How Easy Is It to Start a Private School?

Did you know that BASIS Independent Schools, now famous for their super-smart students and top-notch academic programs, started with a BIG dream and a small team of just TWO educators? 

Well, here’s a little story about them.

It all started in 1998. Dr. Michael and Olga Block, a dynamic husband-and-wife duo with a knack for economics and education (talk about a power couple!), were literally fed up with the “meh” quality of education their kids were getting back then.

They wanted more —  like, way more for their kids in terms of learning and skill set development. The duo envisioned a school that would challenge kids, not just keep them busy and prepare them to conquer the world. 

So, what did they do? 

They worked hard, made up their minds and founded the first BASIS school in sunny Tucson, Arizona.

But let me tell you, it wasn’t easy for them. Too many hiccups kept them wide awake at night because, as we know, starting a school isn’t a walk in the park. 

Imagine finding the perfect location (nope, not your farm or backyard), registering your school, securing funding (cue the late-night grant writing and taxes) and creating a curriculum that’s both challenging and fun. It was like trying to bake a five-layer cake with one oven mitt. But the Blocks, fueled by sheer determination somehow pulled it off.

Fast forward to today and BASIS Independent Schools are thriving across the U.S., with students who could probably beat us all in a spelling bee – in Latin  (Someone please share this blog with their principal)

That’s not all. Another trivia for you: BASIS even earned the number one spot on the list of America’s Most Challenging High Schools published by The Washington Post. Not kidding.

It’s 2024 and starting a private school today can be a bit of a nightmare if you’re not prepared. Don’t want to scare you, but that’s just the truth. But there are folks who started with nothing and made it big in the field of education. We’ll soon share that list with you all for that extra dose of motivation.

For now, don’t worry —you’re in good company 😊

Just like the Blocks, you might face some bumps along the way (think endless paperwork, sleepless nights and the occasional zoning law headache), but that’s part of the adventure, right?

In this blog, we’re going to walk you through the essential steps to turn your dream into reality – from those first doodles of your school logos to your grand opening day.

Let’s jump right in.

Checklist to Start a Private School in 6-Easy Steps

Checklist to Start a Private School in 6-Easy Steps

Here are a few things you need to have in place before setting the inauguration stone of your school:

1. Find your tribe

      2. Zero in on a business structure

        3. Open a new business bank account

          4. Work on a statement of impact

            5. Complete all appropriate legal and financial documents and paperwork

              6. Create your school identity and brand

                1. Find Your Tribe

                So, you’ve finally decided to start your dream school? That’s amazing! The first thing you need to do is find your tribe – your people, your community. These are the folks who’ve already built their dream schools or are walking the same path as you.

                Now, it doesn’t matter if they’re in your neighborhood or across the country. A tribe doesn’t need borders to support each other, right? 

                Why Do You Need Your Tribe?

                Here’s why focusing on building your tribe is crucial as you progress on this journey of starting a private school with limited resources.

                🤝 Unconditional Support: Trust me, there will be moments when you feel discouraged. Having a community helps you fight those feelings of hopelessness and celebrate the small wins. It’s one thing to have support from family and friends, but it’s another to get it from people who truly understand your struggles. Plus, you’ll hear relatable and firsthand experiences that can prepare you for the next steps.

                🌱 Sharing, Learning and Giving Back: We can’t deny this. Educators are some of the most giving people around. They have this innate desire to share and give back. Your tribe will constantly be finding new, easier and less expensive ways to create and run private schools. In addition, you can’t possibly stay on top of all the latest trends and changes in education, but with a connected tribe, you’ll come pretty close.

                Remember, you want to create a safe space for serious, committed and passionate individuals interested in taking this journey together. Finding your tribe is the foundation for everything that comes next. 

                2. Zero in on a Business Structure

                The next step is to get started with a business structure. So, what exactly do you mean by having a business structure?

                Well, how do you want to present your school to the world? Are you going for a for-profit or non-profit vibe? Or are you thinking about teaming up with another school or church? Check out what licenses you need to start a for-profit organization here.

                 In either case, for-profit or non-profit, you’ve got to register your business. Each state has its own legal hoops to jump through and for a newbie, it can feel slightly overwhelming.

                For clarity, let’s try to break it down into bite-sized pieces. Let’s assume you want to go with a non-profit. Now, there are two parts to starting a non-profit:

                Part One: Formation and Legal Structure

                📝 Clearly outline the purpose and goals of your nonprofit.

                🎯 Select a unique and relevant name for your school.

                👩🏻‍💻 Recruit a group of dedicated individuals to guide your nonprofit.

                📚 Create a set of rules and procedures for operating your nonprofit.

                Register your nonprofit with the appropriate state agency to gain legal recognition.

                💰 Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS for tax purposes.

                📢 Apply for 501(c)(3) status with the IRS to gain tax-exempt status.

                Part Two: Setting Up Your Operations

                📝 Outline your strategies for achieving your mission, including fundraising, marketing and program plans.

                💸 Establish accounting and financial management systems, open a bank account and set up bookkeeping procedures.

                🤝Plan how you will raise funds to support your nonprofit, including grants, donations and events.

                🏆 Create a plan to promote your nonprofit and engage with your community and stakeholders.

                🧑🏻‍💻Recruit and train individuals who will help run your nonprofit and achieve its goals.

                💡Design and implement the programs and services that will fulfill your mission.

                Okay, deep breath 😊 Don’t be overwhelmed by these parts.

                Nevertheless, whether you decide to go for-profit or non-profit, you need to decide on a business structure. Think of it like choosing your school’s core engine or identity.

                The government doesn’t like to do business with individuals; it deals with businesses, whether for-profit or non-profit. So, get ahead of the game, decide on your business structure and file it with the Secretary of State in your particular state.

