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. Greg

    The information on Governance was very interesting. As educators who are primarily in the role of a traditional public school system we are ingrained with the idea that there is only one form of governance for schools, that of a traditional board. Obviously, there are many types of governance and many models to follow if one were included to start a school.

  2. Stephanie R Starkey

    Since I actually do have a retail and entrepreneurial background, I can relate to both the business and educational sides of this scenario. In my opinion, both are important when considering building a school. While it takes heart and knowledge to build relationships with students and ensure that they grow and learn, it also takes business savvy and entrepreneurial know how to build it successfully and ensure that it thrives for the future and not just for a short time. Once the school of my dreams gets going, I do not want it to fail because I could not keep it going financially. I also do not want to be unable to pay my employees that I hope are incredibly deserving of their pay. It all really just goes together as package.

  3. Michael Afolabi

    The concept and the idea of “marrying” or better said adapting the entrepreneurship ideas to education is very profound and beautiful. The clause of thinking financially like an entrepreneur is absolutely key and core. I will always make reference to where I come from (because of the peculiarity there). Unfortunately, education in that region is not absolutely a right which is sad. Those that could have been called an eduprenuer are charlatans who invested in education/schools to make money, enrich their pockets, and milk the innocent parents. This is so because the public school system has failed and the private schools/edupreneurs who could have filled the lacuna are. callous. I am happy because I have a friend who is an alumnus of the International Visitors Leadership Program, IVLP Washington D.C, who is changing the face (at least in her own corner) of education by picking the underprivileged kids on the streets and helping them academically with the help of British and American governments.

  4. Joy

    While I see value in cultivating an edupreneurial mindset in that it encourages creativity and provides a small scale opportunity to test ideas, I struggle with accepting the notion of turning over education to the free market as is suggested by putting together education and entrepreneur. I can see how there are ways to be an edupreneur and still work within the public school system, however, those opportunities are limited. Promoting opt-in learning opportunities outside of the public school system decreases equity. These types of school systems rarely provide equitable access for all students, even when they aim to. Distance alone can create inequitable situations. If the edupreneur mindset is promoted within a system that is hyper-focused on equity as the public school system should be, it’s worthy of our time, but if not, I’d rather the emphasis be on creating Edu-Advocates that are well positioned to tell the story of what we need to make public schools successful. This could include increased flexibility to try out some of the creative ideas edupreneurs run with, but with a population that reflects our community as a whole.

  5. Suzanna Bennett

    As I learn about how education has changed over the years, it is clear there isn’t a transparent black and white answer to resolving the issues within the education system. Several influential people with different ideas and motives have led to the problems we face in education. I believe it is essential for an eduprenuer to do the research behind schooling and clearly understand your pull or desire to start a school or lead a district before. With knowledge comes wisdom, and it helps an entrepreneur have a clear vision and a purpose, then there will be a better focus when following those four competencies mentioned above.

  6. Heather Zacarias

    The four competencies mentioned in this blog; transfer technology ideas to market,
    successfully position and sell your idea, think financially like an entrepreneur, and
    use the fundamentals of resource development, including talent and capital, are absolutely essential when starting a school. The last question in the blog, “What is your story and how can you tell it more effectively,” has inspired me to organize and document the multiple steps that have been taken to open Western Gateway Elementary, a multi-cultural dual-language immersion school so that our school model can be replicated. One additional aspect of edupreneurialism that I believe should be explored and included is the school’s ability to be replicated. Successful schools should have a model that others can replicate in order to continue to build and open additional new schools that experience the same success rates. In large districts, we typically see a few great schools and lots of not-so-great schools and we’re left wondering, why can’t all the schools be great? How can greatness be replicated in schools?

  7. Mondre Polk

    Do to the lack of funding in education I feel thinking like a entrepreneur is a great way of thinking. By doing the
    Is my provide the resources needed to help students and teachers alike.

  8. Jessie Wright

    I really like the idea of integrating concepts of entrepreneurism into the field of education. One idea that stood out to me in particular is thinking financially like an entrepreneur. While in a perfect world schools would be more fully and equitably funded, the current reality is they are not, and school staff and leaders can be active in working to secure financial support for resources. One of my colleagues is great about this He is always seeking out and sharing opportunities for grants, resource donations, and funds to support the purchase of classroom materials, and one can easily see the benefit this provides within his classroom. Similarly, in my community business leaders and parents joined together to create the Jenks Public Schools Foundation, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing for student and staff needs within my school. This organization raises incredible sums of money, and in working with staff and site leaders this money is allocated to help better serve students. Overall, while it can be easy to see the lack of funding available to schools and feel disheartened or give up, those with an edupreneurial mindset really can take this challenge into their own hands and find or create resources and opportunities for students.

  9. Troy E.

    We, as educators, only get to work with what we are able to get as far as educational resources. I work in the Career Tech system, therefore, we are funded by a different model than public schools. I know I have friends that are in public schools that have such minimum resources that their already hard job is made even harder because they just do not get the resources they need. Alternative funding, when available, is the only way to really be able to do the job efficiently.

  10. Zach Estes

    I am focusing on selling the idea. I find that I get nervous in situations where I am asked to share my ideas because I am afraid they will not be ‘good enough” or well-received. Even when I think I have a brilliant idea and others think it’s great, I still find myself second-guessing myself when it comes to sharing it with those who matter.

    • Mondre Polk

      So what tools do you use to over come the freight you have about voicing your concerns or opinion.

  11. 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?

  12. 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.

    • Michael Afolabi

      I cannot agree less with you. There are a lot of regions in The US that has no or poor internet service. The kids in this region has suffered immensely because they couldn’t connect with their peers and they have lagged behind. Like you said the ripple effects awaits us all in the future.

  13. 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!

    • Amanda LeMay-Daniels

      I love the concept of Edupreneurs in term of combining education and an entrepreneur, which is exactly what administrators are today. We are faced a decrease in funding with an increase in academic success. We have to figure out how to sell our school per se to obtain additional funding in order to meeting the expectations of our students, staff, parents and community. Shifting our mindset to entrepreneurism will increase our influence as leaders which will results in an overall success in education.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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!

  19. 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?

  20. 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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