Do you want to start a boarding school in the United States? If YES, here is a complete guide to starting a boarding school with NO money and no experience. If you live in the United States, Canada and in most developed countries of the world, you will agree that it is indeed brisk business running a boarding school. Parents who are pretty busy would always seek to take their children to boarding school facilities where they will live throughout the school session.

Please note that setting up a boarding school requires hard work and serious planning. You are expected to apply and obtain permits and license to run such facility from the government, and your facility must meet the required health and safety standards before you can be allowed to operate. Starting a boarding school is indeed capital intensive but at the same time it is a lucrative business. You are assured of making good returns on your investment because there will always be need for your services.

If indeed you want to open your own boarding school in the United States, then you should read through this article keenly, it will help you establish your own boarding school from the scratch and build it to profitability within the shortest time possible.

20 Steps to Starting A Boarding School Business

1. Understand the Industry

A boarding school is a school that provides education for pupils who live on the school premises, as opposed to a day school. Private schools which are also known in the United States as independent schools, non-governmental, or non – state schools are schools that are not administered by either the local, state or the federal governments; hence, they have the right to select their students and are funded in whole or in part by charging their students tuition fees, rather than relying on mandatory taxation through public (government) funding.

The Private Schools industry that boarding school is a part of comprises of primary, that is kindergarten through sixth grade and secondary, that is seventh through 12th grade) educational institutions that are predominantly funded through enrollment and tuition fees from students and of course from other private sources.

Recent reports released by IBISWORLD shows that the revenue for the Private Schools industry is expected to increase as the economy continues to recover. It indicated that during the five years to 2016, enrollment decreased, which was a trend attributable to rising costs and competition from charter schools.

However, going forward, in the next five years, household income is anticipated to increase, making it easier for families to afford private-school tuition. Additionally, enrollment decline will lesson, resulting in more stable demand for private schools.

In the United States of America and of course in most countries of the world, The Private Schools industry is indeed a large and thriving industry. Statistics has it that The Private Schools industry in the United States of America is worth $52 billion, with an estimated growth rate of 0.1 percent. There are about 25,742 registered and licensed (accredited) Private schools scattered all around the United States of America and they are responsible for employing about 644,320 people.

Aside from Catholic schools which is the second largest sector after government schools, with around 21 percent of secondary enrollments, no other private school can boast of dominating the market; every player in the industry can comfortably compete in the industry. It is important to state that the barriers to entry into the Private Schools industry are high especially when you decide to run a boarding house. As a matter of fact, the private school industry is pretty difficult for new entrants to establish themselves.

So also, the reputation of the private school is of utmost importance as boarding school that have a good history of getting students into prestigious colleges often have the best reputations hence good enrollments. It is obvious that a new entrant into the private school industry cannot offer this.

Reputation indeed is imperative to parents’ decisions when shopping for boarding schools for their wards because quality of education cannot be assessed until after it is complete. As a major marketing tool, schools need to show parents a track record of admission to elite colleges and universities.

Even though this might seem like a saturated industry, the industry is still pretty much open for aspiring investors to still come in and compete. As a matter of fact, if you conduct your research and feasibility studies very well before starting your own boarding school, you are likely going to struggle less to make headway in the industry.

2. Conduct Market Research and Feasibility Studies

  • Demographics and Psychographics

The demographic and psychographic composition of those who need the services of a boarding school covers children of school age especially high school as set by the education law in the United States of America.

So, if you are looking towards defining the demographics for your boarding school, then you should make it far reaching to everyone who of school age who reside in and around the location where your boarding school facility is located.

3. Decide What Niche to Concentrate On

There are limited niche ideas if you want to run a boarding school facility in the United States of America. In the United States, boarding schools for students below the age of 13 are called junior boarding schools, and are relatively uncommon. The oldest junior boarding school is the Fay School in Southborough, Massachusetts. Other boarding schools are intended for high school age students, generally of ages 14–18. About half of one percent or 0.5 percent of school children attend boarding schools.

