So, I have been getting a lot of questions about the last article I did detailing how to start a school. Many of you were really interested in exploring what starting your own school looks like. However, many of you were totally overwhelmed with where to start.
In this article, I will discuss five simple things that you can do now that will position you to be able to start your own school at some point in the near future. The financial investment will be small too. If you prefer, you can actually watch this video which outlines the list below.
Take these steps to start your own school
- Decide on a business structure
- Establish a business bank account
- Write a Statement of Impact
- Complete Appropriate Documents
- Brand Yourself or Your Business NOW
Now more than ever before, the government is giving incentives, grants, and loans that you don’t have to pay back to businesses in general, but particularly minority-owned businesses. That is businesses owned and run by people of color and women.
Moreover, more and more states are implementing and expanding school choice programs. These programs differ from state to state. Might I add, some states are totally against school choice but others are all in.
Nevertheless, school choice programs provide tuition for students to attend the school of their choice. That includes private schools, even small little schools like the ones I advocate teachers and parents starting.
In order to qualify for these programs, you have to have your stuff together. Don’t let that scare you. You just have to start. Even though you are not ready to start your own school tomorrow, you need to start today in order to prepare for the day you are ready.
If you wait you will not position yourself to take part in the amazing opportunities I feel will continue to be available, but make it harder to qualify for when you do start. If you meet one of those criteria (minority own business/live in a school choice state), mark my words, you will have opportunities to apply for and qualify for money to help run your school.
Let’s go! Let’s position yourself to start your own school.
Decide a Business Structure to Start Your Own School
In order to get in position, you need to have a couple of things in place, starting with a business structure. What am I talking about?
Okay, are you going to be a for-profit or nonprofit? Will you be a corporation or a partnership? Maybe limited liability will be the route for you. You have to pick at least one of those. I’ve known people to start both for-profit and nonprofit.
Nevertheless, no matter what you select, you have to do one. Because the government does not do business with individuals. The government does business with businesses be it for-profit or nonprofit. So the first thing you need to do is determine what your business structure is going to be and then file that business structure with the Secretary of State in your particular state.
I try not to give specific details about things that will differ from state to state, but I can safely say that starting a business in any state will not cost an arm and a leg. Now, if you want a 501c3, which is at the federal level, it will cost a little more. However, you can start, register and run your business without having your 501c3 in place.
Business Bank Account
Next, you have to have a business bank account. This is how you start your legitimacy and document your business history even if you are moving slowly. This step is very important.
Once you establish your business with your state, you can get that business banking account. The bank will generally ask for certain documents including business formation documents. Once you have those, the process is really easy.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You think this is going to cost a lot. Nope, it doesn’t have to at all. It might require you to do a little research and call around, but not too much more.
There are banks out there that allow you to open business accounts as low as $25. And no monthly fees. That’s right, NO monthly fees.
How do I know? Because about four years ago, I moved from one major bank that was charging me lots of fees that I could not afford. Everyone penny counts when you are a small school. A friend told me about a bank called Fidelity Bank.
I moved from the big major bank to Fidelity Bank because it gave me free checking. I didn’t even have to have any minimum amount. That was welcome news for me.
I am still rocking with that bank. Matter of fact, it has changed names. It’s no longer Fidelity Bank. It’s Ameris bank now. And I still enjoy free checking and no minimum balance amount.
I don’t know if Ameris Bank is where you are. But I am positive that there are banks out there. Sometimes finding jewels like this just requires us to one, know that they are out there and two, to go looking for them. You might just need to go into the branch and say, “Hey, I have a new business. I need a free checking account. I do not have the money to pay monthly fees at this point. What do you have for a business like mine?”
You might have to do a little legwork, but you can do it. It’s out there, trust me!
Create Your Impact Statement
You will need an impact statement. I can see it on your face, “What is that?”
Businesses use impact statements to describe how their operational activities make a difference. This statement shows how your doing business impacts the greater community/society. You are not going to get money from the government or just about anywhere else that you don’t want to pay back if all of this is to serve you.
So, particularly, we’re talking about your journey to start your own school. Think about the niche you’re going into with your school. Why are you opening up your school?
