Summer Break Calls for a New SchKIDule™!

Aug 10, 2016 by Ashley Hoffmann, Ecwid Team
SKIDules
Posted Aug 10, 2016 by Ashley Hoffmann, Ecwid Team

The dog days of summer are officially here in the U.S. While kids wish summer break would last forever, for parents the summer months can deliver serious setbacks to the schedules and routines they worked so hard to adopt during the school year. Enter SchKIDules –one-of-a-kind visual scheduling system for kids created by Ecwid customer, Lt. Col Kelly Robinson.

A Homegrown Brand

SchKIDules is a homegrown brand with a unique product developed when Robinson’s daughter was a toddler. Prior to starting the business, Kelly was active duty in the US Air Force, and is still a member of the active reserves where she has served for over 18 years. Robinson left active duty when her daughter was born 12 years ago.

As with many moms who leave the full time workforce to stay at home with a child, the transition from a structured, predictable, independent lifestyle to one of trying to get a “type A” 3-yr-old to cooperate with a plan was difficult one. As feelings of frustration grew for both of them from what seemed like a simple concept — communicating and getting through the daily routine — Kelly had an “aha!” moment. She thought “What if I get a picture board to represent the daily rituals and show her what our goals are?”

 Sgt. Amelia Leonard

U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Amelia Leonard/Released

Robinson looked for a visual planner online and in stores and was surprised at her inability to find one. A self-proclaimed “non-crafter” — her commitment to making a change at home led her to overcome her dislike of the craft aisle to find materials to create a scheduler herself. Using velcro to attach pictures and words and a thick cardboard backing for the board she created the first prototype of what would later become a SchKIDule, and immediately tested it with her daughter.

It was like night and day communicating with my daughter! She loved seeing the progress she was making and was excited to complete the steps on the board. It made mornings so much better for both of us.

An Accidental Business Owner

Robinson did not set out to create a business, but she sure found one. After a few friends saw the board they asked if Kelly would make them one. One thing led to another and in 2010 she created a basic website to showcase the scheduler.

Before she knew it, an email arrived in her inbox announcing her first sale. “I don’t even know how they found me,” Robinson shared “I hadn’t advertised and back then I didn’t know anything about search terms, google indexing or metatags.”

Through the early years Kelly’s market research and search for similar products taught her about the niche she had uncovered. “I was googling all types of terms to see what I would find, ‘picture calendar,’ ‘image schedule’ and ‘kids schedule’ turned up blanks. Eventually I stumbled upon ‘visual schedule,’” she explained. Suddenly her screen was filled with scholarly articles about the benefits of visual aids for communicating processes and milestones with kids.

The look of the interactive schedule

“I thought, ok  now that I’ve found that this thing has a name, I’ll find a bunch of products like mine and I can go back to just being in the military and being a mom again,” Kelly said.

But instead, when she searched the internet she still couldn’t find any products for sale — just a lot of information about how helpful they are — especially for kids with special learning needs and sensory issues like autism, asperger’s or down’s syndrome. Locating the special needs niche within the childhood development niche has been one of the most satisfying parts of bringing this product to the market for Kelly.

Ongoing Product Expansion and Refinement

When the sales kept coming, Kelly knew she was onto something. She improved on her original design by trading velcro for a magnetized board to improve durability and her brother helped her draw the original images. She still disliked the crafty aspect of the work and started to think about alternative solutions.

She found a manufacturer to produce the magnetic boards and continued to create the magnets by hand. “At one point I counted orders and realized I had cut out over 25,000 magnets by hand,” Robinson exclaimed. Though she was receiving more and more orders Kelly was still using her basic website with PayPal to process sales.

Cards

One of the key pieces of advice that Kelly shared with us was to go slowly and take baby steps. Make small investments and see how they pay off. She also recommends setting small, achievable goals to chart progress and keep forward momentum going.

When I asked about her tech knowledge and website creation Kelly told me a story familiar to many Ecwid users. To create her first site she searched the internet, found freemium products that could do the job, and went through a lot of trial and error to get everything connected.

As orders kept coming Kelly’s kitchen table seemed to be permanently covered in magnets and supplies. Her daughter was now school-aged and she had a young son to test new ideas with. At this point in the business, about 4 years after she began the journey, she still had her free website and a had found a free ecommerce plugin that had some glitches, but was working well enough.

Automating Production and Distribution

The next step was to find a company to produce the magnets and implement a distribution system. Robinson found a great partner in Coleman Assembly & Packing, a company with excellent quality and an admirable social mission she connected with.

When Kelly’s son went off to kindergarten she finally had a little more time to focus on the business aspect of SchKIDules. She is still the sole employee, but she has manufacturers producing the products and Coleman Assembly to warehouse, pack and ship orders. Robinson still reviews all orders personally, emails them to the warehouse and often designates specific shipping instructions.

Easy to use in the classroom

New Website & Customer Testimonials

In late 2014, when both kids were in school full time, Robinson decided to take SchKIDules to the next level. She hired a graphic artist to refresh the product images and began to build out a new WordPress.org website. Her domain is through GoDaddy and the site is hosted with SiteGround where she also enjoys unlimited email perks.

Robinson found Ecwid via internet search in the fall of 2015. She was drawn to the ability to customize her store and seamlessly embed products and the shopping cart into the web pages she had already designed. At times Kelly has hired a web designer to help with plugins and customizations, but she still handles most of the site changes herself, occasionally with a little help from the Ecwid Customer Care team.

I love your customer service, I swear it’s the best and I’ve told so many people! When I need something it’s either right there in the Knowledge Base, or I do a quick chat and the team has me covered.

Positive customer feedback is one of the delights that comes with running a business (or a customer success organization ;). I actually found Kelly when she sent us a note of gratitude following a recent support interaction. On the occasions we haven’t been able to help, it’s usually been because the feature either doesn’t exist, or is in development. We’re working on the long-awaited 3rd party admin login rights now, and recently launched custom development services to help bridge other gaps for customers in need.

Feedback from a happy customer

SchKIDules website has a testimonials page – a great addition to any ecommerce site to help build trust with new site visitors and remind potential customers that real people are hard at work for the business behind the screen.

Multi Channel Sales Leads to Leaps in Revenue

As the business has taken off, Robinson has branched out to additional sales channels. She still has the direct order service via SchKIDules.com, a reselling option for qualified retailers, and additional distribution via Amazon where her products are the top 5+ items listed under “Kids Visual Schedule” on Amazon Prime.

Kids Visual Schedule on Amazon.com

As the business grew Kelly shared another important lesson she’s learned along the way — have a lawyer review all contracts. As micro businesses blossom, and grow into larger companies, the contracts that are signed (or omitted) in the early days can have unintended consequences later on.

Having a lawyer review a contract may seem like an unnecessary step when you’re a small startup — but if you take off you’ll be glad you had good legal advice at the start. Robinson had the name SchKIDules trademarked right away and reached out for legal advice when she outsourced production and distribution.

With a solid foundation in place this year is all about marketing and growing sales. Kelly recently tried google adwords and is studying up on SEO. She visits 1-2 local conferences and makes sales calls to organizations in her niche. It sure seems to be working. Right now sales are being boosted by a BOGO offer that Ecwid fans are invited to enjoy.

BOGO Event by ScKIDule

We’re thrilled that SchKIDules has continued to grow and evolve since joining Ecwid. We are excited to see what aspect of her brand Lt. Col Kelly Robinson will revolutionize next.

About The Author
Ashley leads Ecwid’s customer success initiatives and is passionate about creating happy customers and maximizing value. When she isn’t chatting with customers you’ll likely find her playing outdoors on a surf or snowboard.

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