So if you are making plans to choose a niche in the boarding school line of business, then you can choose from the following;

  • Co – Educational / Mixed Boarding School (Both Male and Female)
  • Female Only Boarding School
  • Male Only Boarding School
The Level of Competition in the Industry

The level of competition in the boarding school industry to some extent depends largely on the location of the business, your niche area of operation and of course the capacity of your boarding school facility. If you can successfully create a unique niche for your boarding school, you are likely going to experience little or no competition. For instance, if you are the only boarding school in your location that accommodates both male and female students, you can successfully monopolize the market for a long time before you start having competitions.

It is important to also state that the competition in the boarding school line of business is not restricted to boarding schools but also you will be competing against all players in the private school industry.

4. Know the Major Competitors in the Industry

It is important to note that in every industry, there are always brands that perform better or are better regarded by customers and general public than the others. Some of these brands are those that have been in the industry for a long time, while others are best known for how they conduct their businesses and the results they have achieved over the years.

As a matter of fact, some of the boarding schools listed here are the schools that important personalities such as George Bush, Mark Zuckerberg, Reid Hoffman (co-founder of LinkedIn), former US Secretary of State John Kerry, and King Abdullah-II al Hussein of Jordan, amongst others attended.

These are some of the leading boarding schools in the United States of America and in the globe;

  • Phillips Exeter Academy
  • The Putney School
  • Church Farm School
  • Episcopal High School
  • St. Paul’s School
  • Asheville School
  • Shattuck-St. Mary’s School
  • St. Andrew’s School
  • The Thacher School
  • Deerfield Academy
  • Choate Rosemary Hall
  • Woodberry Forest
  • Western Reserve Academy
  • Verde Valley School
  • The Taft School
  • The Orme School
  • Rabun Gap–Nacoochee School
  • Miss Porter’s School
  • The Hill School
  • The Holderness School
Economic Analysis

When starting a boarding school, you just have to get your costing cum economic analysis right if your intention of building the business is to generate profits, grow the business and perhaps expand the business.

When conducting costing and economic analysis for your boarding school, you just have to critically examine these key factors; facility, human resources and funding. As a matter of fact, you would have to continue to review these key factors while running your boarding school. As a boarding school owner, you just have to have a proper grasp of your competitive landscape if indeed you want to maximize profits and be in the frontline of the industry.

It is important to note that facility, maintenance and overhead cost are some of the most important factors contributing to the overall cost of running a boarding school facility and should be considered as a major factor when carrying out costing and economic analysis.

5. Decide Whether to Buy a Franchise or Start from Scratch

If you are looking towards starting a boarding school, you would have to start from the very scratch simple because you can hardly get a franchise of a boarding school to buy.

With boarding school, you should just try as much as possible to secure a good residential facility that is inside a residential estate and then leverage on every marketing tool within your disposal especially the internet to market your school.

Please note that most of the successful boarding schools around started from the scratch and they were able to build a solid business brand. It takes dedication, hard work and determination to achieve business success and of course you can build your own boarding school brand to become a successful brand.

6. Know the Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face

If you decide to open your own boarding school today, one of the major challenges you are likely going to face is the presence of well – established boarding school facilities and of course other players in the private school industry in your target market location. The only way to avoid this challenge is to create your own market.

Some other threats and challenges that you are likely going to face when you start your boarding school are mature markets, bad economy (economy downturn), stiff competition, volatile costs, and free education. So also, unfavorable government education policies, demographic / social factors, downturn in the economy which is likely going to affect enrolment and of course emergence of new competitors within the same location where yours is located. There is hardly anything you can do as regards these threats and challenges other than to be optimistic that things will continue to work for your good.

7. Choose the Most Suitable Legal Entity (LLC, C Corp, S Corp)

When considering opening a boarding school, the legal entity you choose will go a long way to determine how big the business can grow. Generally, you can use a general partnership, limited liability company, or a sole proprietorship for a boarding school.

