How to Start a School-based Enterprise

August 30, 2021

What is an SBE?

A School-based Enterprise (SBE) is a hands-on learning experience that provides students with realistic and practical learning experiences. SBE’s are run and managed by students and they have the opportunity to receive certifications, compete and participate in practical hands-on learning. An SBE is often referred to as a work-based education and helps students of all ages gain experience in various roles (such as cashier, sales, visual merchandising, inventory) and provide an opportunity to build management, supervision and leadership skills. SBE’s also provide gold-certified chapters with an opportunity to gain managerial experience through competition.

What does an SBE look like?

There are multiple types of School-based Enterprises that you can choose from. A school store or concessions stand is the traditional model that allows students to build their resumes and gain their first work experience. However, there are numerous options, such as offering a unique service or operating an eCommerce store. Students will learn valuable skills to create, sell, produce and merchandise for those in their community and beyond.

How can I start an SBE?

The first step you should take when starting an SBE is to create a plan and an idea that fits the SBE guidelines.  It is crucial to provide your advisor with a plan that can be carried out and implemented to make starting an SBE smoother and faster.

This comprehensive guide covers all facets of starting and managing a school-based enterprise and critical topics vital to the success of an SBE. Utilizing this guide will help build a solid framework for opening a store in your school.

The next step is bringing that idea and plan to your chapter advisor. It is important to ensure that you manage and document all the certifications, school, local, district, and state/provincial guidelines and an adult who can provide the tools and connections necessary to run an SBE.

After you have run your plan by your advisor and gotten approval from your school/district, make sure that you have a trained team to help you run and properly sell the items provided in your SBE.

Once your SBE is up and running, your next step is to review DECA’s School-based Enterprise webpage to learn more about the gold-level chapter certification requirements.

Tips and tricks for having a successful SBE

  1. Create specials and limited-edition items - Individuals are more inclined to buy products when they cannot receive them every day. Try selling a unique breakfast item once a month or offer limited edition t-shirts for the homecoming football game.
  2. Partner with other organizations - You can never have too much support on a project. Partner with other organizations within your school to reach a larger audience and to sell more products.
  3. Do your research - When you are starting an SBE or even looking to sell new products, try holding a school-wide poll to see what your target market is most interested in buying. If students have a say in what snacks are sold or what a final t-shirt design looks like, they will be more likely to purchase the product you are selling.
  4. Embrace community outreach - Local businesses or individuals within your community want to support your DECA chapter and school. Do not be afraid to reach out and see if they will partner to sell their food or sponsor an event to benefit your SBE.


Debbie Taylor
Leadership Specialist

As DECA’s leadership specialist, Debbie implements a comprehensive student leadership program for both the high school and college divisions. She is responsible for the Emerging Leader Series, executive officer teams and elections, and student recognition programs like the Collegiate DECA Leadership Passport Program and DECA Emerging Leader Honor Award. Debbie has worked for DECA since 2019.

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