Why student entrepreneurs are working in a downtown storefront in the mortuary building 

School entrepreneurship classes that don’t involve real businesses aren’t really entrepreneurship, are they? I loved the real-world projects Natalie Clark told me about in Stafford, Kansas, pop 1,200. 

Their entrepreneurship classes are held at the SEED Center in a storefront downtown. Actually, it’s in an unused space in the front of the mortuary, a great example of multiple businesses sharing a single space. 

Around 20 students operate their own businesses and work on real-world business projects. Each student has their own desk and workspace, and the whole group shares equipment like a screenprinter, a direct-to-garment printer, and a laser engraver.

They’ve used the equipment to print t-shirts for a nonprofit group, tote bags for a local flour mill to sell in their online store, and dozens more business projects. Kids are learning how to greet and serve customers in person and on the phone, setting up professional service agreements for each project, and managing all aspects of their own businesses. 

You may think those t-shirts or tote bags are small projects, but it’s small steps like those that build the skills to handle bigger projects. 

One of those big projects was launching a new commercial product in a cooperative venture with the flour mill and the student-run kitchen at the school. Students used surveys to find out what flour products schools in Kansas actually use and what they use them for. Turns out they make a lot of bread rolls. So the student kitchen and the flour mill created and tested a special blend for making rolls. The marketing students developed the labels. (“Kid tested, kid approved!”) Students marketed it to schools and food service companies. And the students received a small royalty on each bag of the flour blend sold. 

But it wasn’t about the money. It was about involving young people in real local businesses. The goal of the SEED Center is to give students entrepreneurial skills they can use as business owners or employees, and be able to remain in or return to Stafford and thrive. 

Keep shaping the future of your town, 

PS –  Youth is our webinar topic this month. The lesson is available now and you still have time to join the live Q&A this Tuesday July 24. Join us for Attracting and Retaining Youth