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Caden Harris
February 2, 2024
126 views

Caden’s Financial Bus – A 1997 Blue Bird TCFE 4800

A mobile business operates from a mobile location, such as a van, truck, or bus, rather than a fixed location. These are becoming increasingly popular due to their flexibility and the ability to reach customers in different locations. A bus is becoming a popular option among the various types of rolling commerce. In this article, I will discuss why having a bus as a mobile business is a good idea and my experience with my mobile business.

Owning a bus before getting my driver’s license wasn’t my intention from the beginning. I had been traveling to schools teaching kids financial literacy in my own way. I did this through workshops, financial flashcards, activity books, and puzzles. I wanted to make the workshops more interactive, fun, and innovative.

I was watching a YouTube video one day and saw that people were turning buses into tiny homes, so I had the idea of turning a bus into a financial education classroom. I imagined having a bank, a grocery store, a stock exchange, a stock tower, tablets, workbooks and so much more.

Having this big idea at ten years old wasn’t easy, I had to make everyone understand and see my vision for a bus that no one had ever heard of. The ironic thing was that after having this vision for my very own mobile classroom, we had Chinese food two days later.

Inside my fortune cookie was a fortune that read, “Something on four wheels will soon be a fun investment for you.” Two weeks later, I was offered a bus for a really good price! A community center previously owned the bus, and they were looking to replace it with a new bus.

The outside of the bus needed a serious wash and paint job.
The outside of the bus needed a serious wash and paint job.

This was perfect because I had enough money in my account from selling my financial literacy products to purchase the bus on my own. Originally, I thought I would purchase a small shuttle bus. It turned out that the bus I was offered was much larger.

It’s a 1997 Blue Bird TCFE school bus. This gave me a lot more room to achieve the mobile classroom build I dreamed of. Originally, I would only be able to fit about eight students on the bus, with the larger bus, I can impact even more kids.

I drew the layout for my bus on a piece of notebook paper.
I drew the layout for my bus on a piece of notebook paper.

I finally got my parents on board with my idea, and we decided to give the bus conversion a shot on our own. We put out a message in the Facebook marketplace where people could have the bus seats at no charge if they took them out themselves. People came from all over Georgia to help me take my bus apart.

Bus racks and seats inside of the bus. Time to start a bus conversion!
Bus racks and seats inside of the bus. Time to start a bus conversion!

A group of men came to take out the racks, another guy came to clean the inside and a carpenter came to work on the floor of the bus. The outside of the bus was in pretty good shape, but it needed a major wash and paint job. My vision was to have the outside of the bus wrapped with money print and a cartoon logo of my face. I wanted it to be noticeable while driving down the street.

Faux brick in the bus.
Faux brick in the bus.
My dad taught me how to start the generator to get power while the bus engine is off.
My dad taught me how to start the generator to get power while the bus engine is off.

When it was time to put in the electrical wires and insulate the inside of the bus, we realized we had bitten off more than we could chew. We thought of including carpeted walls and faux brick displays.

We started to call around to companies that could build out the conversion for us. We met with several companies that said they were willing to convert the bus, but they never showed up. I knew I had found the right company in Climb Entertainment when shortly after booking a call with them, they sent me schematics for the buildout that matched my vision exactly.

To my surprise, I was going to need nearly $50,000 for my buildout. My parents are entrepreneurs, so they taught me it was always better to use other people’s money rather than my own. In using other people’s money, they taught me to be sure to make the deal valuable for the companies involved as well.

I wrote proposals and set up interviews with major companies to partner on Caden’s Financial Bus. I got a lot of no’s and just enough people to say yes to launch my dream project.

I had planned a ribbon-cutting ceremony for July 30, 2022, and it took me until two weeks before that date to raise all the money. My partners were small business owners like Afro Kids, Beautiful Briny Sea, and Circle of Greatness. Goodr and Inspiredu donated tablets.

This is the stock exchange on the bus with a real working bell and the stock tower.
This is the stock exchange on the bus with a real working bell and the stock tower.
This is Caden’s corner market where kids learn to budget their money for grocery shopping
This is Caden’s corner market where kids learn to budget their money for grocery shopping.
The floor is one of the favorite highlights for the kids.
The floor is one of the favorite highlights for the kids.
Learn banking skills !
Learn banking skills!
The mock bank and real ATM.
The mock bank and real ATM.

It was amazing to see my idea go from just an idea to a reality. My bus has a mock bank, which helps kids understand how to make deposits, write checks and so much more! My mock grocery store, which I named Caden’s Corner Market, helps kids understand budgeting.

