Education [ej-oo-key-shuh n]

“the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life.”

Education is one of the oldest industries in the world, but isn’t one necessarily known for growth or innovation. These ten entrepreneurs are shaking up the way education works. Learn more about them and how they’ve grown their education businesses.

“Our ultimate goal is the help parents help their kids thrive at school. ” – Katherine Firestone, Founder of Fireborn Institute 

What is Fireborn Institute? 

Fireborn Institute is a non-profit that provides parents with practical and easy-to-remember strategies to help their children in school. Through lectures, podcasts & handouts, they coach parents on topics such as helping with homework or conquering a messy backpack.

How have you grown your education business?

“Hiring people who are experts to do their job well. When I started Fireborn, I thought, I use social media, I can just do the social media for Fireborn. WRONG. Two years in, I have hired a woman who works for Fireborn for 15 hours a week and she does a way better job than I ever did. Our social media has way more of a following now and I have free time to do the stuff that I’m actually good at.”

 

“My dream is to live in a world where everyone knows how to code. [I’m working] to make that dream a reality.” – Stephen Foster, CEO of ThoughtSTEM

What is ThoughtSTEM? 

ThoughtSTEM teaches coding to thousands of students every year. Our teachers offer unmatched expertise in computer science education. We teach students ages 4 -18 after-school and throughout the summer through engaging coding projects.

How have you grown your education business?

Automate as much as possible. Never hire people to do a job that a computer could do.

 

“I found that small, ad hoc gatherings of my colleagues, where we could talk about what had just happened in our classrooms, made a tremendous impact on my teaching.” – Dave Wakefield, Founder of Sibme

What is Sibme? 

Sibme is an online video coaching and collaboration platform designed to improve professional practice. It bridges theory and practice through virtual coaching, professional services, and an online platform.

How have you grown your education business?

I often tell people that the education market is easy for people who sell desks, and hard for everyone else. Unless there’s an existing line-item on a budget for a product, it can be very challenging to break in. The only way to overcome that is persistence. This year, we doubled down on an aggressive outreach strategy that has shown outstanding results. While the whole world is focused on inbound lead generation, we’re out knocking on doors, making phone calls, and really aggressively making our case to schools. You can’t assume that silence = no. Not even “no” = no. Six months down the road, when a district is reevaluating their priorities, that no can easily become a yes. Make sure you stay engaged with leads and you’re always at the top of their minds.

 

“I’m excited to see more and more students starting to understand that they already have the talents within them to be successful – they just need to learn how to harness them. Strengths education (coaching/training) can do just that.” – Anne Brackett, Co-Founder of Strengths University

What is Strengths University? 

Whether we’re in school, on the job, or trying to become more fit or balanced, we quickly forget about the things we do well and focus instead on the things that weren’t so great – no matter how small those may be. Strengths University uses a Strengths approach instead. We help you look at what’s right with you and how you can use your natural talents to solve problems, become more productive, and be more fulfilled.

How have you grown your education business?

Talking to a social media expert, specifically Dustin York. I was never really into the whole “social media thing” personally, so when I started Strengths University I knew I had to do something social media related because everyone was. It wasn’t until I spoke to Dustin that I started understanding exactly how important this was. I better understood what to do but also started researching more information about it through experts like Gary Vaynerchuk. We’re still in the process of getting our social media going full throttle, but I have a much better appreciation for these tools now.

 

“I am excited by the way in which technology is disrupting every aspect of our business and social lives. Even job interviews are being automated, which means our students will need to be trained to cope with that. Through our internships, they are learning how to thrive in a company amidst digital disruption.” – Kevin Davis, Founder of First Workings

What is First Workings? 

First Workings is an organization whose mission is to help underserved and underrepresented NYC high school students acquire social capital. We accomplish this through arranging two-week paid internships in the summer between students’ junior and senior years. All internships need to be “aspirational” in nature, in the sense that they have to involve jobs or industries which were ordinarily out of our students’ reach. We do not accept internship positions that involve just photocopying, coffee runs, or anything that does not prepare these students for their future careers. Our Internship Partners span the industries of finance, business, medicine, engineering, law, architecture, technology, non-profit, fashion, media, film, and real estate.