                3. Open up a New Business Bank Account

                Next up, you need to open a business bank account. Yes, even if you’re planning to build a tiny Montessori, separating your business finances from your personal bank account is crucial. This step is key to establishing your school’s legitimacy in the eyes of the state. Once you have your business bank account set up, you’ll be eligible for all those lovely monetary assistance and funding grants.

                And guess what? Your bank won’t bombard you with a mountain of paperwork. They’ll just need your business formation documents. Not bad, right?

                Once you have those documents, the process is a breeze. Worried about the cost now? 

                Don’t be. It won’t cost you an arm and a leg. 

                Open up a New Business Bank Account

                Some banks let you open business accounts for as low as $30, with no monthly fees. Not kidding! You might need to do a little research to find which banks offer this sweet deal in your state.

                Or, just stroll into a bank and say, “Hey, I want to start a school. I need a free checking account. I don’t have the money to pay monthly fees right now. What specific plans do you have for a school like mine?”  Easy 😉

                One more thing: to get that bank account ready, your school needs to have a legal formation. So, go ahead and get that sorted today!

                4. Work on a Statement of Impact

                Aright, let’s get straight to the point. So an impact statement is a clear and crisp summary that portrays the positive effects or benefits your business (in this case, your school) has on the community, environment or society.  Think of it as a snapshot showing how your school is making the world better.

                Before you start writing your statement of impact, put on your thinking cap and channel your inner teacher or parent. Gather your thoughts about the current education system. What bugs you about it? What changes are you planning to bring with your curriculum and teaching methods? Basically, how are you going to be the trailblazer of the education industry?

                Here’s how you might frame an impact statement if you’re starting a school:

                Impact Statement for a School (in Layman Terms)

                What it is: A simple explanation of the positive things your school will do for students and the community.

                Purpose: To show parents, students and the community how your school will make a difference in their lives.

                Example: “Our school is dedicated to providing a nurturing learning environment where every child can flourish. We focus on personalized education to help each student reach their full potential, support local community projects and promote sustainability through eco-friendly practices.”

                Hope that makes sense. And remember, keep it simple, keep it real and most importantly, keep it YOU 😊

                5. Complete All Appropriate Legal and Financial Documents

                Here comes the step everyone dreads: paperwork. But it’s gotta be done 😭 Think of it like laying the foundation for a house – you can’t skip this step at any cost! These documents could be tax forms, bylaws, incorporation data or annual reports. But you have to keep everything in place.

                Hire an advisor if need be, as this step cannot have shortcuts or mistakes. It’s going to cost you your DREAM! So, whether you’re starting small or dreaming big, you’ve got to file your taxes, prepare your legal documents and keep those balance statements up to date.

                Why? Because when you’re applying for grants or loans, banks and the government want to see some financial history. A little bit is better than none It might seem like a lot, but take it one step at a time. This initial groundwork and pain will only make your school strong and sustainable.

                And don’t worry, you’ve got this!

                If different requirements and licenses have left you scratching your head, book a free consultation with doola today.

                6. Create Your School Identity and Brand

                So, you might be thinking, “Why do I need to bother with branding my school? It’s not like I’m running a business or anything.” Trust me, most people who build schools think the same way and end up fading into the crowd because they don’t give enough importance to branding.

                Here’s the thing: branding isn’t just for businesses. It’s about creating an identity, a vibe and a story that people can connect with. Everything a “conventional” business does, i.e., marketing, branding and promoting, is the same thing you will have to do. Nothing less or more. 

                Create Your School Identity and Brand

                Here’s why you should focus on it:

                Stand Out in the Crowd:

                There are zillions of schools out there. Branding helps your school stand out. It’s like giving your school a unique personality that makes it memorable. Parents and students will remember the school that felt special to them.

                Build Trust and Credibility:

                A strong brand gives off a vibe of professionalism and reliability. It shows that you’re serious about education and have a clear vision. This builds trust with parents, students and the community.

                Create Emotional Connections:

                Good branding isn’t just about logos and colors; it’s about telling a story. When people connect emotionally with your school’s story and values, they’re more likely to choose it and stay loyal.

                Attract Students and Staff:

                A well-branded school attracts not only students but also great teachers and staff. People want to be part of something that feels exciting and meaningful.

                Consistency is Key:

                Branding ensures that everything you do – from your website to your brochures to your school events – feels consistent and cohesive. This makes your school look polished and put together, which is always a good thing.

                Boost Enrollment:

                Let’s be real: even in 2024, word of mouth still rules marketing! When your school’s brand is on point, happy parents and students become your ultimate hype squad and cheerleaders, spreading the word and making it super easy to attract new families.

                So start building trust with the help of your ‘brand’ now and when it’s time for you to promote your brand everywhere, you will not be a total stranger.

                People will be more welcoming. And remember, at the end of the day, it’s always about creating a lasting impression and building a community that believes in what you’re doing. For starters, you may want to start tutoring a few kids in your locality and maybe host some type of outdoor games program during the summer break.

                Congratulations! You Are Halfway Through. Do the Rest With doola

                When to Choose doola

                So, there you have it. I know the list was long, but I hope you now have a better sense of how to approach your dream of starting a private school on a limited budget. Honestly, the journey can feel overwhelming at times. But trust me, it’s not as intimidating as it might seem.

                Don’t let fear get in your way. Take baby steps and lean on your mentor, community or experts in the field.

                It’s totally normal to feel a bit anxious at first — after all, not many of us dare to dream big, especially on a shoestring budget. So yes, you are absolutely on the right track.

                And if you need any guidance to ease those initial jitters, we’re here to help.

                Schedule a free consultation with a doola expert today. Our team of specialists will guide you through the LLC formation process, answer any questions and make sure your school gets off to a strong start.

                You’ve got this and we’ve got your back!

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