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.


  1. Amber Round

    I have been reflecting a lot on the financial side of eduprenuership mindset. I am also enrolled in School Finance and so I’m seeing how the current model works against equitable opportunities and outcomes for our students. In the text it speaks about how an eduprenurial leader must find ways to help finance things but that lends itself to the question of when is there time for that?

  2. David jewell

    Equity is the largest issue I see I this concept. Unfortunately in public education equity is a target we have not yet hit. It is constantly moving and changing depending on the situation. For example Covid-19 has broadened the gap between the have and have nots. Whether you look at technology, access to internet or simply schools staying with in person learning Covid-19 has advanced the equity piece if education. We will not be able to see the outcomes and separation for years to come. It will be interesting to study this data in the next decade and see what the impact is for the students involved with Covid-19 right now.

  3. Joseph Dossett

    I am really enjoying the process of cultivating an edupreneurial mindset. My largest concerns with the whole idea of the edupreneurial mindset all revolve around equity. Is the new program or school we are developing meant for all students? Is every student in our community/state/country eligible to receive an education in our new model we design? Public education has been tried and tested when it comes to who we are required to educate. It has to be everyone. I would like to only entertain new schools and programs that have an appropriate education path for all students to receive a free and appropriate public education.

    I don’t think anyone in the educational realm would disagree with the DCPS philosophy that “zip codes should not determine opportunities”. But creating opportunities for sub-sections of students inherently excludes students that do not meet requirements of listed sub-section.

    I also love the Sierra Nevada Academy Charter School’s idea of “experience the small school community”. Many schools get larger in population and lose the “small school community”.

    • Erin Starkey

      Hi JJ, coming from a background in public education, I agree with you in regards to ensuring opportunities for all students. It was the topic of discussion today on my podcast with an innovative edupreneur who grew up in Queens NY and is focused on creating inclusive opportunities for students. I would love to hear what you think!

  4. Rachel Kim

    It is amazing to see how people actually implement their ideas into creating a school!

    In my story, I was able to see the huge gaps of what students received as their educational opportunity/support through their family. In South Korea, English skill is considered as a great tool for achieving personal/professional success as well as a gatekeeper/a potential barrier to academic success and social mobility (Choi, 2021). I would like to offer an educational opportunity to underprivileged students, so they can access to English education via using technology. Good parts of this story is that I got to see that a lot of Korean parents are willing to pay high amount of money for their kids, especially their English education. Good scenario of this case is that I can make connection between resources from “rich” parents and the way to help underprivileged students by offering good curriculum to both sides of the groups through a school or an educational space.

    At the same time, English (language learning) itself should not be the final goal for education but the valuable goals or visions.

    The values that I believe for each student came from some of the Bible verses below.

    1 Corinthians 12:12-31 (One Body with Many Parts)
    Ephesians 4: 7 (He has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of Christ.)

    I believe that every student is precious and has a special gift, and they need to learn that and even help each other to grow together. In this way, I believe that they can thrive their lives together.

    I have not figured out yet about any curriculum or program that are implemented based on those Bible versers. I hope to see the clear ways to implement these ideas (values) in school, and I hope to make connections between two parts that I mentioned above.

  5. George Pascual

    “ 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.”

    I could not agree more. Education is one of the few organizations in life where outside sources with zero credentials or credibility have the most control over the big picture. Teachers should be leading teachers. Administrators should help guide administrators. The only way this can come to be is if these people have the knowledge and resources available to get their ideas across a wider scale.

    I love the idea of offering the tools to do so. There is no handbook on how to do this.

  6. Sydney Silva

    “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.”

    I love this quote from Executive Director Dr. Kimberly Regan because it embodies the values that are most important to me. As an educator, I strive to build a positive, inclusive environment for my students. As a leader, I think our school culture is the most important product we provide. When our students and their families feel the positivity and compassion that is in our building, it radiates into our community.


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