Its the time of year when many people are busy planning for next year’s homeschooling curriculum and schedule. Many mums are in full swing; pens, notebooks, catalogs, book lists and the like. It can be such fun!
This year, many parents will receive a government bonus (the ‘Rudd money’ – with the express purpose of trying to prevent an economic recession) in early December. The point of my post isn’t to rave about whether or not homeschoolers should take it or not. Rather, I’d like to share a few things written, as only I can, from my own perspective as a former small business owner who aimed to serve the Australian homeschooling community. I’d also like to encourage all Australian to ‘buy Australian’ as much as possible. What good will it do our nation to spend up big on foreign imports – so the money goes back out of our land. How does that really prevent a recession?
Anyway, on to my story. I used to own a small home-based book/curriculum business, called HomeGrownKids. (Who woulda thunk it?) I used to supply books, curriculum and resources that I had used – that I knew a fair bit about…that I could easily talk about with other homeschoolers. I could suggest a variety of resources in case one or the other wasn’t suitable. During this early time, the Australian dollar was at the absolute lowest point in years. The Internet wasn’t all that popular or widespread back then although it was growing. I remember what it was like to meet with another homeschooler and covet some of their homeschool encouragement type books, for they weren’t easy to obtain and were far and few between. No online shopping carts back then! Most homeschoolers were content to order a book and then wait for 3 months while it was shipped over on the boat. Yes, it took a long time but there weren’t too many other viable options. Plus, we learned patience…and learned about interacting with our children rather than just relying upon curriculum. But then, online shopping became easier. More and more businesses started accepting online credit card payments. Whoohoo! It wasn’t long before some customers wanted a resource in a hurry. So I’d order in via air mail. This would cut any profit, for the cost of airmail was crippling…but it was a service that I was providing to my friends- other Aussie homeschoolers.
I would spend hours researching curricula and books…hours on the phone talking to other homeschool mums, offering encouragement, support or ideas. HGK was nowhere near the point of making any money. In fact, it was draining our own pocket! However, we thought that if we could stick with it long enough it would become a valuable service to Aussie homeschoolers.
However, it wasn’t long before I started to notice a disturbing trend. Well, I thought it was disturbing – not sure if everyone agreed with me. I started receiving a few phone calls where people would talk to me about curricula, asking for my opinion. Sometimes this phone call might take me away from the family dinner table or afternoon lessons. These calls rarely took a brief 15 minutes – more like hours! After talking and sharing and then giving the price of the requested books, some people thanked me and hung up. They later went online and ordered those very books from book suppliers in the US!!! Yes, it was a little cheaper ( not that much really) but I still thought it was quite rude. I had done the legwork, the research, the homework. I had talked with the people about the best curriculum to suit their needs and they bought it for a few dollars cheaper!
After awhile I just couldn’t compete. Not that I was trying to per se, but I was give, give, giving of time for people to source a few dollars cheaper elsewhere out of Australia. Some did shop within Australia. They found that A & R or Dymocks were cheaper by a couple of dollars. Sure! But could the bookseller talk about that book from their own experience? Had they used it with several children? I don’t think so. To make HGK prices the same as Dymocks meant that the books cost our family money!! No one can operate like that. Who can compete with Amazon, Book Depository, CBD and all the other giants, especially when our dollar was so low? Unlike the super-stores, HGK couldn’t receive cheaper items because of large orders. We had to pay shipping fees from the US…and then postage fees to the customer. Nowadays there is even GST to add to the mix! Over the Christmas break, my husband and I made the hard but necessary decision to close HomeGrownKids down. The reasons listed above are certainly not the only reasons but they were a contributing factor.
So not only do I love Aussie made products…I love to support local businesses – even if it costs a few dollars more. When I email or call Adnil Press, Chariot Press, Homeschool Heaven, DownUnder Literature, Always Learning Books, Credo Trust or Homeschool Favourites we have a good natter on the phone…we share many things in common…but I know that they aim to scratch my back, so I want to do the same for them. with all the time, effort and money that goes into a local homeschool business (effectively supporting *me*) then surely a few dollars extra won’t break the bank. Can you buy cheaper overseas? Yes! But will you, knowing how much it costs our local Aussie homeschool businesses? (Visit here for more info on Aussie homeschool suppliers)
There are some products I simply can’t source locally, so I look to the Book Depository or other Christian homeschool suppliers- usually only once I’ve exhausted all the locals. Sometimes, I’ll purchase from these larger international stores if it means a large saving…but I always ask myself, “how much is their time/advice/expertise/knowledge worth?”
How about it? Do you think it’s worth buying from a local supplier? Is it worth supporting another homeschool family business- one that exists to serve you? Or will you still purchase from overseas?