How did it get to be August already? You know what that means. Soon we will be getting our kiddos ready to head back to school. When they do go back to school, chances are they will be bringing home a catalog with items for you to purchase as a fundraiser for their school.
That’s what happened to Masey Kaplan of Portland, Maine. In 2009, her son brought home a catalog selling wrapping paper. She bought some. A year later he came home with another wrapping paper catalog and she still had paper left over from the year before.
Then Kaplan had an “aha” moment. Why doesn’t someone make a catalog of Maine-made items from local businesses?
“I knew so many small businesses in my community making products that I would gladly buy to support my son’s school. I thought it would be great if the school had a fundraising catalog selling those products. Not only would the school benefit but so would local small businesses,” she recalled.
That idea was the beginning of what would become the Close Buy catalog. The first catalog was published in 2010 after Kaplan spent a year pulling it together. It featured items made in Maine and was distributed to three Maine schools. By year two, the Close Buy catalog was in 45 schools.
Kaplan is now in her sixth year of publishing the Close Buy catalog and expects to be in 120 schools from Maine to New York this year.
“In order for the business to be sustainable, we had to expand our product line and schools beyond Maine. We are now a New England operation, based in Maine, and more than half of the products featured in our catalog are from Maine,” Kaplan said.
The 2015 catalog features 450 products including housewares, jewelry, pottery, specialty foods, textiles and more.
Catalogs are distributed to students at the start of the school year. The deadline to place orders is early October and the orders are delivered to schools in time for the holidays.
The schools make 30 percent on every sale.
“Schools use the funds raised to support special programs and provide grants for teachers,” Kaplan said.
“Close Buy has grown into a great program that is making a difference for so many. Parents love buying locally made items to benefit their schools and we’re bringing new business to small businesses,” she said.
The business has grown primarily via word-of-mouth and Kaplan hopes to be able to offer the catalog to 200 schools in the next few years.
“We’re always looking for new schools to partner with and schools have until the end of August to sign up for this year,” she said.
For information and to view the 2015 catalog, visit closebuycatalog.com.