By Rhett Morgan Tulsa World August 27th, 2018

During the two-week, statewide teacher walkout in the spring, Booker T. Washington High School senior Portia McDonald traveled to the state Capitol with friends and marched alongside educators.

“We got to really see how many people were behind this and the support that the teachers had,” she said.

“It was like, ‘How can I find something and help the teachers that are underfunded and in need?’ ”

The answer was in her DNA.

Her brother, Charlie, a BTW freshman, had been collecting books for about two years. So the pair teamed up to establish ReadCycle, a business in which they collect books and sell them on Amazon, distributing the proceeds to schools with needs.

The venture recently won the Social Enterprise category of the Tulsa StartUp Series, a victory that earned the McDonalds $2,500 to advance their concept, a three-month membership to 36 Degrees North and a mentor who can meet with them weekly for at least three months.

Powered by the Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation and supported by Cox Business, Cox Media and the OSU Riata Center for Entrepreneurship, the Startup Series focuses on delivering resources and mentoring opportunities to local entrepreneurs.

“The $2,500 from the Tulsa StartUp Series has been amazing,” said Portia, who said the two have made fliers to distribute to neighborhoods. “ReadCycle is really about if you have something that you’re not using or is unwanted, we want to take it and turn it into something that can help someone else.”

Custom labels are attached to the books that the McDonalds scan and ship to Amazon, which stores them in a warehouse. Over the past two years, Charles gathered 251 books that sold for a total of $3,688, he said. Shipping and other miscellaneous fees such as gasoline money reduced that total to around $500.

“For ReadCycle, since we don’t have to pay for the books that we sell, our profits will be closer to $800 just for these past 251 books, and we were doing this very part-time,” he said.

“A lot of these costs we have to pay for — like Amazon fees and shipping fees and the use of the app and spreadsheets — a lot of these are fixed costs. So the larger we scale it, the bigger our profit margin.”

The pair will work with DonorsChoose.org to help teachers and schools.

Founded in 2000 by a high school teacher in the Bronx, DonorsChoose.org empowers public school teachers from across the country to request much-needed materials and experiences for their students.

“Some of the donations are matched,” Charlie said. “So there is this compounded effect that we like.”