Types of Classroom Businesses
At a Glance
Diverse Business Models: Explore five distinct classroom business frameworks, each catering to different student goals and responsibilities.
Tailored Product Ideas: From order-delivery to pop-up shops, discover specific product suggestions for each business type.
Future Insights: Stay tuned for part 3, focusing on gauging classroom interests and aligning them with the perfect business model.
Welcome back to our ongoing series on creating a classroom business, where we are taking a look at a classic classroom project through the lens of meeting student goals.
In part 1 of this series we looked at some of the reasons why students might benefit from a classroom business and also briefly touched upon how the goals that resonate with your class might help to inform what type of business is the best fit for your classroom.
In part 2 we are going to go over some potential business ideas, but in a slightly different way than you might be accustomed to.
Rather than create a big list of potential products your class could create, we are sharing 5 broad logistical categories that a classroom business might take, the level of responsibility and involvement it might entail, and a few ideas for products that could be sold under that framework. In that sense, the list of ideas is by no means exhaustive - if you have a creative idea for a product to fit one of these categories then you should go for it!
As with part 1 of our series, our goal is to spur thinking from the standpoint of what kinds of responsibilities you think your class can take on, where you might be willing to fill some gaps, and some products that could fit in that framework. If your heart is set on selling a specific product that is great, and this list may be more helpful in figuring out how to set up your business around a particular product or where your class goals and the product’s production needs might clash.
If you are not yet sure or are agnostic toward what type of product might feature in your business, stay tuned for part 3 where we will go more in depth about surveying class interests. But for now let’s dive into some basic classroom business models.
1. Order, Delivery
Perhaps the most classic mode of classroom business, order and delivery tends to revolve around students taking orders for a product made by another company, which are then delivered after all the orders have been collected.
A classic example of this model is Girl Scout cookies, but it can be great for any classroom that wants to focus on social and microenterprise skills around talking to potential customers and trying to make sales. It also heavily features managing the logistics of the business, ensuring all orders are filled and that there are no issues.
There doesn’t tend to be an inherent routine built into these businesses, which could be a negative if establishing routines is part of your classroom goals but can be positive if you want to hone in on the aforementioned enterprise skills or on keeping track of inventory, cash flow, and total costs.
As a general rule this type of business might do an order run a few times a year at most or risk diminishing returns on effort and investment.
- Krispy Kreme Doughnuts
- Special holiday products
- School-branded merchandise
- Special event branded merchandise
2. Order, Production, Delivery
This form of business has many similar features to the one above, with the primary difference being that the featured product is something made by your students based on the number of orders you receive.
In addition to the benefits of selling and making sure orders are fulfilled, students can practice executive functioning by determining how long it takes to make a given product and how to subsequently plan out the production to hit a particular deadline.
If you feel comfortable adding to the complexity, and depending on your product, your students interested in tracking cash flow may also be interested in calculating the cost of production materials, net overall “profits,” and even the “profit” per unit of sale.
As the teacher, it can be a good idea to do some estimation during your own planning phase to determine the outer limit of what is realistic for this project to remain a fun component of the classroom experience and not an overwhelming slog.
Remember, you can always decide when it is time to stop taking orders! It can also be a good idea to focus on things that can be completed in the classroom to avoid the complication of having to track production across several households at once!
- Holiday ornaments
- No-bake treats such as microwave fudge, candy bark, or rice cereal squares
- Decorated picture frames
- Custom Valentine’s Day cards
- Tie-dye clothing
3. Daily or Weekly Order Fulfillment
Daily or weekly order fulfillment marries the fulfillment component of the previous two options with the routine-building component that can come with a business that has more regular hours of operation.
While some small degree of salesmanship may still feature in such a business, because it is a more regular and routine business much of the work will be in ensuring that orders are filled on time. Students can play an active role in producing a product like tea or coffee or focus more on tracking sales and inventory with products like pre-packaged candy.
Whatever product you choose, the important thing is to have a plan of action for making sure you have all you need to run each period of order fulfillment smoothly, and to be able to replicate it day over day or week over week.
As a teacher you can offer some basic outlines on how to achieve such a routine or offer students a list of objectives that have to be completed and work together on how to meet those objectives consistently.
In a similar vein because it is a more regular and routine business this type of project lends itself best to more regular and routine items such as coffee, tea, or treats. You may find the opportunity to customize for specific seasons or holidays - or perhaps only run during those special designated times - but either way the items for sale in such a business should be relatively easy to order and enjoy right away.
- Hot drinks - tea, coffee
- Seasonal hot drinks - cider, cocoa
- Prepared breakfast foods - oatmeal, yogurt and granola
- Pre-packaged breakfast foods - cereal bars, granola bars, pastries
- Prepared lunch items - sandwiches
- Pre-packaged snack items - chips, candy
4. Hours of Active Operation
This business model tends to include a specific location where students do business at a set time and all the responsibilities that may entail. Students may be responsible for a wide range of responsibilities from set up and clean up to customer interaction to handling transactions to tracking inventory and cash flow.
A business with hours of operation also implies a degree of routine, and you and students can work together in the planning stage on what steps will need to be taken to ensure that hours of operation run smoothly. A set business like this also tends to imply a slightly wider range of stock than just one item, and it can also be a fun component of the planning process for students to decide what they want in their shop!
Likewise if you are interested in buying a special machine for making a fun product (such as a popcorn maker) this can be the perfect time to put it to supervised use and to set the routine for ensuring its safe operation. Just remember early on that this is one of the more involved projects and that if something slips through the cracks during the planning process you will probably have to fill that gap yourself.
- Prepackaged food items
- Bake sale style items
- School memorabilia
- Holiday themed products
5. Pop Up Shop
If you like the idea of establishing processes for students to follow in setting up and breaking down a business operation, tracking inventory, and calculating cash flow but don’t necessarily like the pressure of a consistent routine, then a pop up shop might be right up your alley!
Pop up shops can be even more complicated than static locations that have hours of operation as you may need to set everything up from scratch, but the upside is that you have a lot of control over when and even where you want to operate. Want to set up a table at a local sporting event? Great! Make special treats for field day? Awesome! As long as you can establish the process by which it happens and delegate effectively, you can make it happen!
As a general rule when it comes to pop up shops it helps to focus on products that are either shelf-stable or can be very easily procured or ordered ahead for the day they are needed.
- Krispy Kreme doughnuts
- Prepackaged food items
- School memorabilia
- Homemade easy assembly meal items
We hope that this framing of potential business models has spurred some thinking as to what might be the best fit for your classroom and some ways that you can bring your own or your classroom’s own unique twist to some of these classic models.
If you are still undecided on what type of product or business model you might like to use, stay tuned for part 3 where we will talk about gauging your classroom for interest in different ideas and how to carry those forward into the model you think would be the best fit.
In the meantime, if you want to share your own experiences or request another topic for future blog posts, you can always drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.