When a new employee starts at Schoola, (www.schoola.com), the San Francisco-based e-commerce fundraising site for schools, she’s asked to write her favorite school memory on her name card. What may seem like a textbook team-building activity actually cuts to the core of Schoola’s mission — because the memories shared are usually about school plays, musical performances or an exciting field trip.
“The things,” said Schoola’s founder, Stacey Boyd, “that are most often cut.”
Schoola was founded to raise money for just those programs — art, drama, physical education, music, foreign language — that are the first to go, or notably absent, from so many public school curricula. It’s in these programs that children find themselves truly engaged, where school isn’t just about testing but an opportunity to discover a passion, achieve goals or find one’s self.
Raised in small-town northern New Jersey, Boyd was a shy elementary and high school student — so much so that when she auditioned to sing, in eighth grade, she could barely get out the first note. But her music teacher, Mr. Boronow, coached her through it.
“I think he saw in me what I wasn’t able to see,” said Boyd, who went on to become a teacher, a principal, a mother and ultimately a serial entrepreneur. “I do a lot of public speaking now, and a lot of being in front of people, and I truly think what he did, helping me find my own voice, has helped me go as far as I have.”
Confidence from singing carried Boyd through the public policy program at Hamilton College, on to Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and Harvard Business School, or teaching English classes in Japan. It carried her through founding the Academy of the Pacific, an inner-city charter school in Boston, at just 26 years old. It carried her through founding Project Achieve, an educational information management system startup, and through working with the likes of Nelson Mandela and the World Economic Forum developing education and technology programs in Africa and the Middle East.
It also carried her through moving west to the Bay Area and starting a family, which is when her entrepreneurial spirit took a more personal tone.
“I gave birth and became more excited about walking up the stairs to the nursery than hopping on a plane to Libya,” Boyd said.
The well-known challenges of early parenthood inspired her to start her next two companies. When her eldest became a toddler, Boyd set out to find the just-right preschool program. “I was googling and googling and not quite believing that I couldn’t find what I was looking for,” she said. So Boyd started a site for urban moms — Savvy Source for Parents (www.savvysource.com) — that now has information on more than 100,000 preschools and camps from coast to coast.
As her daughter approached elementary school age, Boyd saw education budgets across California and the rest of the country being slashed. She found herself attending yet another book fair fundraiser and thought, there must be a better way. In 2012, Schoola was born.
An online kids’ clothing marketplace, Schoola is a marketplace for gently used brand-name clothing, and $2 of every $5 spent goes to a school of the shopper’s choice. It’s a win for parents, schools and even the environment.
“I can’t imagine doing anything else right now,” Boyd said. Starting with five schools in San Francisco, the company has grown to 10,000 across the country and has moved warehouses four times. “We’re getting more music programs back into schools, saving them from being eliminated,” she said. “I’m in my sweet spot.”
Ironically, Boyd’s name card memory isn’t about music class. It’s about a time in elementary school when she climbed to the top of a monkey rope, the floor-to-ceiling gym rope. When kids climbed it, she recalls, it was a big deal.
She climbed all the way to the top — and it wouldn’t be for last time in her life.
—Laura Lambert, Brand Publishing Writer