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ClassBundl simplifies back to school shopping

ClassBundl President Jeffrey Eells (back row center) and members of the ClassBundl team.

If you have kids in school, you know the drill. As summer comes to a close and school is getting ready to start, it’s time to head to the stores for school supplies. Lincoln startup ClassBundl is trying to ease some of the pain.

“We’re bringing convenience to schools, parents and students with online school supplies, branded apparel and a funding platform,” said Jeffrey Eells, ClassBundl President. “There’s also 5% back to schools, a little fundraising kick at the end.”

How ClassBundl works

Schools sign up to use the ClassBundl platform for free, then use a list-builder tool to upload bundles of supplies required by teachers. Parents can purchase pre-bundled packages, or customize their order.

“Parents come to the site, locate their school and grade, and everything the teacher says is needed is there,” Eells said. “They make their selections, and their purchase is shipped to their home for free if the order is over $18, which most of them are.”

To increase appeal, each site is branded for the specific school being represented.

“When parents visit the site, it’s presented as a school-endorsed program,” Eells said. “It’s a seamless opportunity to get school supplies, uniforms, and also do fundraising. It’s really slick.”

ClassBundl was started in 2014 out of the Innovation Hub, the corporate innovation team within Nelnet. Their initial client base was seven private and parochial schools in Lincoln.

“We realized there was a need and an interest, and in 2015 we decided to go national,” Eells said. “We grew to 89 schools with some ups and downs, things that work and things that don’t.”

In 2016, the ClassBundl client base grew to 500, much of it in the private and parochial school sectors. Eells is expecting triple-digit growth this year, and is looking to expand in charter and public schools.

“We’re in every state but Alaska and Hawaii,” Eells said. “We want to grow in the private and parochial school space, but the need is there in charter and public schools.”

What is the competitive landscape?

“A lot of the competition is more regional,” Eells said. “With our partnership with Nelnet and FACTS Management (another Nelnet company), we’re able to take a national approach.”

Summer camps are another market segment ClassBundl is exploring.

“They all need supplies, t-shirts, the bundle model works well,” Eells said. “We’re looking at where else the bundle model fits.”

ClassBundl handles inventory and fulfillment of name brands like Crayola, Mead and Ticonderoga that teachers prefer. The company recently moved into new space in west Lincoln near Haymarket Park.

“We were in a makeshift warehouse, and we outgrew it very quickly,” Eells said. “We have a great relationship with Speedway Motors and they found this space that doubled our warehouse size, gave us a loading dock and offices.”

The additional office space will house a growing team that includes an additional developer and more sales and account management staff.

“We’ve added another developer and we’re hiring more sales and account managers,” Eells said. “Developers are hard to come by, and we’ve got two rock stars on our team. We want to stay lean and mean.”

The sales team is focused on promoting the low entry barrier for schools.

“They contact the schools, describe the service and the no up-front commitment,” Eells said. “It’s a turn-key marketing solution.”

Growing in the Midwest

Eells credits Scott Gubbels, Director of Nelnet’s Innovation Hub, with a major assist in getting ClassBundl off the ground.

“Scott and I work hand in hand,” Eells said. “Scott is the visionary, I’m the implementer.”

Since returning to Lincoln around ten years ago, Eells is bullish on the environment that has developed for entrepreneurs and startups.

“Lincoln has come so far in the last ten years,” he said. “It’s such a fantastic place to do business.”

Rod Armstrong is Vice President of Strategic Partnerships for AIM in Lincoln, Nebraska. He is a regular contributor to Silicon Prairie News.