Starting a For-Profit After School Program?

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by Peregrin5, Oct 30, 2016.

  1. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Oct 30, 2016

    As I'm thinking about leaving teaching next year, I have some plans on how to utilize my teaching experience, particularly in teaching STEM, and connecting it to the education that I'm pursuing as an electrical engineer.

    One of my pet ideas that I've had for a while is starting a for-profit enrichment after school program leading kids in engaging in engineering and science activities. I've never done something like this before and I imagine it would be akin to starting a new small business (which I've always wanted to try). The for-profit part is mainly to maintain all the costs associated with purchasing materials, and possibly giving me a small amount of income while I'm attending school. Possibly for field trips as well.

    I plan on developing some really cool and engaging curriculum that centers around large projects such as launching a satellite (or something analogous to that), building robots and electronic inventions, and possibly drones. which would include aspects of electrical engineering, software engineering, and science and math concepts. This will be in the heart of a major city. Since I'll be attending university as an engineering student I will be creating connections with other engineering students, and professors who might be interested in coming to speak as mentors, possibly companies who might be interested in hosting field trips, and maybe even new teacher candidates interested in getting experience with students in an after school setting. But first I think I'd just start small with myself and a few students at a school willing to host us (or maybe a community center).

    I am wondering if anyone has had any experience doing anything like this? What are some challenges and obstacles I will face? Any ideas and thoughts as to the viability of this venture?
     
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  3. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    That would be interesting, but I was thinking of starting my own afterschool program rather than work with one that already exists. I've been a robotics club advisor in the past, and while it was interesting, it was lacking a lot of things. In addition, I've worked with afterschool engineering programs in the past and got some insight into how they operate, and I always thought it would be interesting to start one.
     
  4. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    I've taught very basic coding skills to middle schoolers using things such as Code.org, but started getting into teaching them to code Arduinos and in Python. I myself know only a very small amount of Python and Javascript. A makerspace can actually be for-profit I think, as the one near us charges a monthly fee. Or maybe I'm not using the terms for-profit, and non-profit correctly. I essentially want to charge some fee just to help the program stay afloat and provide me with a wage of some sort but I remember getting wages at the non-profit afterschool programs I worked at. So I'm not really sure...

    My current project ideas are having students build a high altitude balloon with different microcontroller trackers and sensors which would emulate a satellite launch, and we'd track it down as it flies. This could be extended to building real microsatellites which can be launched into space via certain programs that allow student built satellites to be launched. I also wanted to get kids into building and programming drones, and I've developed some curriculum on doing basic Arduino stuff, and have created kits (though a shutdown of one of the companies I relied on for an online Arduino IDE that works with knock-off Arduino Nanos and Chromebooks has thrown a wrench into my cogs).
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2016
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  5. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    Yes I am! So I guess it would be a non-profit then. For some reason I was under the assumption that non-profits meant you couldn't charge anything.

    And yes, I really liked teaching Python, and the kids actually preferred it to the block coding also.
     
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  6. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    As far as logistics, I know that here, non-profits are charged a different rate than for-profits are for renting facilities in schools and community buildings.
     
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  7. TeacherNY

    TeacherNY Phenom

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    Are you planning on making a living from this venture or have another job during school hours (even if it's not teaching). I would say it would be interesting to do but you might not be able to support yourself due to overhead, kids dropping out, etc.
     
  8. mollydoll

    mollydoll Connoisseur

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    I get a lot for stuff from sparkfun.com. They have great education resources and give a teacher discount.

    I haven't used arduino is any lessons yet. I'm trying to come up with some quick ideas for an adaptive physics (no math) class.
     
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  9. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    I'm going to be a student at this time. Some days of the week if I don't have classes on those days I'll be subbing. Otherwise I intend to work after my classes as a tutor if I don't do this thing. Mostly I'll be living off of savings and relying on my partner. This is kind of a pipe-dream kind of thing though. If it takes off it takes off, and if it doesn't it doesn't.
     
  10. mathteachertobe

    mathteachertobe Cohort

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    Non-profits are allowed to charge fees for services, as well as have salaried employees. You definitely want to be a non-profit.
     
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  11. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    Weighing in a bit here as I've been in the nonprofit/private sector for a while now. Previous comments about nonprofit vs for-profit are correct in that there is essentially no difference between the two from an operational perspective. Both can run programs, collect fees, hire employees, etc. There is a difference in terms of what you take in - for-profits wouldn't qualify for most grants or donations, and you may face more resistance to things like donated space, though it's not impossible.

    There's also a difference in terms of what happens when the money comes in - not just as a nonprofit vs for-profit, but depending on the legal structure of the business. LLCs are taxed differently than S- or C-corps, for example. With corporations (S/C), you'd basically face double taxation - the business would assessed an income tax, then you'd have to pay personal income tax on what you make. As an LLC, the business itself would pay no taxes as the government would essentially consider that income to be "personal" - thus you're only taxed once at the personal level.

    This is relevant because nonprofits are a heck of a lot more complicated and burdensome to start, from maintaining a Board with bylaws to filing additional tax returns and paying additional fees. If you're simply going to start this project as something to do on the side for a few years, and are only going to get your revenue from program fees (as opposed to donations & grants), it may be vastly more simple to just start an LLC and operate a "community program." There's nothing to say that businesses can't be community focused and provide programs & services.

    In terms of the program model, I'd start with some exploratory conversations (and web searches) of other programs in your city. What else is being offered? STEM/STEAM is quite popular right now, and it's entirely possible that there are other programs already up and running. What would make yours different? In short, do market research to determine if there's a need for what you want to do, and how you might structure your program differently. In the process, you might just happen to secure some informal commitments or letters of interest for when you start your program, while avoiding having to go on sales calls.

    You might also do a quick budget and assess the financial feasibility of it all - STEM may get expensive. Will your program fees cover the costs of that, space rental, transportation, salaries, etc.? How many kids will you need in the group to break even or glean a margin? How many kids can be in each group before things get to big, and how does that impact costs?

    Just some things to chew on ;)
     
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  12. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    I knew I could count on you Ed! Thanks for the amazing clarification and advice. I will look into all of that.
     
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  13. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

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    I'm sure your program will be something else!
     
  14. Learning Hypothesis

    Learning Hypothesis Rookie

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    You might also consider reaching out to the homeschool community and teaching courses in tutorials. That would expand your customer base.
     

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