St. Cloud startup Impacks expands and prepares subscription model

A St. Cloud company is using recent momentum to move forward by expanding how it improves the school shopping experience for parents, teachers and schools.

Impacks was launched in 2020. Co-founders and spouses Brandon and Clare Richards want the company to provide school supplies to students while providing funds to the schools themselves.

The company has grown significantly in school partnerships, including partnering with nine schools within a 30-mile radius of St. Cloud, and plans to continue to do so. In 2021, the company was a partner of ten schools. In 2022, it is on track to establish more than 50 partnerships.

Impacks started by offering personalized, pre-packaged school supply kits for each grade in each school. This aims to reduce the expense and time-consuming hassle of shopping for back-to-school supplies by ensuring students get exactly what they need from one source. And when parents make a donation to the school (an option Impacks gives them when purchasing kits), the company matches the first $5 of each donation.

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But since its launch, the company has also added a way for schools to purchase supplies in bulk. Clare Richards said she’s seen a trend where a small percentage of schools are purchasing school supplies for students to avoid equity disparities. Some schools will ask for donations to cover those costs, she said, and some will build it into the budget.

In this scenario, Impacks can offer better prices than other online vendors and organize supplies by class to reduce the time education professionals spend aligning supplies.

Purchases help schools, teachers

A box of school supplies available through Impacks is pictured Thursday, April 28, 2022 in St. Cloud.

And the school supply fairies of Saint-Cloud are working on another reimagining of school supply shopping.

They are building a new model: a subscription model, and with it, an Impacks app.

The subscription model would mean that parents pay a fixed monthly amount which is paid into an account managed by their student’s teacher. The teacher could then use this money to make purchases from Impacks. And because Impacks can allow teachers to access lower prices on supplies through their suppliers, it aims to increase the power of every dollar.

The goal?

“Put the purchasing power in the hands of the teacher,” said Clare Richards.

But it wouldn’t just be for school supplies, Clare Richards said. Their intention is that these funds cover classroom expenses, such as snacks, decoration, and field trips.

School supplies are packed in a backpack thanks to the Impacks program on Thursday April 28, 2022, in Saint-Cloud.

She said the move would broaden the scope of what Impacks is trying to accomplish and move the company into the financial services space.

“We really become the piggy bank of the class,” she said.

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Breaking up the sometimes overwhelming one-time expenses of a fall school supply run is also a way to make shopping for school supplies more affordable for families who live paycheck to paycheck — about 64% of states States in January, according to a LendingClub Bank survey.

“This group wants to support their child in the classroom,” Clare Richards said. “And they want to be able to contribute…Access gives parents options that work for them.”

Brandon Richards talks about the web interface used by the Impacks program Thursday, April 28, 2022, during an interview at St. Cloud.

It’s also meant to help eliminate some of that year-end waste from unused school supplies that Impacks has heard about from parents, Brandon Richards said. Instead, teachers buy the supplies they need when they need them — ideally, without having to dig into their own pockets.

Impacks came second in a recent locally held pitch competition, and the $2,000 prize will go toward app development and the pilot project, Clare Richards said.

“What we’re trying to do with the subscription model is really quite new to the market,” Clare Richards said.

School supplies from an Impacks package are photographed on Thursday April 28, 2022 in Saint-Cloud.

Impacks provides supplies through its two existing models to schools across the state. Clare Richards said the couple plans for the business to expand into a surrounding six-state region in 2023 and hopes to expand nationwide in 2024.

The company also hopes to expand its work with nonprofit organizations. Impacks has helped United Way coordinate school supply drives that allow community members to donate kits to area schools.

Brandon Richards said Impacks intends to pilot the new model with a few full-time schools in 2023, but may test the concept in a more limited way with some schools again this year.

“The model can be designed more efficiently, more efficiently, to ensure that every student is supported,” said Clare Richards.

Sarah Kocher is the economics reporter for the St. Cloud Times. Contact her at 320-255-8799 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @SarahAKocher.

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