How have you grown your education business?

My golden rule as a business leader is to make sure that I always gave myself opportunities to have opportunities. This means trying different ways to achieve an end-result, confident that least one path will be the right one.

 

“Why not combine the three elements of the International Baccalaureate’s CAS components (which entails Creativity, Activity and Service) to truly discover and engage with a destination? And so the basic CAS Trips model took shape.” – Simon Armstrong, Founder of CAS Trips

What is CAS Trips? 

CAS Trips is an educational tour operator, seeking to redefine the concept of educational travel by tackling the UN SDGs (sustainable development goals) whilst engaging in volunteer projects inspired by the notions of Creativity, Activity and Service. Working with schools from all over the world, CAS Trips aim to make a genuine, sustainable impact on school trips.

How have you grown your education business?

Connecting people through passion. When you explain and explore your concept or idea and you feel someone gets it, don’t leave it at that. Push the discussion further and discover just how much you align. If the alignment is something you can’t ignore, trust your instinct and start to explore ways you can work together to achieve that common goal. More often than not, you’ll find business can also be run by your heart and not just your head.

 

“The increasing availability of computers and education [excites me]. All you need today is a $100 chromebook, free wifi, and the will to learn.” – Prahasith Veluvolu, CEO of Mimir

What is Mimir? 

Mimir Classroom provides the tools for instructors to efficiently teach Computer Science courses of any scale without compromising quality of education for students.

How have you grown your education business?

Getting users involved in our product development cycle has helped us grow our business. We give our users access to an ideas portal where they can suggest new features and vote on their favorites. It really helps to build trust and also gives our users a stake in our product.

 

“The truth is if you want to advance your business, you have to invest with professionals that can expertly guide you.” – Jessica Terzakis, Co-Owner of Terzakis & Associates

What is Terzakis & Associates? 

We help entrepreneurs break out of the “wishing they had an online course” cycle by creating it with them or for them. Our company helps overwhelmed and frustrated entrepreneurs better communicate their brilliance and stand out from other online course creators.

How have you grown your education business?

We recently started sponsoring and speaking at larger business events and conventions. One of our goals was to expand beyond our local market, and this has helped us do exactly that. By sponsoring and speaking, we’ve networked with business peers and met dozens of leads. The best part is that there is an in-person connection at the events where you can create like, know, and trust with potential clients.

 

“We are that missing ‘in-class’ link to the ever-growing demand of teaching children social skills and emotional intelligence (SEL)…We’re here to help schools implement curriculum.” – Pam McNall, Founder and CEO of RespectfulWays.com

What is RespectfulWays.com? 

RespectfulWays.com is an online social emotional learning curriculum program and educator support tool. Utilizing research-based activities, lesson plans, music, poetry, signage, and rewards, Respectful Ways offers 54 modules to help educators teach Compassion, Perseverance, Respect, and Responsibility.

How have you grown your education business?

I stay plugged into entrepreneurial groups, I continue to work with mentors, I carry my business cards with me at all times, and share what I’m doing with whomever will listen. “You never know who you know, knows,” was a saying my grandmother often said. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable, but if you believe in your product and you believe that what you’re doing will help others, there is no need to hesitate. Don’t listen to your ego telling you, “enough already.” — It’s never enough. Even millionaires still hit the pavement running. Keep advocating on your own behalf and your company’s behalf. Don’t assume others will do it for you.

 

“When we are learning, some discomfort in understanding new things or protecting our practice can happen, but coaching doesn’t have to hurt.” – Kristyn Klei Borrero, CEO and Co-Founder of CT3

What is CT3? 

CT3 transforms the quality and culture of education for youth, especially those in traditionally disenfranchised communities through “no-nonsense nurturing”, and teaching and leadership coaching.

How have you grown your education business?

Hiring. Hire people who are smarter than you and make you smarter. Hire people that will disagree with you. Hire folks who are a culture fit for the organization, as you can always alter a job description. Hire folks that don’t look like, sound like, or think like you do. If you hire for diversity, culture, and brains, these people help you get to solutions faster and can make more impact more quickly!

 

Ready to tell us your entrepreneur story? Learn more at ideamensch.com/interview.

Photo by James Pond on Unsplash

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