Saturday, March 18, 2017

Starting a Classroom Business in a Special Education Classroom

It's a fact, many classrooms are underfunded and it's EXPENSIVE to run a classroom! So, why not start a classroom business? A classroom business is a great way to teach students important functional AND academic skills that will help them for the rest of their lives and can also avoid taking money out of your own pocket for your classroom. 

I have numerous teacher friends who run coffee shops in their classrooms, but I just wasn't super interested in opening a coffee shop in our classroom... Mostly because there's a coffee shop right across the street from our school and I didn't want to have to commit to opening up shop to sell coffee at the same time every day/ once a week. 

Our story:
In December 2013, our class made a piñata to celebrate Las Posadas. Since I always seem to have super creative paraprofessionals, our piñata turned out beautifully! When teachers at our school saw how pretty our piñata turned out, they started asking us to make one for their classrooms. After a few requests by staff and parents in our school, our classroom team had the idea to try to turn it into a business... and that's how Exceptional Piñatas was created! Along the way, we kind of go through busy and slow spurts... we will make 10 piñatas one month and then 1 the next month, and we are okay with that! If kids or staff are feeling a little burned out (it's happened, trust me) of making piñatas, then we take a break and slow the business down for a few weeks. Typically, we make piñatas based on the season or an upcoming holiday, and then parents, teachers, or community members can buy the piñatas we have created. However, we will also take special orders and are always willing to create something specific for a customer. 

A few tips for starting a classroom business:
1) Think about demand in your school and/ or community
Is there a cheap coffee shop right across the street from your school? Then don't open a coffee shop. Is there a weekly student store ran by the PTA that sells popcorn? Then don't open a classroom store selling popcorn. Think about about the goods/ services that people at your school might want and try to cater to that! It's also important to think about the time/ money you will need to put into the goods versus how much money you will make. Thankfully piñatas are just newspaper (free), watered-down glue and tissue paper (both pretty cheap) and don't take too much time/ work, so we make a pretty good profit. 

2) Talk to your principal
It's super important to talk to your principal about your business plan before getting started. Make sure your principal is on board with t he idea and talk about the incoming money before you start! A few questions to ask: Can the income go directly to your classroom funds/account? Do you need to open a bank account just for your business? Do you need to submit the money to your school secretary or can you just keep the money in a save place? What about tax info? 

There are some AMAZING things about having a classroom business. It gives you money to spend in your classroom! So you can stop opening your wallet to buy glue sticks, Velcro and food for cooking lessons. It can give you the freedom to cook more in your classroom, to go on more field trips, to hire special speakers to come to your classroom and SO much more! A classroom business is also a great opportunity to teach kiddos about money math, budgeting and giving back to the community! Students get paid for working for the company and then get to spend their money when we go to gas stations or the grocery store. We also teach our students the importance of donating money. We have donated money to our PE teacher to raise money for a 5k she was putting together. We have also used our money to purchase and then sell breast cancer awareness bracelets to raise money for a teacher at our school fighting breast cancer. 

If you want to see and hear more, click the picture to check out our Facebook page ;)

Do you run a classroom business that is out of the ordinary? I'd love to hear more about how other classroom businesses are run! Let me know if you have any questions about our business! I left a lot of info out of this post about our business, but I'm more than happy to write more about it.


  1. Can you share more about what your students do for this project/business? I LOVE the idea, but don't know much about making fancy pinatas and am curious as to which steps students help with and which steps staff do.

    1. Hi Erin! The roles our students play change a big year to year. For the most part, our kiddos do the first step (the paper mache part) and the staff decorate the pinatas. However, our first year "open" we had 2 kiddos who had great fine motor skills and they helped us decorate too! Other jobs our students have are promoting our business by hanging our business fliers around the school and community (in coffee shops, at movie theaters, etc.), taking pinata orders (we have a simple order form and kiddos can just circle what the customer wants), and collecting and managing the money (with some help/ prompting). Let me know if you have any other more specific questions!

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