In 1998, the Sparkasse Märkisch-Oderland announced a student competition. The aim was to get the still young Internet into schools. So the students were asked to design websites that were as appealing as possible. One of the students was building a carport for his mother at the same time. The idea of combining both projects quickly matured.
The construction of the carport was presented in the style of a company website. This not only impressed the said Sparkasse - it also began to call curious builders on the given number. When they no longer wanted to be brushed off by their mother, Oliver E. took off: At just 17 years old, he founded his carport company - and it grew rapidly, reaching sales of millions. After a severe setback in 2008, Oliver E. got back on his feet and is now even more successful than ever. But in the beginning there was - a student company!
What is a student company? - Definition and objectives
The success of the Brandenburg carport factory is impressive, but it only serves as an example to a limited extent . The start-up came very close to ending in disaster, including the founder being imprisoned.
Nevertheless: The example shows all the more how important it is to teach schoolchildren how to act economically and sustainably. The legal form of the "student company" was founded so that the handling of one's own company can be learned as safely as possible.
Student companies are understood as "school project work" . The students should learn to develop their own business ideas and to bring them to life as independently as possible. The school itself provides the legal umbrella. The minimization of the business risk should already be achieved by only using the school itself and its immediate environment as a sales market. On the other hand, the business activities are by no means virtual - real or digital products and services should always be traded . Although high sales and profits are not to be expected, that is not the aim of the project. This is understood more as interdisciplinary, action-oriented learning.
Advantages of a student company for students
Real self-made millionaires share one piece of wisdom: the street is the best teacher. What is often ignored, however, is that many entrepreneurs who start enthusiastically end up on just that - and that because of completely avoidable mistakes.
The idea of this school project starts right there: to give aspiring entrepreneurs a feeling for where the real dangers lurk when implementing a business idea. They can show up in completely unexpected places. Delivery services face a daily battle with parking inspectors and have to withhold a portion of sales for parking tickets. Restaurants can fail due to unreliable staff or lack of hygiene. With microgreens, a pest infestation can quickly destroy an entire crop. The idea of the student company stands for learning from mistakes without generating bankruptcy for life.
If you want to found a student company , you can experiment and you have to organize things. This can be done alone or in a team. A joint project can speed up some work because tasks are distributed. But there are also inevitable disputes about competencies and the direction of the company. These too are very important lessons which are pure gold later in life.
Ultimately, however, it is always an almost charismatic experience when the student company ideas actually generate the first real sales. Because one thing is certain - what has sold once has proven itself on the market and can be sold more often.
Types of student companies - what types of student companies are there?
Service and production are the two cornerstones of entrepreneurship. Accordingly, the student company ideas revolve around these two pillars. The type of student company therefore depends on the objective. A consulting firm can focus on this activity and, at best, invest more in marketing and acquisition. However, a production company always has to consider the aspects of trade and customer service. In return, know-how and access to means of production give a more exclusive positioning compared to a pure service provider.
In addition, the students have to decide whether they want to face the market individually or as a team. Both have advantages, but also aspects that need to be considered.
How do you start a student company?
In order to set up a student company, the environment of the school and parents is required as an umbrella and umbrella company. The goal of wanting to face the market with student company ideas and to generate learning effects from them is the focus - and not the actual generation of large profits. Introducing young people to the market economy by founding student companies is a declared goal of the ministries of education. Appropriate guidelines and other information material are also available there, which can be used as a guide for such a project. As with any company foundation, the preparation and development of the business idea is at the beginning of every action in a school start-up.
Legal aspects - What must be considered when founding a student company?
Only OHGs or sole proprietorships can be used to set up a student company. Both can be registered at the local town hall with little money. A GmbH or AG is out of the question for reasons of the required share capital. There would still be the possibility of the limited, which can still be accepted to some extent within the framework of the "pupil company reasons". In principle, this form of company is permitted in Germany, but not particularly popular.
As soon as a company registers and participates in the public market , legal and insurance aspects come into play. In the event of damage, it doesn't matter from a legal point of view whether it was a school project or not - the damage happened and must be settled. Therefore, every business project should be secured with an appropriate insurance. Researching which cases are covered by the school liability insurance and at what point the students themselves have to take responsibility for their mistakes is another aspect that is important when preparing to set up a student company.
