brand. We have half a dozen websites that serve different purposes and draw people to our online community.”One of them, SchooDoodle.com, offers online sales of educational materials, school supplies and learning resources for parents, teachers and children. Michael and his assistant maintain SchooDoodle.com in-house and when we conducted this interview, they were in the process of increasing their online offerings by 30 percent. “We wanted our website to be uncomplicated enough to be able to add anything ourselves anytime,” he said.

The name “SchooDoodle” is sometimes difficult for people to understand when you’re saying it to them but there was method to Michael’s madness. “Once somebody finds it or uses it, they ‘get it,’ and remember it,” he told us. “We try to brand it pretty well with Chicago School Supply.

“Company names are important,” he said. “Too many retailers in our industry come up with a clever name for their business, then all the clever names blend together and become un-memorable. In the case of Chicago School Supply, where we’re trying to compete on an administrative level, I wanted it to be easy to remember. It’s simple and says, ‘Here’s what we do.’ But with the Internet, I discovered it’s just the opposite. People don’t remember plain names.”


Hang Around Smart People

The advocate of relationship marketing has been an active member of the National School Supply and Equipment Association (NSSEA) for many years. A current member of the Board of Directors, Michael served on the association’s Retail Store Council when he worked for The Education Depot, and is a founding member of the LEAD Committee.

That involvement, he says, is invaluable. “I’m a firm believer that hanging around with smart people makes you smarter,” he said. “I recently attended the NSSEA Fall Leadership Meeting in New Orleans, and while I was sitting in on a distributors meeting, a guy named Greg Cessna came in and started imparting all sorts of wisdom. Suddenly I realized that he’s the president of Education Essentials of School Specialty. Not only am I getting all sorts of information from this 800-pound gorilla in our industry, but I’m also listening to the president of a Fortune 500 company in this intimate setting. People would pay a lot of money to be involved in that scenario. It was so helpful for Chicago School Supply. I realized that we have a lot of the same problems in common. His numbers are just bigger.”
 
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Face to Face Interview from Essentials Magazine (November 2006)
 
 
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Direct Marketing from Educational Dealer Magazine (April/May 2006)