My mock stock exchange helps kids understand what a stock is, what the stock exchange is, and how to invest. I have three 50-inch TVs, three 20-inch TVs, and a 43-inch touchscreen digital media player. There are also, 10 tablets, 12 stools, a real ATM, and a cash register.

Kids working at the tablet station onboard the bus and working in their bus books.
Kids working at the tablet station onboard the bus and working in their bus books.
Caden preparing for an interview for the news station.
Caden preparing for an interview for the news station.
Photo taken by Creative soul Photography 2023 Calendar.
Photo taken by Creative Soul Photography 2023 Calendar.

On my bus, I teach financial literacy through a series of workshops and seminars that cover a range of topics, including budgeting, saving, investing, credit, and debt management. I use a variety of teaching tools, including worksheets, quizzes, and games to help people understand complex financial concepts in a way that is easy to understand.

One of the key features of my teaching approach is my focus on practical, hands-on learning. I encourage kids and parents to take an active role in their financial education by setting up their budgets, tracking their expenses, and creating their investment portfolios. By doing so, people can see firsthand how financial concepts apply to their own lives and develop the skills they need to make smart financial decisions. When kids learn to make smart financial decisions early it gives them a head start in life.

Overall, my approach to teaching financial literacy is designed to be engaging, interactive, and practical. By making financial education fun and accessible, I can help people of all ages and backgrounds develop the skills they need to achieve financial success.

A mobile bus can be used for different purposes. For example, you can use it as a food truck, a mobile spa, a mobile boutique, or a mobile office. With a bus, you can customize the interior and exterior to suit your business needs. This means you can make your bus look attractive and unique, which can help to attract customers and create a brand identity.

Here are my top reasons why owning a bus as a mobile business is a great idea.

Here are my top reasons why owning a bus as a mobile business is a great idea.

1. Low Startup Costs

Starting a business can be expensive, especially if you need to rent or buy a physical location. However, with a bus, you can save money on startup costs. A bus is relatively cheap compared to a physical location, and you can customize it to suit your business needs.

For example, you can convert an old school bus into a food truck or a mobile boutique. This means you can save on rent, utilities, and other overhead costs associated with a physical location. Listed below are some other advantages of low start-up costs.

  • Reduced inventory costs: Depending on the type of mobile business you operate; you may not need to carry a large inventory of products. For example, if you operate a mobile pet grooming business, you only need to carry the necessary grooming tools and supplies. This means that your inventory costs will be lower compared to a traditional brick-and-mortar business.
  • Lower staffing costs: A mobile business typically requires fewer staff members compared to a traditional brick-and-mortar business. This is because you can handle most of the operations yourself. Additionally, you can hire part-time, or contract workers as needed, which can help keep your staffing costs low.
  • Flexibility: A mobile business can be more flexible than a traditional business. You can operate in different locations or at different times based on demand. This means that you can adjust your business operations to meet the needs of your customers without having to make significant investments in additional resources.

A mobile business can give you a low start-up cost because it allows you to operate with fewer overhead costs and can be more flexible than a traditional brick-and-mortar business.

A mobile bus can be a good option for entrepreneurs who are just starting and have limited funds. With a bus, you can start small and gradually expand your business as you grow. This means you can test the market and see if your business idea is viable before investing a lot of money.

Setting up before the start of class.
Setting up before the start of class.

2. Reach a Wider Audience

With a bus, you can reach a wider audience than a physical location. You can drive your bus to different locations, such as festivals, markets, and events, where potential customers are likely to be. Moreover, with social media and digital marketing, you can promote your bus and attract customers from different locations.

A mobile bus business can help you reach a wider audience in several ways:

  • A mobile bus business allows you to take your business to your customers instead of waiting for them to come to you. This flexibility means you can reach a wider audience, including people who might not have been able to access your services otherwise.
  • A mobile bus business allows you to be seen in different locations, increasing your visibility and brand recognition. This can help attract new customers who may not have known about your business before.  Especially if you have your business name on the side of your bus in big letters.
  • A mobile bus business can provide a convenient service to customers who may not have the time or means to travel to a fixed location. By bringing your services to them, you can make it easier for them to access what you offer.
  • A mobile bus business can be a great way to participate in events, festivals, and other gatherings where you can showcase your products or services to a wider audience. This can help you to reach a broader demographic and generate more interest in your business.
  • A mobile bus business can be a smart way to expand your customer base and reach out to new audiences. You can create a unique and memorable experience for your customers. For example, if you operate a food truck, you can decorate your bus with eye-catching graphics and serve unique dishes that are not available at other food trucks. This means you can create a loyal customer base who are likely to return to your bus for a unique experience.

