The Learning Locker

The Learning Locker is an idea that has been rattling around in my head for a year or so. Basically, I want to open a non-profit “store” where teachers can go and get school supplies for their classes – at no charge to them.

I was reminded of this idea again yesterday when I was at OfficeMax. I saw three teachers I know through my children – and they were all buying classroom supplies with money out of their own pocket. I don’t think teachers should have to spend a portion of their already slim salaries on tools to do their job.

Teachers have one of the most critical jobs in our society, and I think we do a poor job of recognizing that.

Basically my idea is to try and create a corporate sponsored non-profit that receives both cash funding, and product from companies like WalMart, Target, etc. They donate goods or funds in exchange for community good-will.

I really would like to build this from the ground up with the intent that it enables franchising. I’m not aware of anyone applying franchising to non-profits, but I see no reason why it could not be successful.

I spent most of this morning talking to various companies, like WalMart and Target. I need to talk to their national offices, and not just local stores, but basically I am getting a pretty good reception.

In the next few days I will try to find a pro-bono attorney to set up the non-profit, and help with franchising crap. I’ll find a realtor to help me find about 3,000 square feet of shell space that is either donated, or very cheap. I’ll work with local schools an organizations like the Boy Scouts – trying to find people that need to do community service to meet group or school requirements in the hope I can get some volunteers to helped “manage the store”, do stocking, etc.

I need to find a couple of programmer’s that are willing to help write/modify a Point of Sale software package. I’m already in contact with a company to provide a free Point of Sale system – scanner, register, receipt printer, etc. Why do I need this if everything is free? Because I need to be able to show where donations are going – I need to track what schools are using the service the most, so I can either relocate closer to them, or open another branch close to them.

I’ve sent a dozen emails to teachers today asking basic questions, like, “What hours would be most convenient for you?”. Is it enough just to be open on a Saturday, or do they need us to be open during the week as well? I have no clue what would be the most convenient for them. I’m learning.

I’m also learning that starting a non-profit is even more difficult than starting a corporation. I’ve read a lot online about starting a for-profit business, but I can’t find much on starting a non-profit franchise…

We’ll see how things go…


  1. Boy, do I know I great source of stuff for your ‘locker’!

    (Warning: reading this will elevate your blood pressure and you may also ask yourself “What am I DOING this all for?”)

  2. Chris – appreciate it. Come back often and ride my ass to make sure I *do* this. It’s an uphill climb for me – I’ve started businesses before, but nothing this complex.


  3. This is such a great idea. My parents are both teachers and also pay out of their own pocket for some supplies when it’s just easier to not deal with the hassle of going through the school’s business dep’t. If you could fix this, you’d definitely be doing something that needs to be done – helping out those people who are appreciated the least. Unfortunately, those people are our teachers.