Those still in the giving spirit after the Christmas season can give to others while shopping for themselves with one company.
Sydney Paige lets individual shoppers buy one backpack and donate one filled with school supplies for free to the nonprofit of the shopper’s choice. Bags range from colorful preschool options to those designed for adults.
When a customer buys a bag, they can choose to donate a matching one to any of the nonprofits listed on the dropdown list or to manually enter the information for the organization themselves. Alternatively, those who don’t need a bag can visit the site solely to donate one to a school or charity that can distribute it.
No Anson County businesses are currently on the dropdown list, but Courtney Brockmeyer, the company’s founder and CEO, said that can change. To get on the list, 501(c)(3) nonprofits can contact Sydney Paige directly or ask to participate in a backpack drive. Customers can also enter the info themselves before they checkout.
Brockmeyer said that the drives work well for companies who want to help sponsor them and the nonprofits that need the bookbags to distribute them.
“Companies want hands-on experience to boost morale and to get more connected to their community,” she said, adding that Google bought 10,000 backpacks. If they help get the word out, nonprofits can get a percentage of the profits from backpacks sold during a company’s backpack drive.
Sometimes, drives yield thousands of bags for the nonprofits to distribute. Other times, its a few hundred. Brockmeyer has worked with some that have resulted in 40 donations.
“Every backpack counts,” she said. “I’m really passionate about getting these companies these bags and spreading word on the confidence it gives, better attendance, and class behavior.”
Cheaper bags have poorer quality, and those are often the ones that children in need receive, Brockmeyer said. The bags she gives have reinforced bottoms, padded shoulder straps, and tough zippers, she said.
She also ensures that the school supplies the donated bags are filled with are age-appropriate for the child receiving the bag: bags for younger children are filled with items like paint while those for older children have composition books and pencils.
“We don’t buy the cheapest thing,” Brockmeyer said. “We look for quality.”
Bookbag drives vary by company and nonprofit, and Sydney Paige works to help each get the materials they need to succeed, she said.
Brockmeyer began the company in 2013. She previously worked at Nestle, and her kids, for whom her company is named, asked why she worked so many hours. She dropped the job and began Sydney Paige, where she collects a salary of $1 a year.
“Hopefully that salary will change down the road as it gets bigger, but I’m way more passionate about getting kids backpacks,” Brockmeyer said. “I’m in a fortunate situation where my husband works, and we don’t need to live in a mansion.”
The donations have helped her kids, she said, recalling when she was beginning her business.
“When deciding on a model, I could tell them until I was blue in the face that there are kids out there without food, and they just sat there, ‘Oh, okay.’ They didn’t really get it. But when I told them a lot didn’t have pencils, markers, a backpack, anything creative, then they were all like, ‘What? They don’t have a backpack or crayons?’”
Brockmeyer said she is able to do what she does since she keeps low overhead costs and has a small staff of eight, with her as the only full-time member. She also can purchase supplies in bulk.
The company is based in California, but she doesn’t want to let that stop her from reaching nonprofits even in tiny North Carolina counties.
“We’re national,” she said. “We’ve done events in New York, as well. We don’t have the money to fly out and be there all the time, but we coordinate over email and phone conversations. I have all the material I send for events and on how to pack backpacks.” She helps organize the events and provides the final numbers of school supplies and backpacks being sent.
She also can assist nonprofits with fundraising for the backpacks, school supplies and other products they may need online.
Individuals interested in buying their own backpack, and an optional matching lunch bag and pencil case, can visit sydneypaigeinc.com. When they buy one, one will be donated to the nonprofit they choose.
Nonprofits interested in receiving bags, or companies that would like to make an order to donate or to work with local nonprofits to hold a backpack drive for them, can contact the company at email@example.com or call 844-486-2225. Sydney Paige staff can prefill the purchased bags for a charge or the bags and supplies can be sent to the companies for employees to hold a packing event.
Reach reporter Imari Scarbrough at 704-994-5471 and follow her on Twitter @ImariScarbrough.