How to Start a School-Based Business

School-based business in your special education classroom

Firstly, starting a school-based business in my special needs classroom is one of the best things that we have done so far.  If you have been following my journey over on Instagram then you have seen me launch our new business in 2020.  After much deliberation, we decided, as a class, to make homemade dog treats and it has been super fun and so easy.  If you wanted to try homemade dog treats, we used this recipe.

Beginning a school-based business for your special needs classroom is a great way to hit all of those awesome skills that your students may need extra practice with and great additions to put into the IEP. 

  • following directions
  • filling orders
  • learning social skills
  • reading skills
  • math skills
  • sequencing skills
  • following a recipe
  • kitchen safety skills
  • learning about money

Ok, so how can you get started with a school-based business?


The first thing that you want to do is to sit down with your administrator and get permission to start a school-based business.  Next, you are going to want to make sure that you iron out all the legal stuff before starting.   Then, talk about these subject areas:

                               *How you will keep track of money?
                               *How will you keep track of orders?
                               *Where will you get the start-up money?
                               *Are you allowed to accept donations?
                               *How much will you price items?
                               *How often will you sell your items?
                               *How will the profit be spent?

In other words, these are just basic things that you will want to start with, with your administration.


Here are the things that you need to start your own dog treat business, but you can make your own list if you choose to decide to make something else.
                                *dog treat cookie cutters (we used this one)
                                *dog treat molds  (here is the one we use)
                                *brown paper bags (amazon link)
                                *dog paw stamper (this is the one we used although I thought it would be bigger)
                                *ink pad for the stamper (this is the one we used)
                                *stickers (we used Avery labels)
                                *Thank you cards (cut up white card stock)
                                *A scale to weigh the treats (we used this one)
                                *Cooking supplies (i.e. rolling pin, measuring cup, bowls)

Above all, I used my own money to start this up which cost me around $100.  In addition, I have reimbursed myself after the first 2 weeks of selling these treats.   However, you could always ask for parent donations, hit up garage sales, or even go through


In addition, have your students come up with a name and a logo for your new school-based business.  I had my class vote on names and then we created a logo.  The logo goes on the stickers.


Choose who you would like to sell to.  Are you selling to staff or students, or both?  Will you open your sales to the general public? For example, will sell to the whole district or just your building?  We decided to sell to just the staff in our building at first.  

5. MONEY: 

Decide how you will keep the money and what you will be spending the money on (if you decide to earn a profit).  We will be keeping our money in an on-campus bank account where we will be able to deposit and withdraw money.  Our class will be using the profits on things like community outings, extras for the classroom, and other goodies.  You could keep the money in a locked cabinet (make sure to keep a ledger and receipts)

6.  VISUALS:   

After that, make visuals for your students to use so they can do 100% of the tasks by themselves.  Dog treats are multi-step so they have visuals for making the dough, rolling the dough, assembling the products, and product distribution.  Each part has a picture with directions.  I made sure that I had enough “jobs” that everyone can be working on this business. I wanted everyone to have a hand in it.

7.  ORDERS: 

Think about how you will be collecting orders from people.  Will you have paper order forms or digital.  We decided to use both.  We have a google form that people use and then we also have a paper that we have put into all of the staff lounges in the building.


In conclusion, make sure you decide on how you would like to market your new business to your target audience.  Our class made posters and fliers.  Fliers went into all of the teacher mailboxes and the posters are hung around the building.  We also got permission from the administration to send a weekly email with a link to the google form.  We also put a QR code on the fliers and posters to make the buying process the easiest.

Ok now that you have everything that you need to actually start the business, This is what we do during the week to prep for sale day on Fridays.

On Monday, we follow a visual recipe on the whiteboard to make the dough.  (I have included the recipe we use in the Freebie below)  This is only about 20 minutes or so.  We usually triple the recipe and put all of the dough in the fridge in baggies overnight.

On Tuesday, we give everyone some dough and a little bit of flour.  Some kids use a rolling pin and a bone-shaped cookie cutter and some kids fill the molds.   In our class, it would just depend on the ability level of each student.  Then, they will bake in the oven and get put into a storage container until Thursday.

On Wednesday, some of my students go to a local grocery store for part of our community experience and will pick up the ingredients that are needed for next week.

On Thursday, we sit all of the kids in an assembly line.  Each student gets a visual to follow.  One kid will stamp the outside of the born bags, one kid will put a thank you card in the brown bag.  Next, another student will weigh the treats (we have 3 ounces per bag) and then they will fill the bag.  After that, the next students will fold the bag and put a sticker on the bag.

On Friday, students will fill the orders.  They will count how many bags were sold and make sure that we have enough bags made.  (We usually will have leftover bags from the previous weeks)  After that, we will print out the google sheet form as an excel spreadsheet and have students write down their orders on a paper order form and staple it to the bag for distribution.  If they ordered multiple bags, they can use a large paper bag and staple the order form there.   The students will also go around the building delivering the orders and collecting the money from people.  However,  they will have to count the money and add it to the envelope.

In addition, we are still in the process of learning how to do the banking, but eventually, I will have the students make the deposits and withdrawals to get the extra life experiences that they need.

You can grab these editable order forms for the dog treats HERE or you can click on the image below.   This will open up a PowerPoint file for you to use!

You can grab this PDF for your classroom HERE!

The way we do it in my classroom typically needs about 20-30 minutes a day or you can squeeze it all into a few days for a longer period of time.  As students learn the routine, the process has become quicker and quicker.

A few extras:  I have read of other school-based businesses that offer reward cards or coupons which sound like great ideas.  We are not quite there yet and I would start the business first before offering discounts.  But still love the idea down the road.

In addition – there are some great IEP goals that you could totally align with this business! 

Are you looking for other ideas for your school-based business

Try one of these school-based business ideas!

  • coffee cart
  • smoothies
  • lemonade stand
  • homemade ice-cream
  • selling school supplies
  • soups & salad bar
  • creating and selling greeting cards
  • a snack shack


If you have any questions about starting your own School-based business, comment below, I would love to help you get started!  If you would rather email me, you can do that at [email protected]

Want to pin it for later, click the image below!!

Jobs for school-based business

When you are assigning students specific jobs on how to complete whatever business you decide to start, allow students to master that job, and then you can even move that job to an independent work system to allow for better practice, especially for students in the secondary setting. 


Data Collection

If you need data collection sheets to progress monitor their progress, I have a bunch of data collection sheets in my teachers pay teachers store.  There are over 50 sheets to choose from. 

I am a High School, self-contained Autism teacher from Central New York, who is passionate about individualizing student learning. I am a mommy of three, lover of all things Disney, married to my best friend and addicted to chocolate!! I hope that you find great ideas and inspiration here, so welcome!!

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6 Responses

  1. I have a question. I love this idea and am working on getting a business set up for my self contained classroom also. Love the dog treat idea! I have one 18-21 student who will be doing a delivery service (so lunch delivery from local restaurants, dollar store shopping, etc) for district staff. I have a logo, idea but am struggling with how the student will pay for these items and how teachers will pay student. I was thinking Venmo but not sure how that will work with the district. Thoughts?

    1. We didn’t pay the students at all. That was part of their work experience toward credits to graduate. We paid for the items out of my pocket and I reimbursed myself after selling the items. Then the profit we used for different items in the classroom. Does this help?

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