Ordinarily, sole proprietorship should have been the ideal business structure for a small scale boarding school facility especially if you are just starting out, but people prefer limited liability Company for certain reasons. As a matter of fact, if your intention is to grow the business and attract students (boarders) all across the United States of America and the globe, then choosing sole proprietorship is not an option for you. Limited Liability Company, LLC or even general partnership will cut it for you.

For example, setting up an LLC protects you from personal liability. If anything goes wrong in the business, it is only the money that you invested into the limited liability company that will be at risk. It is not so for sole proprietorships and general partnerships. Limited liability companies are simpler and more flexible to operate and you don’t need a board of directors, shareholder meetings and other managerial formalities.

These are some of the factors you should consider before choosing a legal entity for your boarding school; limitation of personal liability, ease of transferability, admission of new owners and investors’ expectation and of course taxes. If you take your time to critically study the various legal entities to use for your boarding school, you will agree that limited liability company is most suitable. You can start this type of business as limited liability company (LLC) and in future convert it to a ‘C’ corporation or ‘S’ corporation especially when you have the plans of going public.

Upgrading to a ‘C’ corporation or ‘S’ corporation will give you the opportunity to grow your boarding school so as to compete with major players in the industry; you will be able to generate capital from venture capital firms, you will enjoy separate tax structure, and you can easily transfer ownership of the company.

8. Choose a Catchy Business Name from the ideas Below

Normally, when it comes to choosing a name for your business, you should be creative because whatever name you choose for your business will go a long way to create a perception of what the business represents.

If you are considering starting your own boarding school, here are some catchy names that you can choose from;

  • Hall of Fame Private Boarding School
  • Graceville International Boarding School
  • St. Andrews Boarding School
  • Genius Hub Boarding School
  • Alexander Micah Memorial Boarding School
  • Shannon Stevens Int’l Boarding School
  • Green Bay Private Boarding School
  • Bright Future Private Boarding School
  • Bridget Brownstone Int’l Boarding School
  • Sharon Holmes Private Boarding School

9. Discuss With an Agent to Know the Best Insurance Policies for You

In the United States and in most countries of the world, you can’t operate a business without having some of the basic insurance policy covers that are required by the industry you want to operate from. Thus, it is imperative to create a budget for insurance policy cover and perhaps consult an insurance broker to guide you in choosing the best and most appropriate insurance policies for your boarding school.

Here are some of the basic insurance policies that you should consider purchasing if you want to start your own boarding school in the United States of America;

  • General insurance
  • Health insurance
  • Liability insurance
  • Workers compensation
  • Building / Property insurance
  • Overhead expense disability insurance
  • Business owner’s policy group insurance

10. Protect your Intellectual Property With Trademark, Copyrights, Patents

If you are considering starting your own boarding school in the United States of America, usually you may not have any need to file for intellectual property protection/trademark because the nature of the business makes it possible for you to successfully run the business without having any cause to challenge anybody in court for illegally making use of your company’s intellectual properties.

On the other hand, if you just want to protect your school’s logo and other documents or software that are unique to you or even operational concepts, then you can go ahead to file for intellectual property protection. If you want to register your trademark, you are expected to begin the process by filing an application with the USPTO. The final approval of your trademark is subjected to the review of attorneys as required by USPTO.

11. Get the Necessary Professional Certification

When it comes to starting and running a boarding school in the United States, you do not need to have any special certification before you can be allowed to start. All you need is the required government permits, approvals and accreditation certificates.

On the other hand, if you come across any form of certification that can aid you to effectively manage and grow your boarding school, then by all means try and pursue such certification and a good example of such certification is Executive Management Certification.

12. Get the Necessary Legal Documents You Need to Operate

The essence of having the necessary documentation in place before launching a business in the United States of America cannot be overemphasized. It is a fact that you can successfully run any business in the United States without the proper documentations.

