Cultivating an Edupreneurial Mindset


Ed Harris
Katherine Curry
Entrepreneurism, a need-driven desire to create and innovate (Kao, Kao & Kao, 2011), is trending in the business world, and education is following suit. It is no surprise that educators have embraced the value of entrepreneurship due to the fact that the primary goal and evaluative perspective of entrepreneurism is the impact that efforts have on society (Kao, et al., 2011). Educators, like successful entrepreneurs, engage in practices that promote the “common good.” Additionally, emulating the corporate modus operandi is not unusual. Since the Industrial Revolution, threads of business thought have been intertwined with educational practice, especially in areas of management, division of labor, and organizational culture.

The French roots of entrepreneur suggest one who engages in a noble cause greater than oneself. Stanford University, a leader in entrepreneurial thought, markets a course where students learn four entrepreneurial competencies. These competencies include the ability to:

  • Transfer technology ideas to market,
  • Successfully position and sell your idea,
  • Think financially like an entrepreneur,
  • Use the fundamentals of resource development, including talent and capital.

In fact, we think the term, “edupreneur,” best captures the essence of these applications for entrepreneurial educators. Below are some ideas regarding how these four competencies can be transferred to the educational world.

1. Transfer technology ideas to market: Edupreneurs can simply translate this competency as: transfer educational ideas to constituents. These ideas may include knowledge, research, designs, strategies, practices, information, appropriate media, and other services. The “market” for educators includes our students, communities, and society as a whole.

Oklahoma’s Odyssey Leadership Academy provides a good example of “Transferring ideas to market.” Odyssey views their “market” as the local and global context in which students both learn and have an impact. Odyssey provides innovative opportunities such as explorations, expeditions, and excursions for students to learn in non-traditional, community spaces. These mutually beneficial experiences extend learning beyond the school walls as well as provide opportunities for students and edupreneurs to bring their expertise, knowledge, and skills to the marketplace of ideas.

2. Successfully position and sell your idea: Author Lois Wyse said, “The only people in the world who can change things are those who can sell ideas.” In edupreneurship, we must proactively market and showcase our services. This means more than just disseminating information. The days of “build it and they will come” no longer exist (maybe they never did!). Today, more than ever, we need to sell our ideas and showcase the good things we are doing.

If you look at Sierra Nevada Academy Charter School’s website, you will clearly see their story of “bringing the small school community back to the neighborhood.” Executive Director Dr. Kimberly Regan explains, “Our culture inherently markets the school, as word of mouth penetrates the community. People who experience the small school community, and as their children succeed, share their celebrations with others. By nature, such conversations lead to more folks wanting to be a part of our school community.”

3. Think financially like an entrepreneur: Educators have historically been dependent on Federal, State, and local funding sources. However, there are other funding sources available, if one knows where to look and how to inquire. Funding sources can be found through websites, national organizations, grants, local civic organizations, and even the school’s parent-teacher association. Edupreneurial leaders seek creative ways to finance their enterprise.

Democracy Prep Public Schools (DPCS) is a charter network in Harlem that believes zip codes should not determine opportunities. DPCS funds its schools with public money received from city, state, and federal governments as well as from private philanthropy. The key to their financial success, however, lies in the fact that they efficiently spend money as close to the student as possible: spending the most on great teachers and much less on its comparatively lean administration.

4. Use the fundamentals of resource development, including talent and capital: An understanding of human and fiscal resources is central to all successful leadership practices. Ongoing development of these resources is the difference between simply understanding them and thinking like an edupreneurial leader.

An example of wise resource use and rethinking the business of schooling can be found in North Carolina’s Thales Academy. Founded by entrepreneur/businessman Bob Luddy, Thales is a network of schools designed to serve families in multiple socioeconomic strata. Thales saves money by spending significantly less on infrastructure (no auditoriums or cafeterias), personnel (no support staff), and larger teacher-student ratio (26-1). Community resources are also wisely used to serve students.

The above are just a few ideas about what it means to think like an edupreneur. What are your thoughts? What is your story and how can you tell it more effectively?


Kao, R. W., Kao, R. R., & Kao, K. R. (2011). Evolution of entrepreneurship: Toward stewardship-based economics. In L. P. Dana (Ed.), World Encyclopedia of Entrepreneurship (pp. 158- 169). Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing.


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