Incorporated in 2002 as a Woman-Owned Business, Brainstorm focuses on providing educational materials to those who are interested in making learning an everyday experience. We carry a variety of educational materials that range from workbooks, puzzles, strategy games, and crafts and arts for the home to whiteboards, learning charts, and manipulatives in the classroom. One will find items for newborns to teenagers as well as those within our senior community. Brainstorm has continued to service its surrounding communities throughout northeastern Illinois and southeastern Wisconsin for over ten years. Operating a 9000 square foot retail space, the store includes a 1,100 square foot warehouse for receiving and processing materials, a 7,000 square foot merchandising floor for its products of over 250 vendors, and a 650 square foot classroom area specifically designed for group learning. As a “brick and mortar” retail shop, Brainstorm has the ability to offer its customers a place to come and view tangible goods for purchase and talk to our expert staff. We are also in the process of developing an eCommerce site to allow our very busy customers a way of ordering through an online website. Our store offers the warmth and friendliness that communities deserve and a depth of knowledge and expertise that they have come to expect.
The inspiration for Brainstorm came from our motivation in helping others learn. Before starting Brainstorm we were school teachers. We always found it difficult to find products that supported the many areas of learning. As the years passed, we noticed two things: 1) we were only touching a small percentage of children with our passion for educating and 2) if you looked hard enough and drove far enough, there were only a few businesses that carried educational products for supporting learning. We decided we would open a store that would cater to our community of educators – teachers, home-schoolers, parents, grandparents and others. We would be the proverbial hub of the wheel to ensure that educators had sufficient resources. Our reach would go beyond the walls of the classroom, beyond the borders of our town, and beyond the borders of our state.
Brainstorm is in this for the community. Our sole purpose is to promote learning in the community and beyond. A constant comment made by our customers is the access that Brainstorm provides to such a wide variety of educational products. As Brainstorm is open to the public six to seven days of the week depending on the time of the year, customers often stop in and browse the store just to get ideas. We have other customers who will come in to have lengthy discussions with our employees about the various situations they encounter. The ability for customers to stop in and get ideas, purchase products, or simply talk to an employee is such an enormous advantage to have at their disposal.
Brainstorm donations impact those around us. Our donations to the local school systems tally thousands of dollars worth of educational products each year. The selection process for the schools to receive donations from Brainstorm has been different every year so different school or school districts benefit from our generosity. When donations are done, there are many times where our staff does the product selection for the school. Other times we allow the school to do their own selection of products from within our store or paper catalog.
We also work with many organizations outside of the local schools as well. One Hope United is a nonprofit organization that provides services to children and families in need throughout Lake County, Illinois. Every year we donate educational products to One Hope United to help provide support to their members. Brainstorm works with local parent groups as well. Presentations have been provided on different learning topics, such as “Alternatives to Television”, to assist those groups in enhancing their child’s learning experiences. We have provided classroom space for birthday parties, music lessons, Boy Scout troops to teach merit badges, and other local group activities.
Community = Brainstorm. Brainstorm = Community.
Measure of Success
We measure our success by each child, adult, and senior we touch. We rely on the experiences of our customers to put the word out to their colleagues and friends. Some customers will drive long distances to our store to purchase their products for the year. Other customers will “take a fieldtrip” to Brainstorm as a group spending an entire afternoon going through product selections. Another measure of success that we track is repeat customers. Many customers buy all of their gifts throughout the year from Brainstorm because the products are educational and we offer free gift wrapping. We have customers that move out of state but continue to place orders to be shipped because they rely on Brainstorm to help them with choosing the right products. While we have other success factors that are measured, we rely on the growth of our customer base and the number of repeat customers to determine our success.
Brainstorm is a unique community of educators. When you step foot inside Brainstorm, you belong to our educator community. Our main purpose is to enhance the learning of our community members. Every customer arrives at Brainstorm for a different reason, but they are all looking for solutions and ideas. A teacher might be looking for help with a child struggling in their classroom. A parent might want to enhance their child’s experience in science. A son or daughter may have an elderly parent that needs to work on their fine motor skills or memory. Our goal is to interact with each customer in order to find the best educational products that will promote the learning and fill their need. It’s all about the customer’s experience.