These are some of the basic legal documents that you are expected to have in place if you want to legally run your own boarding school in the United States of America;

  • Business and liability insurance
  • Federal Tax Payer’s ID
  • State Permit
  • Certificate of Incorporation
  • Business License
  • Business Plan
  • Health inspection Certificate
  • Copy of license for the service support facility and/or a recent inspection report
  • Employment Agreement (offer letters)
  • Employee’s Handbook
  • Operating Agreement for LLCs
  • Insurance Policy
  • Online Terms of Use (if you have a website)
  • Online Privacy Policy Document (basically for online payment portal)
  • Company Bylaws
  • Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)
  • Building License
  • Franchise or Trademark License (optional)

13. Raise the Needed Startup Capital

Starting a standard boarding school is capital intensive especially even if you choose to launch the business on a small scale and you only have a handful of full – time employees on your payroll and limited number of students (boarders). Leasing of a standard facility that can accommodate your boarders and staff members and of course the purchase of educational and teaching equipment are part of what will consume a large chunk of your startup capital, so if you choose to start the business on a small scale, you will still have the need to go source for fund to finance the business.

When it comes to financing a business, one of the first things you should consider is to write a good business plan. If you have a good and workable business plan document in place, you may not have to labor yourself before convincing your bank, investors and your friends to invest in your business.

Here are some of the options you can explore when sourcing for startup capital for your boarding school;

  • Raising money from personal savings and sale of personal stocks and properties
  • Raising money from investors and business partners
  • Sell shares to interested investors
  • Applying for loan from your bank
  • Pitching your business idea and applying for business grants and seed funding from, government, donor organizations and angel investors
  • Source for soft loans from your family members and your friends

14. Choose a Suitable Location for your Business

Starting a boarding school comes with its own challenges as it cannot be started in any location. As a matter of fact, you will need approval from your local council and other regulating authorities in the city you intend opening your boarding school.

It cannot be overemphasized that the location you choose to start your boarding school is key to the success of the school, hence entrepreneurs are willing to rent or lease a facility in a visible location; a location where the demography consists of the people who are of school age and of course people with the required purchasing power, and lifestyle. If you make the mistake of renting or leasing a facility for your boarding school in a not too visible or hidden location simply because it is cheap, then you must be prepared to spend more in promoting the business.

It is important to note that a business facility in good location does not come cheap hence you should be able to allocate enough fund for leasing / renting in your budget. If you are new to the dynamics of choosing a location for your boarding school, then you should feel free to talk to a business consultant or a realtor who has a full grasp of the city and perhaps country you intend starting your boarding school.

Most importantly, before choosing a location for your boarding school, first conduct a thorough feasibility study and market survey. The possibility of you coming across a boarding school that just closed down in the location you want to open yours can’t be ruled out.

15. Hire Employees for your Technical and Manpower Needs

When it comes to starting a standard boarding school, you will need standard hostels, labs, library, sport facilities, dinning facility, laundromat and internet facilities amongst others. You will also need computer, printer, telephones, pager, photocopier, scanner, fax machine, first aid kit, gloves and uniform.

When it comes to choosing between renting and leasing a facility for your boarding school, the size of the boarding house facility you want to own, and your entire budget for the business should influence your choice. Besides, you will need a facility that is in a serene environment, a facility that is big enough to accommodate the number of boarders (students) and staff members working for you.

As regards the number of employees that you are expected to kick start the business with, you would need to consider your finance before making the decision. Averagely, you would need the services of the following professionals; Head of The Boarding School (School Proprietress), Principal, School Administrator, Tutors for Various Subjects – Secondary (seventh through 12th grade), Accountant/Bursar, Client Service Executive, Cooks, Porters, Security Guards and Cleaners.

Over and above, you would need a minimum of 20 to 50 key staff members (both teaching and non-teaching staff) to effectively run a medium scale but standard boarding school.

16. Write a Marketing Plan Packed With ideas & Strategies

The fact that the entry barrier for starting a boarding school is moderate means that there is bound to be more players in the industry no matter the location you choose to start from. In essence, you must be creative if you must carve out a market for yourself within the available market in your community, city, state or country.

So, when you are drafting marketing plans and strategies for your boarding school, make sure that you create a compelling personal and school’s profile. Aside from your qualifications and experience, it is important to clearly state in practical terms what you have been able to achieve in time past as it relates to the education industry. This will help boost your chances in the market place when marketing your services.

