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The QUEST for Capital: Desktop Publishing Is 'Big Business'

Technology Center

Through a project called QUEST Graphics, Susan Seagraves's gifted students developed their computer skills and business knowledge as they raised money to purchase new technology for their school. The kids loved their role as miniature managers! Seagraves shares her experiences and explains how any classroom can become a booming card factory. Included: Tips for teachers and student publishing entrepreneurs!

Susan Seagraves and her students at the QUEST Enrichment Center turned their classroom computers into a thriving publishing business. The business -- QUEST Graphics -- netted nearly $5,000 in profits in each year of its operation!

The Quest Center, part of Dannelly School in Montgomery, Alabama, is a countywide program for gifted K-6 students. For five years, students there participated in a program in which they designed and marketed personalized note cards, business cards, and gift enclosure cards to raise money for new technology for the school, lead teacher Seagraves explains.

These sixth graders were among the employees of QUEST Graphics, a student-run business at the QUEST Enrichment Center in Montgomery, Alabama. (Photo courtesy of Susan Seagraves)

"QUEST Graphics is like a fund-raiser and class business combined," explains Sam S., a student in Seagraves's QUEST Class last year. "We took orders for gift cards and note cards -- and then made them using the computers in our classroom. I did everything -- selling, wrapping, and making cards."

"Our business worked so well," agrees student Johnson N. "I made cards on the computer, did selling and wrapping, and delivered cards to people who had ordered them. Projects like QUEST Graphics are really fun to do -- and you learn how to run a business."

"The kids learned a lot from QUEST Graphics," confirms Seagraves. In addition to learning how to run a small business and raise needed funds, QUEST Graphics offered many opportunities to teach content skills. "We did lots of neat things -- like figure out which designs were our biggest sellers and which font was the most popular. The kids even had to learn to figure a percentage of the overhead to include print jobs that needed to be redone when we made a printing mistake," Seagraves says.

Tools of the Trade

You can establish a desktop publishing business too. All you need, according to Susan Seagraves, are a few simple tools:
* computer with a desktop publishing program
* computer graphics (with permission for use if products will be sold)
* paper cutter
* card stock
* invitation envelopes
* wrapping supplies
* catalog showing the styles of cards for sale
* order forms
* computer printer


Each September, Seagraves's students designed the cards, assembled a catalog, and created samples showing how the cards could be personalized.

"The students created about 40 different designs," many with such themes as baseball, dinosaurs, and clowns, explains Seagraves. "We printed the designs and laminated the catalog pages for each student. The pages were put in a folder along with order forms."

QUEST Graphics sold gift enclosure cards in groups of 25 for $5.00. Ten note cards or postcards sold for the same price. The cost to the business was about $1.00 for each set of gift enclosure cards and $1.80 for each set of note cards, so the profit margin was excellent. Each year, students sold the products from October through the second week in December.

In addition to designing, selling, and manufacturing the cards, the students also packaged their products -- in cellophane with lots of curling ribbon!

"We would create the cards in the morning, and the printer would just print all day," Seagraves tells Education World. "I would cut the cards at night or during my planning period, and the students would wrap them. We tried to fill all orders within a week, although by December, orders were so heavy that it was taking 10 days -- and we were working before and after school too! We had people who would order as many as 20 sets of cards!"


The students who were part of QUEST Graphics were enthusiastic employees.

"It was really fun to use the software to make the cards," says Sam S. "It surprised me that we were able to sell so many cards and that people liked them so much."

Michael M. says, "I was a salesman. It's fun to sell. You've got to be patient, and you've got to know your product. I thought it would be really hard, but it was easy."

"I mostly did selling for QUEST Graphics. It's fun and I enjoyed doing it. You make lots of money," notes James B.

The kids helped decide what to buy with the business profits, Seagraves tells Education World. "There was really no argument about what we wanted. We bought a new computer, a professional printer, and software for our classroom."

Seagraves and her students did not participate in QUEST Graphics this year because of an overwhelming enrollment. But, she says, "I think this is a wonderful way to make money for a classroom."

"The first year a teacher does this project, I would suggest a starting budget of about $300 -- to purchase supplies to make the catalogs and to buy graphics and the paper cutter," Seagraves advises. "If orders are prepaid, additional supplies can be purchased as needed."

Cutting the cards proved one of the most time-consuming tasks of the entire project, adds Seagraves. Precision cutting and a steady hand are necessary, as well as patience and a good eye.

Seagraves offers a few more tips for teachers who might want to start up a classroom publishing business such as QUEST Graphics:

  • Be familiar with the software programs you use to create the cards.
  • Create several designs to use as samples for the students.
  • Laminate the catalog pages so that they can be used year after year.
  • Buy materials in bulk whenever possible.
  • Get the local newspaper to do an article on your business. It helps sales!
  • Put a tag on your wrapped product, identifying your class as the designer and creator of the cards. People will call to order more!
  • Start early in the year so your catalog is complete in time for Christmas sales.
  • Reserve some money at the end of the project as the start-up fund for the next year.


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Article by Cara Bafile
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