The subject of taxes should not be completely ignored in the student company . The example mentioned at the beginning has shown that student companies can also explode with ideas and generate very interesting sales. As soon as the annual turnover exceeds 410 euros, the student company is no longer a "hobby". Close contact with the tax office should be maintained here so that the student company ideas do not end up becoming an unexpected financial burden.
Financing a student company - How can student companies be financed?
The pure registration of a sole proprietorship or an OHG is easy to implement with just under 20 euros. However, the start of the company initially devours costs. The school itself can help here by providing premises and equipment. Sponsors, advertising and trading partners can also contribute to this. Giving out share certificates is an idea as part of a school project - but it's easy to get into legal gray areas here. The same applies to the student company as to any other start-up: the fastest earned euro is the one that you haven’t spent. Hard price calculations , budget planning, make-or-buy decisions and economic action right from the start are the best financiers of a company.
Organization and management - How does the organization and management of a student company work?
Ideally, the students themselves will notice which tasks have to be fulfilled in a company. Here the teacher can help with example companies to find orientation. Experience has shown that the organization of a company is - organic. The goal of market assertion has self-regulating properties. In fact, this is where the learning potential is greatest. The students can discover their own strengths and use them profitably. Everyone is needed here - from precise controlling - through creative marketing to development and quality control. The market itself should be the real teacher here.
Marketing and Sales - How can student companies successfully market and sell their products or services?
Modern media make it particularly easy to generate local attention. Each school today has its own website and representation on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and other social media. This is where the members of the student company who are appointed to the marketing department can contribute fully. In addition, there are the traditional media such as poster advertising, flyers or brochures, in which the student company ideas are presented in detail.
Success control - How can the success of a student company be measured?
Success is measurable. Founding a student company has the goal of generating sales. These can be counted and offset against the investments made. This is the basis for calculating the success of a student company. In addition, other indicators can be used to measure success. The submission of ratings is common today, especially when selling over the Internet. These can also be evaluated and included in the track record.
Examples of success - Presentation of successful student companies and their business models
The secondary school in Ehingen had purchased a Mr Beam laser cutter for its handicraft classes. This powerful and useful device was discovered by a team and enlisted for the student company founding. The aim was to design giveaways and personalized products and sell them locally. The company "Ureigen", as the school project is called, has an Instagram account where products can be ordered.
More student company ideas can be
- Making pottery with an existing kiln
- 3D printing design and services
- Growing microgreens or mushrooms
- Breeding crickets for pet food
- Tutoring and application assistance for classmates and graduates
- Bicycle repair and trade
- tool rental
- Repair cafes
- publication of a school newspaper
- Barbecue stands, sale of drinks, baked goods.
Tips for building a successful student company
There are many student company ideas . However, you always have to assert yourself in the market. The market analysis is therefore always at the beginning of a business start-up. The aim of every product and every service is always to make the customer's life a little easier or more pleasant. The research therefore always precedes the concrete ideas.
As soon as the project is fixed, the fundamental decision is made: Do you want to do everything yourself or do you want to find comrades-in-arms? As a sole proprietor you have full freedom of choice in all areas - but you have to distribute your time to all tasks at the same time. In a team, the tasks of the student company are shared among several shoulders - but the fellow campaigners want to contribute their own ideas and ultimately want their piece of the pie. A great way to encourage teamwork.
When the team is in place, the tasks must be distributed and defined as clearly as possible. The more precisely the individual student participant knows where their duties and competencies begin and where they end, the fewer conflicts are to be expected . A manager is also important. He has a moderating character in the team and he represents the student company to the outside world.
Controlling is also important. Competitors who are good at math can be particularly valuable here. Fundraisers and marketing specialists often sparkle with creativity. The "Bean Counter" brings you back down to earth. After all, founding a student company is about learning as much as possible. Generating actual profits is then a sense of achievement that everyone can share together. However, the controller should then also clarify where some of the sales went to. The marketing costs alone can generate valuable aha moments for many students.