Jason and Jess Holdaway wanted to help children living in poverty in New Zealand, so they founded Frank Stationery, a company that follows the buy-one-give-one model
Like many other Kiwis, Jason and Jess Holdaway didn’t really think children in New Zealand were going without basic school resources such as a backpack or a textbook. Unfortunately, they were wrong. Fortunately, they decided to do something about it.
It all started when the pair watched a documentary about child poverty in New Zealand. They then met the principal of an Auckland primary school and found out that, in that particular school alone, approximately half of the 400 students had no basic school material. When children showed up without books, they were given a piece of paper to work on. Pieces of paper often get lost and make it very difficult for the teacher to track the student’s progress or for the student to retain any information.
Having come across the buy-one-give-one model of business, where for-profit companies give away an item for each item they sell, they decided that’s how their company should work. And so Frank Stationery was born.
“We came across the buy-one-give-one model when Jason was involved with the first business he started, which was a carpet cleaning business,” Jess says. “We loved the idea that a business could be profitable and help others at the same time.”
They started working on the concept for Frank while still working full-time for a different business. In April 2013, Jason went full time with Frank and committed to fully making their dream a reality.
“In the beginning, Jess and I were both working full-time but knew that Frank was what we wanted to do,” Jason says. “We poured all our spare time and money into creating, learning and building the beginning foundations of Frank Stationery.”
A lot of their time was spent brainstorming, talking with people, researching and reading about how to be responsible with their business towards the community. They took time to learn about New Zealanders’ needs and began to formulate ideas about how to build Frank.
“We spent some time designing our initial notebooks and bags. Overall we spent about a year planning and formulating ideas before we could actually launch Frank as a functioning business,” Jason says.
The idea is simple: for each item of stationery you buy from Frank, they give the same item to a child in need in New Zealand.
Jason and Jess found that stationery would be the ideal vehicle for them to help these children. It combines Jason’s passion for business with Jess’ love for creativity. They now hope the success of their business will inspire other companies to adopt the buy-one-give-one model.
The products – backpacks, notebooks, pencil cases and more – are made by ethical factories overseas. They also use recycled materials in some of the ranges and expect to increase this in coming ones.
“We’re passionate about business being beneficial to communities, so we took time to visit our factory and meet the staff working there. We also support a charity that seeks to shut down unethical practice in business,” Jason explains.
The company is focused on creating a connection between the customer and the community.
“It’s great knowing you’re writing in the same notebook or using the same bag a child has just received because of your purchase,” says Jess. “There is a connection that the product makes between us and sometimes a community of people we rarely interact with. That’s powerful and people are drawn to that.”
According to Jess, there is definitely a rising trend of people who care about “purchasing consciously”.
“It is not about the cheapest possible product, it’s more about whether the purchase is making a difference,” she says. “There is a desire in people to do good but it can often seem overwhelming trying to make a change to a complex issue such as poverty. People do care about the community as a whole and are happy to support businesses that are aligned with their values.”
The products are distributed through different charities across the country but the company has, so far, mainly with a low-decile school in Auckland, providing them with stationery on an ongoing basis.
The social focus is also reflected on Frank’s plans to expand the range. Rather than a response to market demands, new products will be developed in response to the needs of the communities they are helping.
“It’s first and foremost about what those in need require,” Jess says. “But you’ll be seeing new notebook designs, backpacks and an ever-expanding range. We aim to work more closely with New Zealand and international artists throughout our product ranges.”