Alison Smith, an educator at La Salle Springs Middle School in Wildwood, MO, inherited 3 EdCorps this year. Lucky for us, she was up to the challenge. Alison curated each student-run business according to to the students in her classroom and ended up with two very different businesses, and one more on the way. Just for you sell products like themed fuzzy socks and scrunchies, while Instant Fidget has different designs of fidgets. Here are Alison’s Top 5 Tips for running an EdCorp.
Ask for help
Reaching out to business leaders in our community was one of the most beneficial things we did as a class. It was instrumental for the students, but it was also a great learning moment for the professionals, and myself. They helped us kick things off by sharing their own entrepreneurial stories and acting as mentors to the students. They also sat on our Board of Advisors to offer advice and feedback on our business process and decisions.
In addition to business professionals, look within your school hallways. For fast feedback and iteration, we surveyed our school community in order to make improvements to products and marketing.
Every classroom and experience is different. There is no way to make directions that solve everything for everyone So, get others involved in your business and ask for help when you need it!
Use the Toolkits (and celebrate them)
With no prior business teaching experience, I used the toolkits to guide my business development. I read through all of them, put them in an order that worked for us, and assigned teams of students to toolkits. We started by doing a few together, such as mission statement, and product development, as they were necessary for buy-in. The benefits of toolkits are threefold:
- I had a structure to research and develop lessons
- Students were held accountable
- We earned money
Turning in toolkits is a big deal in our classroom. I created school-based awards for the kids that were celebrated at lunch and in the hallway acknowledging their hard work. I announced each completed toolkit and the cash earnings, which makes the kids glow with pride. To top it all off, I am investing in a gong to heighten the celebration.
Turn it over to the kids
Let the students make every decision, problem-solve through each challenge, and decide how to improve the business. At times you might need to provide a framework for the discussion or decision making, but give as much of that to them as you can.
The students decided they wanted to do a “New Year” promotion focused on donating physical products to a charity, along with a monetary donation. They created a campaign called “Games for a Great Cause.” It was a checkerboard and for each row of boxes filled, we would donate one board game to the local hospital. They were so proud of their idea and loved picking out what games we would purchase!
Trial and Error
Before we figured out our product designs, there was so much trial and error, I thought we would never have working products. During this time the kids learned patience, brainstorming skills, flexibility, and determination. Ultimately, we developed products that sold, but the kids are constantly thinking about ways to improve them, which is key for any successful business.
Remember there is always a next time!
After surviving many firsts with our businesses, there are so many things I have made a note to do next time. Between things the class didn’t even get to, things we can improve upon, and brand new approaches, there is always something to work on. The biggest difference, is now I have the confidence, understanding, and foresight I lacked the first time around.
Being new to the EdCorps Community this year, I have learned so much about entrepreneurialism and business. I have loved this experience as a teacher and for my students. It is an awesome, realistic, project-based learning adventure. I cannot wait to see what my students decide to create!