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Cleaning closets for schools

Natalie Angelillo, CEO and founder of SwopBoard, poses in her messy headquarters in Seattle. SwopBoard is an online marketplace for used items that donates a portion of revenue to a school of the user’s choosing. - Contributed Photo / Jonathan Vanderweit
Natalie Angelillo, CEO and founder of SwopBoard, poses in her messy headquarters in Seattle. SwopBoard is an online marketplace for used items that donates a portion of revenue to a school of the user’s choosing.
— image credit: Contributed Photo / Jonathan Vanderweit

Natalie Angelillo was cleaning out her daughter’s room, when she came across an old dollhouse. She knew the once cherished toy would only collect dust in her basement, but didn’t know how to go about selling it.

“It was literally a light bulb moment,” said Angelillo, founder of the online marketplace, SwopBoard. “I thought, some mom would love to have this and that mom is a parent at my daughter’s school. But I have no way of letting her know.”

She let the idea percolate for a while, until one day her son came home to tell her he needed boots urgently. Ski bus was two days out.

“I started to think about hyper local community opportunities. A long time ago, we had space for a bulletin board at school, or we’d pass each other at the grocery store, sit down to have coffee and participate in school fundraisers together,” she said. “I thought wouldn’t it be nice if in the process of reengaging the local community, if we figured out a way to give back and solve two problems at once.”

Angelillo launched SwopBoard marketplace to meet her own immediate need and to raise money for local schools. SwopBoard looks much like a Pinterest newsfeed, but operates like Craigslist without the anonymity. Visitors can buy and sell lightly used items to their choice of audience. They can choose to sell to people only in their immediate community, regionally, even nationally. At least ten percent of sales go toward a school of their choosing, with the option to donate a greater portion. Angelillo lives in Magnolia but SwopBoard has benefited a number of Mercer Island schools and features several Mercer Island moms who are "SwopBoard champions," meaning that they have made a considerable impact with their donations at local schools.

Angelillo points out that it aligns with buy local and green movements because it means users don’t have to purchase entirely new products in six-month cycles.

“It feels good,” said Angelillo. “You can get to know people and there’s a real connection.”

She remembers selling, for instance, several items of clothing her daughter had outgrown. At her son’s baseball game one afternoon, she spotted a little girl wearing her daughter’s dress. On another occasion, she recognized a young girl riding her daughter’s bike.

“The nice thing about the site is that there’s some sense of familiarity with the people in your immediate community.”

Angelillo says that people are donating an average of 46 percent, far exceeding the minimum rate of 10 percent.

Scrolling through SwopBoard reveals old iPhones, bunk bed, bikes, sets of books, even the occasional ticket up for grabs. It’s also partnered with several boutiques – like the Seattle-based fashion line, Silvae – so users can buy specialized items for a good cause.

Though every school is eligible, 11 Mercer Island schools are now active recipients of SwopBoard donations. Nationally, upwards of 1,000 schools have benefited in 44 different states, and many more are planned for the coming year.

Angelillo would not share the amount of funds raised to date but says she has ambitious plans for the future. In the coming weeks, SwopBoard will launch an app for smartphones and tablets. She also hopes to start an initiative that will allow users to choose what their money goes toward at the school of their choosing – new textbooks for the classroom, arts supplies or sports equipment.

“I think we’ve proved it works. Parents love it. We’re seeing that it’s making a quantifiable difference in schools. We want to [raise] several million for schools over the next three years on a platform that allows people to give back in a way that also helps them.”

 

For more about SwopBoard, visit: www.swopboard.com/#!/Home.

CORRECTION: The print edition of this story incorrectly identified Natalie Angelillo as a Mercer Island mom, due to a miscommunication. Angelillo lives in Magnolia but works with several Mercer Island "SwopBoard champions" who have promoted SwopBoard on the Island and made considerable impact at local schools. Eleven Mercer Island schools have benefited from SwopBoard fundraising efforts. The Reporter regrets this error.

 

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