Spokane startup Direct To Schools offers one-stop supplies purchasing

A Spokane startup has launched a one-stop Web service for school districts to order a wide range of supplies and pay with a single click.

Direct To Schools, which launched Dec. 3, gives public and private K-12 schools a way to price and select supplies from five categories: paper, ink/toner, custodial-janitorial, athletic supplies, and classroom items including whiteboards and projectors.

The goal is to simplify what is generally a time-consuming practice of researching prices and then making multiple orders from different suppliers, CEO Dickie Walsh said.

“We are not trying to be just a price-comparison site,” he added, saying Direct To Schools is mostly focused on helping administrators or purchasing agents find the best overall deal, including shipping.

In a recent example, Walsh said an Idaho school district used the website to order more than $500 of paper, buying it from a Spokane company. The school only paid the cost of the product and shipping; Direct To Schools collected a commission from the paper reseller, Walsh said.

The commissions it makes will vary with the type of item ordered, he added.

It now has deals with a few dozen resellers whose products are sold online. Walsh plans to broaden the selection so customers will be able to order from local companies in every state, Walsh said.

The business idea germinated with Darren King, a purchasing manager with the Central Valley School District. After working there the past 15 years, King was convinced an online system could bundle purchasing options and streamline the process.

Walsh said the company won’t try to displace the businesses that have already developed supplier relationships with schools.

“We just want to just be one of the resources schools use,” he said.

King and Walsh co-founded the company; King remains on the board and serves as a consultant, while he maintains his job at Central Valley.

The company, with offices at 19 W. Pacific Ave., has 10 employees. It obtained seed funding of roughly $500,000 from regional investors, Walsh said.

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