School-Based Enterprise: Definition & Goals

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

School-based enterprises can be a great learning tool for students to gain real-world experience. In this lesson, you'll learn about school-based enterprises, their goals and advantages, and how they incorporate marketing into the process.

The Business of High School

Imagine your high school days. Most of them were probably spent going to football games, hanging out with your friends and completing homework assignments. Maybe you had a part-time job at a local restaurant, grocery store, or the mall.

How would you have liked to work IN your school? In a business designed by students, run and operated by students, for the benefits of the students? Sounds pretty cool, right? Many schools today offer such a program, called a school-based enterprise that provides students with real-world work experience in a hands-on learning environment, all while having a little fun along the way.

What Is School-Based Enterprise?

A school-based enterprise, sometimes abbreviated SBE, is a hands-on learning environment and an entrepreneurial operation located in a school setting. The purpose of a school-based enterprise is to identify, create, and sell goods or services that meet the needs of the specified market or target audience.

School-based enterprises operate much like a small business would, in that they identify a need and a target market, establish and write a business plan, make or acquire inventory, engage in marketing of their products or enterprise, and sell the goods or services to generate revenue.

The beauty of an enterprise based in a school is that it serves a two-fold purpose.

  1. It offers a realistic work environment with real-world skills and work experience for students later entering trade school, college or the workforce.
  2. It fills a need in the marketplace for whatever type of goods or services the enterprise has chosen to market and sell.

Typically, school-based enterprises fall into one of two categories of goods and services: retail or food service. Retail options might include selling products ranging from school supplies to school-themed apparel, whereas food operations are just what they sound like: snack or coffee shops, small cafes, or convenience store-type food products.

Goals and Advantages

There are a multitude of goals and advantages behind a school-based enterprise. Let's look at a few from various perspectives:


For students, advantages include:

  • Job interview experience
  • Hands-on learning
  • Work-based experience in all aspects of a business (inventory, marketing, accounting and more)
  • Tailored classroom education that integrates with the work experience
  • Interpersonal skills such as stronger communication, self-confidence and problem-solving
  • Revenue to support special projects or school programs
  • Pre-employment training that prepares students for the workforce


For consumers, advantages include:

  • Incentive to contribute to the success of a student-run program
  • Availability of goods frequently cheaper than outside stores and businesses
  • Access to goods or services not previously available

Businesses that the school-based enterprise chooses to partner with, such as food vendors, also stand to benefit because of the sales of their products and increased brand awareness among a targeted audience.

Incorporating Marketing

Just as in regular business, school-based enterprises must understand how to incorporate marketing into their business plan. It begins with deciphering a need that can be filled and who your target audience is (things like age, where they shop, buying habits, wants and opinions), and then putting together products or services that appeal to that group.

There is research that can be conducted to learn more about customers, the competition (if any), business operations, products, and sales. Because the enterprise is based in a school, there is a natural audience for conducting research such as surveys, product testing, and focus groups where ideas and opinions are gathered.

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