How to turn students into entrepreneurs

When her students started their own floral business, they developed career skills and earned industry certification

At Gridley High School in California, we’ve built a self-sustaining floral design program that teaches students valuable career skills and gives them a chance to earn industry certification, which is endorsed by the Benz School of Floral Design and delivered through online curriculum provider iCEV. What’s more, we support the program through a student-run floral business in which program participants are also learning important entrepreneurial skills.

The program began three years ago, when I was hired as an agriculture teacher. Our school is located in a rural area that is heavily dependent on farming, and our administration at the time had a vision for creating a floral design program that would allow students to complete a career pathway in horticulture.

An idea takes root

A key challenge in sustaining such a program is that the materials can be costly. Unlike wood, metal, or other materials, flowers have a very short shelf life. We have to buy new flowers for students to work with every 10 days or so.

We began with a very minimal budget of $3,500 to buy knives, clippers, and some initial supplies. To raise money for the supplies we would need throughout the school year, I borrowed an idea from my cooperating teacher when I was student teaching: I invited students to sell memberships to a monthly floral club.

For $250 per year, club members receive a fresh floral arrangement each month for nine months, which works out to just over $27 per monthly arrangement. For an additional $5 per arrangement, students will deliver the flowers to a local address.

The floral club works out very well for us. Because these arrangements are pre-sold, I can order new flowers and have them on hand as we need them. With about 50 subscribers to the club each year, this gives us $12,000 in our floral account at the beginning of each school year to buy flowers.
To keep the program sustainable, we try to limit the actual cost of the arrangements to around $20, so each month we’re making an extra $7 per arrangement—which we can roll back into more supplies.

(Next page: How students developed career skills as they became entrepreneurs)

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