Entrepreneurship Activity: Build a Class Business with Etsy
Using Etsy.com is a great way to get a small business going. The site charges minimal fees and offers many options in terms of payments. Users find that with some social media marketing and the right idea, they can make quite a bit of cash in no more time than it takes to maintain a hobby.
In this activity, you and your grade 9-12 students will become small business owners on Etsy.
- Before you begin, gain the approval of your administrator and determine the budget you’ll have to work with. As schools typically won’t have much funding available for this type of project, you might look to a crowdfunding site or a PTO/PTA fundraiser to raise a little seed money. You’ll also have to decide how any profits will be spent. (For example, will they go into the general school activities fund, or will kids be able to spend it on a class trip, gadget for the classroom, etc.?)
- Consider doing the project across your grade to increase the number of helping hands, as well as your potential profits.
- Plan a timetable and set appropriate expectations—don’t expect a runaway success overnight. (The most realistic project would likely be a year-long experience.)
- Think about whether student tasks can be done within the constraints of the school day, or whether some students might be able to put in extra time as part of an after-school club. Recruit parent volunteers as needed (parents who are “crafty” or who already sell on Etsy would be ideal).
- Look through the site’s sections to get an idea of what’s being sold. Etsy’s sections include art, home and living, jewelry, women, men, kids, vintage, wedding, craft supplies, trading items, seasonal items, gifts ideas and mobile accessories. The many creative ideas here can inspire and guide your process. Have students identify what’s successful and think about how they can expand upon or innovate based on those products.
- Ask students to think of ideas or questions regarding the type of product they aspire to produce. Write and draw all of the brainstormed ideas on a whiteboard. As a class or grade, narrow down the ideas and decide on a final product or products. Estimate the time needed to produce a given number of these products, and determine how many volunteers you may need to recruit. Decide on a price point that covers supply costs and makes a little profit.
- It’s probably wise to consider crafty projects, but don’t limit yourself to them. Vintage items are also acceptable as products, and they can help reduce classroom clutter. Students can even ask parents for items from home. If you will be making products, ensure that any needed supplies are within budget. Also determine what you’ll need to charge for shipping in order to recoup the cost of postage and packing materials.
- Agree upon a business name. The teacher will need to register on Etsy; simply use Facebook or an email to sign up.
- Once the first set of products is complete, have students take photos, write product descriptions and finalize pricing.
- The teacher will create the shop. Remember to keep thing simple—don’t overwhelm costumers with too many options. If you want to change up your inventory, plan to do it in waves, and offer sales on older items.
- Explain to students that businesses have team members who work together to make their enterprise a success. Then split your class or grade into two groups. One will handle product design and production, and the other will tackle marketing and packing orders for shipping. As the teacher/CEO, you will be the one to log into the site, handle all finances and arrange shipping (consider setting up an online account that allows you to print postage-paid labels at school). Determine how student time will be blocked out during and/or after the school day, in order to accommodate these activities.
- As one team creates the product, the other will find ways to spread the news, including developing marketing materials and identifying the type of customers you’re aiming to reach. Marketing materials can include paper flyers to send home with students and post in school hallways or other locations in the community, e-flyers to send out to parents via email, announcements to be read over the PA system and sent to parents via the school’s alert system, and messages to be shared in the school newsletter and via the school’s (and students’) social media accounts.
- Give students regular reports on costs incurred, items sold and profits made. Celebrate your successes.
- Have students keep a paper or electronic journal, reflecting and writing about the process of developing and running a business.
Helpful (Free) Tools
- PicMonkey - Use to develop visual ads for the campaign.
- Twitter - Use for outreach and for finding a niche audience for your product.
- Pinterest – Use for outreach, emphasizing the visual element of the campaign.
- Sketch n Paint- Use to develop product-idea sketches or outlines that can be sent easily via email.
- Tumblr – Use to blog about the process, from product development to your first sale and beyond. Display test ads and other marketing materials.
Article by Jason Papallo, Education World Social Media Editor
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