If you’re on TikTok, you’ve been seeing a ton of back-to-school posts. School supplies spending will hit $37 BILLION this year! Get in on the ground floor and start a school supplies brand of your own.
- Mechanical pencils cost $.30 & sell for $3+
- Quality notebooks & planners cost $1.50 & sell for $10+
How to Start a School Supplies Brand of Your Own
That $37 billion I mentioned? The brands that sell these products are nameless. Most parents and buyers don’t care who they buy it from. That’s a huge opportunity.
This years’ school season might be closed, but the opportunity is there to build a brand parents care about.
I love niches like this!
- It costs hundreds or low thousands to launch
- There are few, if any, established brands
- You can compete on price with global supply chains
If these are just faceless transactions, it’s easy to convince someone to root for you.
Here’s the five-step playbook you need:
Step 1: Find your angle
These ideas will help you start a school supplies brand:
- Nostalgia: The 90s are back, use those visual themes
- Mission driven: Make sustainable products or give back to educators
- Niche down to local: Make products appealing to local residents
- Go hyper-visual: Make products that look great on social
Step 2: Find a factory
Use Alibaba, and search for vendors with:
- Fast response time
- High on-time delivery
- Hundreds of thousands in transactions
- An inspection from Alibaba
That’s going to ensure you have someone legit.
Step 3: Find your inspiration
Here’s some factory ideas with pricing and quantity breakdowns.
Vendor: Dongguan Hongjin Printing Factory
- 300 piece minimum order quantity (MOQ)
- notebooks from $.82-2.00 with different finishes on the front
- choose from PU leather, stamped felt, etc.
Dongguan Hongjin Printing Factory also makes sticker books, drawing and activity books, etc.:
- all printable with exact custom designs
- starting at 1000 pieces
- priced at $1.80
This is an amazing opportunity to lean into visual themes or showcase your own art!
Want to go really ‘out there’ for social media?
Vendor: Xiamen Hailun Trading Co
- transparent binders
- 5000 unit MOQ
- covers really pop
- priced around $2
Vendor: Ningbo Langterm Import And Export Co
Very nice mechanical pencils:
- 3000 unit MOQ
- only available in .30
- great for packs with unique packaging
- blister packs!
This factory is also a direct source for all mass-produced pencils, protractors, scissors, and hardware supplies.
Vendor: Shanghai Joan Industrial
- complete art kits
- from sub $10
- unique color varieties that you can combine with tutorials, etc.
Big opportunity here, even outside of school.
Step 4: Customize your product
The easiest way to do this is to pick something similar you like, and sketch or painstakingly describe how to make it your own. Some quick ideas:
- Unique color schemes (think matte pastels, marbling)
- Unique materials (consider flourescent, imprinted leather, suede)
To get started on content, get a sample of your product sent to you via air from their initial production and use this to make content on your own page or a test page. Start cutting many different video styles. Search “back to school” and emulate the formats of successful vids.
It’s going to take 6-8 weeks for your products to come. In that time, make 3-4 videos a day on your test account just to find what works. Check out quality products on @thingtesting and get ideas form their social.
Too much product for your house? You need a 3PL (third party logistics) or FC (fulfillment center). Here’s my comprehensive list:
Best 3rd Party Logistics for CPG Businesses
To kick off your store, I’d use @Shopify and keep it simple. One page website, lots of the same video content you will make for TikTok, lots of reviews.
- Start really posting content organically
- Run your first ad tests
- Pick 50 influencers to DM for free product
If you want to dive deeper on specifics, here’s a few recommended follows:
@LaurenLabeled for TikTok content strategy
@flips4miles to learn to sell on Amazon
@kobegatsby for building ecom
@jamesoncamp for buying or building a niche website
Step 5: Find a collaborator
If you’re worried about audience and selling on social, you can always collaborate:
- with an artist for gorgeous sticker sets or cover art
- with a “mommy blogger” or parenting site to help them monetize
- with a local business to offer products in-store
I love this niche because you can start small in terms of cost, their consume-able items that parents always need more of, and there’s tons of room for collaboration.
Remember, you don’t have to go it alone! Working together with others online is a superpower.
The next 18 months are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a brand on a new social network. Utilize the global economy through Alibaba to get enough margin to really give it a shot.
Want the factory links I mention above, plus a ton of others? I’m sending them all with direct links in my next Product People newsletter.
Don’t sleep on it!
Catch the Builders.Build podcast with my best friends, Colin and James, to discover more about our individual TikTok perspectives and entrepreneurial journeys across brands, products, websites, and more.
Thank you for reading this guide on how to start a school supplies brand!
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