If you operate a mobile spa, you can drive your bus to a corporate office and offer services to employees during their lunch break. This means you can reach customers who may not have the time or accessibility to visit a physical location.

The bus floor made with real pennies.
The bus floor is made with real pennies.

3. Stand out from Competitors

In today's competitive market, it's important to stand out from your competitors. With a bus, you can create a unique and memorable experience for your customers. For example, if you operate a food truck, you can decorate your bus with eye-catching graphics and serve unique dishes that are not available at other food trucks. This means you can create a loyal customer base who are likely to return to your bus for a unique experience.

Moreover, a mobile bus can attract customers who are looking for convenience and flexibility. For example, if you operate a mobile spa, you can offer services at the customer's location, which can save them time and money. This means you can attract customers who may not have the time or be interested in visiting a physical location.

4. Environmentally Friendly

A bus used as a mobile business can be environmentally friendly for several reasons:

  • Reduced energy consumption: A mobile business on a bus can use less energy than a brick-and-mortar store. For example, it may not require lighting, heating, or cooling systems to the same extent, as it is smaller and electrical power is only required when in operation.
  • Lower emissions: A mobile business on a bus can emit fewer greenhouse gas emissions than a traditional brick-and-mortar store, especially if it is powered by alternative fuels such as electric or biodiesel. This can be particularly beneficial if the bus is used for transportation, as it can reduce the number of individual vehicles on the road and the associated emissions.
  • Reduced waste: A mobile business in a bus also generates less waste than a traditional store. For example, it may not require the same level of packaging or disposable items, and it may be easier to recycle materials on the go.
  • Increased accessibility: A mobile business in a bus can also increase accessibility to products or services, especially in areas where there are few or no traditional stores. This can reduce the need for individuals to travel long distances to access essential goods and services, thereby reducing their carbon footprint.

Overall, a bus used as a mobile business can be an environmentally friendly option that can offer a range of benefits, both for the business owner and the wider community.

Side shot of Caden’s bus.
Side shot of Caden’s bus.

At thirteen years old, I’ve been impacting the kids in my community through my financial bus since my ribbon cutting in July 2022. I’ve taught over 1,000 students in that short amount of time. My 2024 schedule is already filling up and I’m looking forward to continuing my mission of reaching over 500,000 kids.

Want to book this bus? Click HERE

Videos to watch showcasing Caden’s bus: 

Bus Specifications

General

• Year: 1997

• Manufacturer: Blue Bird

• Model: TCFE 4800

• Vehicle Weight: 16,000 lbs.

• Fuel Tank Capacity: 90 Gallons

• Miles Per Gallon: 8 MPG

• Engine: 5.9L Cummins Diesel Engine

• Transmission: Allison 5-speed

• Overall Length: 37 ½ ft

• Overall Width:  7ft 6 in

• Overall Height:  73 ½ in

• Raised Roof – How Much: N/A

• Solar Power:  N/A

• House Batteries: N/A

• Electrical System/Shore Power Amps:  The bus uses a Predator 9500 Generator.  

Internal Equipment

• TV: Three 50-inch Vizio and Three 19-inch Onn

• Internet: Hotspot 

Interior

• Wall Material: Wood and Leather

• Ceiling Material: Plexiglass and Glass

• Flooring Material: Epoxy and Tile

• Countertop Material: Wood with Laminate Veneer

• Lighting Type:  Recessed Lighting and Strip LED Lighting 

Miscellaneous

• How long have you owned your bus? 2 years

• Did you do the conversion yourself? No 

• How long did it take? 3 months 

• How much did you spend on your bus and your conversion to complete it? $42,000

• Notable Features: It is unlike any conversion I have seen.

• What would you do differently next time? I wouldn’t change anything.

Article written by Caden Harris
Caden Harris spends his homeschool days visiting schools in the Atlanta, Georgia area spreading financial education on board his very own mobile classroom.He took a 1997 Bluebird bus and turned it into the coolest most innovative classroom you have ever seen. With his dad as his driver and his mom and sister Kennedi as his classroom assistants, he is impacting the country in his very own way.Caden is currently local to the Atlanta area with his bus but speaks all over the country. He is looking to take his lessons on a country-wide tour. Caden has a goal of reaching 500,000 kids. Caden’s slogan is for you to “Hop on the bus and learn with us.”You can follow Caden and the bus on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, TikTok, and on his website: https://www.cadenteaches.com/ 
Click HERE to read other articles by this Author
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