That time of year is upon us yet again: back to school season. As a small business owner, back to school presents a unique opportunity to give frazzled parents a helping hand, as well as benefit your own business in the process. It’s a win-win.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways that your small business can support parents and students this back to school season.
1. Understand the needs of parents and students
Before jumping into the back to school fray, it’s important to first understand the needs of the group you’re attempting to help. Parents in the United States tend to be juggling jobs alongside raising children, with 59.8% of two-parent households having both parents working. And the numbers jump higher with single parents, with 85.7% of fathers and 75% of mothers employed.
Parents’ time is at a premium and — with many parents both working in order to stay afloat — money can also be tight.
For students, the past several years have been uniquely stressful. From the learning disruptions that occurred in 2020 to having to play catch-up in the years since, school has become increasingly taxing.
As a small business owner (and likely a parent yourself), understanding the issues will help you plan the appropriate next steps to take in offering support to parents and students. Think of the product or service that your business provides and make a list of ways that they could benefit parents and students during the back to school season.
For example, say that you own a cafe. Here’s how your list could look:
- Provide healthy and affordable grab-and-go food options for kids and adults.
- Offer study areas with Wi-Fi for students to study and socialize.
- Enable online ordering and delivery to assist busy and time-constrained parents.
- Host fundraisers for schools/school supplies.
- Consider modifying hours to accommodate busy working parents taking their kids to school.
And this isn’t limited to businesses with physical locations or products. If your business is online or primarily provides services, think of ways that your business can give parents and students a bit of a boost during the school year.
2. Foster community support and engagement
Small businesses can help to bring a community together around a common cause, and what’s a better cause than supporting parents and their students?
When the back-to-school season rolls around, small businesses have a unique opportunity to solidify their community presence by hosting or sponsoring related community events. This could range from arranging a back-to-school fair where students receive free school supplies, to sponsoring a local school’s opening day festivities or sports events.
These events not only bring families and local vendors together, but also serve as a platform for businesses to show their commitment to the community.
The benefit of sponsoring events such as these is that they will often strengthen the relationship between the business and its customers, creating a sense of goodwill and loyalty. Small businesses can leverage this opportunity to create brand visibility and cultivate long-term customer relationships while giving back to the community in a meaningful and supportive way.
3. Build a relationship with local schools
In addition to fostering a community, your small business could also look into building a relationship directly with schools. By forging partnerships with schools, small businesses can provide real, tangible support to hard-working parents and their children.
This relationship can take many forms, including contributing to after-school programs, offering discounts to students and school staff, or sponsoring school events.
Need some ideas on how you can help? Here are some options to get you started:
- Sponsor school events: Offer to sponsor sports events, science fairs, or school plays. Your brand can get some visibility while contributing to the community.
- Donate supplies: Provide necessary items such as pencils, books, uniforms, or other school supplies that are often needed.
- Offer student discounts: If appropriate for your business, offer discounts or deals for students or school staff.
- Establish internship programs: Create opportunities for high school students to gain real-world experience in your business, which can aid their future careers.
- Volunteer: Encourage your employees to volunteer their time in school events, volunteer yourself (if possible) or offer your business space for school activities.
- Collaborate on projects: Engage with schools on community projects, like public art pieces, environmental initiatives, or technology upgrades.
- Offer educational workshops: Depending on your business's expertise, you could offer to lead workshops or seminars that complement the school's curriculum or inform about career paths in your sector.
- Fund scholarships: If financially feasible, establish a scholarship fund for students heading to college or vocational training programs.
- Develop a rewards program: Partner with schools to implement a rewards program that encourages positive behavior or academic achievement.
- Provide catering: If you run a restaurant or catering business, offer to provide food for school events, meetings, or parties. This not only supports the school, but also introduces your business to potential new customers.
4. Promote parent-friendly business policies
A great way to support parents and students is by modeling positive support in your own business. Parent-friendly policies help to ease the stress on parents as the school year ramps up.
One way to provide parent friendliness is through flexible scheduling for your own employees. Parents often juggle work, school drop-offs and pick-ups, after-school activities, and homework help, all of which can make it challenging to adhere to traditional business hours. By offering flexible work hours, small businesses can accommodate parents who might find it easier to engage outside typical hours.
Another approach, depending on your business, is creating parent-friendly spaces within your business. For businesses where waiting is part of the process — like a restaurant with a long wait time, a doctor's office, or an auto repair shop — having an area that's child-friendly can make a world of difference.
This could include a small play area with toys or books, or providing child-friendly entertainment options. Think coloring books or child-safe tablets with educational games. With these simple additions, you can reduce stress for the parents and create a positive experience for the child.
Summing it all up
As a small business owner, you have the ability to leave a lasting impact on your local community, and supporting parents and students is a great way to give back. Hopefully, this guide will give some inspiration on how to become actively involved in your community during this back to school season and beyond.