Here are some of the platforms you can utilize to market your boarding school;

  • Introduce your boarding school by sending introductory letters alongside your brochure to households, religious organizations, and parent associations et al in and around the location where your boarding school facility is located
  • Advertise your services in community based newspapers, local TV and radio stations
  • List your business on yellow page ads (local directories)
  • Leverage on the internet to promote your boarding school
  • Engage in direct marketing and sales
  • Encourage the use of word of mouth marketing (referrals)
  • Engage the services of marketing executives and business developers to carry out direct marketing for you.

17. Work Out a Reasonable Pricing for your Services

One key factor that will help you offer your services at the right price is to ensure that you cut operational cost to the barest minimum and channel your efforts towards marketing and promoting your brand name. This strategy will help you save cost.

As regards educational materials, toiletries, cooking ingredients and other supplies that you need to effectively run your boarding school, you need to ensure that you purchase your items directly from the manufacturers or from wholesale distributors in pretty large quantities. The truth is the higher the quantities of items that you purchase directly from the manufacturers or wholesale distributors, the cheaper you tend to get them.

18. Develop Iron-clad Competitive Strategies to Help You Win

If you are conversant with boarding schools in the United States, you will quite agree that there are healthy competitions amongst them. The truth is that the best boarding schools also attract more funding than their counterparts and also boarding schools that are performing below required expectations can be delisted from the list of boarding schools and they will stop getting financial support from the government.

So if you are looking towards staying competitive in the industry, then you should try as much as possible to hire highly competent teachers that can impart knowledge, and ensure that your school has the facility, equipment and environment that can make it easier for pupils to learn and understand.

Lastly, ensure that you make provision for training and retraining of your teachers.

19. Brainstorm Possible Ways to Retain Students in Your School

Aside from getting parents to enroll their wards in your boarding school, your ability to retain students who are registered in your boarding school is a key factor that will guarantee that you continue to receive financial support from the government.

The truth is that, if parents are not satisfied with the academic performance of their wards, they are likely going to withdraw their wards from your boarding school and enroll them in other schools within same location.

If you want to increase student retention in your boarding school, then you must ensure that students in your school are well taught so that they can favorably compete with their counterparts in other schools whenever they have to write national or state based exams. Parents should be able to see improvement on their wards; that is basically what you need to do to stay afloat.

If students from your boarding school are always coming tops in national exams, then you are not going to struggle to get parents to enroll their wards in your boarding school. As a matter of fact, you would have to set up a screening committee and introduce strict screening test in order to turn down some students because you will always get more students requesting to enroll in your boarding school than your facility can accommodate.

20. Develop Strategies to Boost Brand Awareness and Create a Corporate Identity

If you are in business and you are not deliberate about boosting your brand awareness and communicating your corporate identity, then you should be ready to take on whatever the society portrays your business to be. One of the secrets of larger corporations and institutions is that they are willing to spend fortunes to boost their brand awareness and to continue to communicate their corporate identity the way they want people to perceive them.

If your intention of starting a boarding school is to grow the business beyond the city where you are going to be operating from to become a national and international brand by attracting students from all across the United States of America and other countries of the worlds, then you must be ready to spend money on promotion and advertisement of your boarding school.

No matter the industry you belong to, the truth is that the market is dynamic and it requires consistent brand awareness and brand boosting to continue to appeal to your target market.

Here are the platforms you can leverage on to boost your brand awareness and create corporate identity for your boarding school;

  • Place adverts on both print (newspapers and educational magazines) and electronic media platforms
  • Sponsor relevant community based events
  • Leverage on the internet and social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google + et al to promote your boarding school
  • Install your billboards in strategic locations all around your city or state
  • Distribute your fliers and handbills in target areas
  • List your boarding school in local directories/yellow pages
  • Advertise your boarding school in your official website and employ strategies that will help you pull traffic to the site.
  • Position your Flexi Banners at strategic positions in the location where your boarding school is located.
  • Ensure that all your vehicles are well branded with your company logo
Ajaero Tony Martins