Business Rx: Strategies and best practices for selling services in the education market

January 20, 2013
The entrepreneur

Maggie Croushore researched the subject of childhood obesity for her undergraduate thesis, but it wasn’t until she joined the Teach for America program in D.C. Public Schools — where 30 percent of children struggle with obesity — that she saw firsthand the impact it can have on student achievement.

Croushore taught English and coached track. She saw the classroom benefits fitness had in keeping her students engaged in learning. And she noticed the toll childhood obesity takes on students’ achievement and their ability to focus in class. She also noted a lack of attention administrators paid to physical education and vowed to find a way to transform that.

As a marathoner and triathlete who thrives on goals in her motivation for fitness, Croushore developed a curriculum model called KidFit Academy to give kids incentives to meet health and wellness goals. She ran a pilot with 11th graders last fall, seeing students lose an average of one to two inches around the waist in just a few months. Now she’s looking to expand the program.

The pitch

Croushore

“KidFit Academy is an interactive physical and health education curriculum provider that empowers students to take control of their health and wellness, using technology to motivate and unite schools and their local communities around health and academic goals.

“KidFit provides a variety of services to schools, including physical education curriculum, professional development for teachers, and on-site consulting services to help schools improve their physical education delivery. In the future, KidFit will offer access to an online portal where students can research, develop, and implement a fitness program, track progress toward their goals, and participate in community events.

“The curriculum involves providing an activity tracking device to each student to generate data that can be used to analyze physical activity and support learning in a variety of subjects. By participating in the program, students increase awareness of their personal health, learning that small changes in their daily activities can make big changes to their overall health.

“Selling to schools is challenging; sales cycles are long and school systems are often bureaucratic, with multiple levels of stakeholders that can block spending on programs like KidFit. As KidFit begins a large sales push in the coming months, any guidance on strategies and best practices for selling services in the education market would be extremely helpful.”

The advice

Elana Fine, managing director, the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship

“Selling to schools is always very difficult. I recommend employing channel partnerships with organizations that already work with schools to make it easier. Look to build relationships with companies that may already partner with schools to help you get your foot in the door. They also may be able to get you into multiple school systems at once to make your sales process more efficient.

“Your curriculum may also be an attractive complement to new technologies like Fitbit or Nike’s Fuel Band whose current primary target demographic are adults.

“I’d also suggest figuring out whether your best point of sale really is the school, or if it might be the parents. You could benefit from word-of-mouth buzz if you promote KidFit among parents. Or target PTA organizations, which have their own budgets at many schools. KidFit could be a great partner for a PTA fundraiser. Many of these organizations are getting away from the old candy bar sale fundraisers for other types of events. There is a lot going on in the parent community around kid fitness, so try to partner on one of these fundraising events. KidFit would be a natural ‘fit.’ ”

The reaction

Croushore

“Partnering with other companies already in schools is a great strategy that I look forward to exploring in the near future. Obviously and fitness-related companies and providers of healthy food align best with KidFit’s mission, but I will look to creatively employ other potential channels as well.

“KidFit is also exploring other business models, whether it is selling directly to the schools or other key stakeholders such as parents or the PTA. However, since we plan to operate in a variety of neighborhoods and schools, I want to be sensitive to parents who might not have additional funds to spend. Therefore, I will continue exploring ways to generate revenue.”

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