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. Caitriona Harris

    I appreciate the connection made between the small school community meshing with the edupreneur spirit, especially here in Oklahoma where even in the more urban and suburban areas, schools suffer when districts are forced to consolidate, resulting in the displacement/orphaning of learners.

  2. panchoo

    “Zip code should not determine opportunity” resonated with me. It certainly should not but in the vast majority of cases it absolutely does. So my question is, how do we work to meaningfully change this? It is unrealistic to think we are making any significant shifts. Of course there are pockets throughout our nation that have done a great job to tackle the equity question but we really have made no long term impact. I would love to visit Odyssey Leadership Academy!

  3. clsnyder-renfro

    1.Transfer technology ideas to market. At the end of last year, I designed our new school academy model which included becoming a project based and service learning school. Clearly not something accomplished overnight, but I feel attainable nonetheless. After completing surveys of almost ½ of the school population and an exit interview with the most recognized senior last year I came to the conclusion that students need more hands on experiences. Building background knowledge is significant for student success and was on the list of things students crave. I determined then one of my goals for this year was to find as many funded field experiences as possible for as many students as possible for our school. So far over two hundred student experiences have been fully funded.
    2.Successfully position and sell your idea. I develop and run school promotional programs, manage our school Twitter account and am the school webmaster. I applied to be a Global School of Service with Youth Service America this summer and was accepted. Now we are one of the few in Oklahoma. This set a foundation to focus on service learning opportunities for students. Now we are a pilot school for the Oklahoma ICAP development. Service will be a component of the graduation ICAPs. We are already on track having completed numerous service learning opportunities.
    3.Think financially like an entrepreneur. When I have ideas for projects I ask for donations from community partners or just call people who have what I need, I search for and write grants regularly. I have received so much additional support and grants that people contact me often when they find grants they think I might be interested in. Additionally, becoming a Global School of Service opened up new opportunities for grants.
    4.Use the fundamentals of resource development, including talent and capital. Community partners and advisory board members serve as powerful resources and have been significant in implementing projects and activities for our school Academy of Entrepreneurial Studies. I have planned and managed most of our service projects. I have had complete support from the school principal who reminds me to get help. During the first service project for 9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance, many teachers were apprehensive. I provided lessons, resources, and physical support during the event. Afterward, teachers came to me excited and telling me stories about the success event. Success helped them overcome their previous fears and reservations which opened the door to their creativity and support for future events. Now they look forward to future events.

    • K Dalton

      Loved your comments, and I am thinking along the same lines for the Academy where I now am Director of Education. Is there any way we could visit?

  4. melissayarbrough

    These example are intriguing. I think the area I am lacking knowledge about the fiscal resources available.

    • babakay55

      It is true that one should look beyond government for funding especially in Africa.


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