Minneapolis architect Christine Plantan was bored with office and school supplies in tired colors and stodgy styles.
So a year ago, she started Russell Hazel, a company making an edgy line of notebooks, folders, pens, etc. for students bored with basics and office workers after a little color in their cubicles.
"Our goal was to make office products nice enough to give as gifts," says Plantan, who sells mainly through her Web site, www.russellandhazel.com (888-254-5837), and a growing number of small stores nationwide. "Last Christmas, corporations put them in gift packages and college students gave them to each other. These things are a lot of fun."
And the potential market is huge: $312 billion is spent annually in the United States on office products; $30 billion of that is school supplies.
The company's signature items are three-ring binders ($18.95) with cloth spines in colors like powder blue or lime green, a cover you can doodle on and a dry-erase surface inside. A heavy-duty rubber band holds overstuffed binders closed.
The Web site offers a Semester Refresher, a care package for college students, for $44.95: a pack of binders, pens, pads and insert dividers in non-regulation colors like lime, red or chocolate brown.
The line also includes French erasers that fit in the palm of your hand ($2.95 for three) and natural cedar pencils ($4.95 a dozen). And a welcome innovation: locker deodorizers in Bubblegum or Suntan Lotion ($3.95)
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