As a teacher or parent, think of the state of education right now. I know that you can write up a brief description of how your school is different from whatever private school, whatever charter school, or whatever public school is surrounding you.
Develop that impact statement of how your services are going to be different and for the greater good of your community.
Complete Appropriate Documents
When the time comes, complete the necessary paperwork. It could be tax forms. Monthly or yearly statement balances, whatever do it. It doesn’t matter how much business you’ve been doing. Trust me!
I tell you guys ALL the time that because you guys are following me on this journey, you get to bypass some of the mistakes that I made. And there were many! But learn from my mistakes. I share them often.
I actually had a nonprofit probably about 10 years ago, and I’ve only had my school for seven years. When I first established my nonprofit it was a mentoring program only. I eventually expanded into the school. Nevertheless, I actively had a nonprofit that I worked hard to run with very little money and poor record keeping.
Because I didn’t have a lot of money in my account, I made the mistake of not filing my taxes. I said, “Surely the government doesn’t want to know about how I spent this lousy $100.”
Guess what? They did! Who knew I still had to say, “Hey, all I had was a lousy $100.”
I don’t remember the name of the form. But I do remember it was just a postcard that all I had to do was check a box that said, I only had this much money or less for the entire year, and sign it. I didn’t even have to put a stamp on it. It was pre-stamped.
Guess what? I did not do it. And it put me at risk of getting my nonprofit yanked. Well, it did get yanked. But thankfully they gave it back once I did a few things.
I was able to say, “We’re so poor, I don’t have enough money to go and hire all of these people who know all this information about running a nonprofit.”
Well, I didn’t state it just like that, but I essentially said the same thing. But to be honest, I did not know. I was forgiven. But, I never missed filing from that day since.
So you need to file your income taxes, no matter how much money you have, or how much business you do. Because a lot of times when you’re applying for grants, or these types of loans that you will be given, they want to see some financial statements and business history. So a little bit is better than none. Go ahead and file your taxes and keep up with your balance statements.
Brand Yourself and/or Your Business NOW
Work on your branding now. This will be the hardest of them all for some of you. Why? FEAR!!
For some reason, people don’t think of a school as a business. Everything a “traditional” business needs to do, i.e. marketing, educating, connecting, is the same thing you will have to do. You can’t expect to develop a school all in silence and then one day just say we are open for business.
No one knows you. They don’t know that you can deliver on what you are presenting. They didn’t even know you were starting your own school.
Your brand is so important. Since you will be such a small school you are selling yourself just as much as you are selling the idea of your school.
I can understand that you may not want to forecast this too early, especially if you are still working for a district. However, you can certainly work on establishing the fact that you are an expert. And you are an expert.
You can simply start with social media to help further establish that you are the expert. Simply select the platform where most of your ideal clients are or will come from. Start giving helpful information. Share your why.
Build trust now and when it’s time for you to step out, you will not be a total stranger. In fact, you may want to start tutoring a few kids and maybe host some type of summer program (it doesn’t have to be for the entire summer). This will give parents the opportunity to experience the value that you can bring to their children.
Wrap-up to Start Your Own School
In this article, I’ve discussed the following five steps you can take to start your own school, which include:
- Decide on a business structure
- Establish a business bank account
- Statement of Impact
- Complete appropriate documents
- Brand yourself or your business NOW
I hope I’ve delivered on my promise of being clear on where and how to start your journey to starting your own school. Starting my own school has been the most rewarding thing I’ve done other than being a wife and mother. Now I consider it a blessing to show other teachers and parents how to start schools of their own. If you haven’t read more about how to do that here.
Blessings on your journey!
If you are new here, my name is Cindy Lumpkin. I am a special education teacher who started her own school. So if you’re looking for inspiration on how to start your own school, you’re in the right place. Consider signing up for my newsletter here.
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If you have more questions on how to start a school make sure you read this article. If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to leave them below. Your questions and engagement are often how I come up with what content to write about. You can always count on me to be upfront and honest about my journey. I actually believe in this movement of teachers starting and running their own small schools so much, which is why I provide so much free content. I believe that there is enough room for all of us and there are so many children that need the brave teachers who step out to start their own schools.