Education entrepreneur starting a business

5 CRITICAL FIRST STEPS TO BECOMING AN ENTREPRENEUR

Everything moves in cycles. Sometimes the cycles are short, and sometimes they can take decades (or longer) to complete. Looking at the world around us today, one thing is breathtakingly clear. Teachers are on the front-line of everything. As the world teleconferences teachers into our homes, and vice-versa, there is a wave of entrepreneurship coming that will take our traditional education system by storm.

The “Teacherpreneur” is an amazing concept. And before long, teacherpreneurs will be recognized as the amazing resources they are for society.  But how does a good teacher make the jump from classroom educator, to being an entrepreneur with a mission to impact hundreds, thousands, or even millions of children?

For current teachers who are curious or possibly seriously considering making the jump to teacherpreneur, you will recognize many, if not all, of the following characteristics about yourself:

  • You have great ideas an love testing new innovations in the classroom.
  • You are not satisfied with the status quo and have regularly “rocked the boat” with your beliefs that teachers can be doing so much more for their students.
  • You are constantly pushing up against the boundaries of administrative and bureaucratic oversight.
  • You learn as much from your students as they do from you.
  • You often dream of being able to impact a larger world than your classroom.

If that sounds like you, then you have an amazing adventure ahead of you. Here are 5 things you need to do before making the leap from classroom leader to company founder.

Start networking and see what is out there

The first step to determining if becoming a “Teacherpreneur” is the right decision for you is to start networking outside of your normal circles. The internet and social networks have made the surface-level of networking much easier than in the past. However, to start moving down a path towards taking entrepreneurial steps, you will want to begin having direct communications with founders. The good news is that Teacherpreneurs are everywhere.

There are so many amazing education startups and businesses that it has never been easier to reach out and get in contact. The best news is that education company founders are some of the easiest people to get into contact with, and they want to tell you everything. They are still teachers at heart!

See the world as “Education problems and Solutions”

As a teacher, your job is to identify the unique problems of students and think of solutions that will help the student maximize their academic potential. The problems you see every day in your classroom are problems that children all over the world, in thousands and thousands of classrooms, are also having every day. There is a root cause of the problems you are seeing with your students, and those root causes are categories of problems that exist everywhere.

If you have a solution to a problem that works in your classroom, then there is a chance that your solution will solve the same category of problem wherever it exists.

Understand that technology isn’t a solution, it is an accelerator

Many hopeful teacherpreneurs make the mistake of assuming that becoming a teacherpreneur means that they have to come up with a sophisticated technology product that redefines the classroom. Major technology companies like Google and Microsoft have been expanding their influence in the education industry, and bringing with them the full weight of Silicon Valley technology resources.

Don’t be fooled by the complexity and scale of a system like Google Classroom, or the infrastructure that Microsoft is able to provide to entire districts for implementing their connectivity solutions. Those are NOT the problems that you are trying to solve.

A far better example to look at would be Clever. Clever was founded, and rooted, in solving a very common and simple problem affecting schools. Dan Carroll and Tyler Bosmeny founded Clever with a mission to solve the problem of student rostering and multiple passwords from digital contents in schools. The problem they were seeing was a day-to-day, classroom pain point that only teachers could have identified. Their solution, Clever, now impacts the educational experience of tens of millions of children. Clever’s success story reinforces the point that you don’t need to be from a technology powerhouse to solve a classroom problem. Quite the opposite, actually. The classroom problems give teachers an insight that big technology companies simply don’t see.

Let the cat out of the bag

One of the biggest mistakes a hopeful teacherpreneur can make is to keep their ideas locked away in secrecy. There are two main reasons for doing this.

  1. Fear of what others might think of you
  2. Fear that others might try to steal your idea

Fortunately, neither reason should stop you from sharing your ideas to get feedback. Feedback from peers, friends, family, and the expanding network of like-mined teacherpreneurs that you are developing will be instrumental in shaping your idea into something that can endure the challenges of the startup world. The sooner you are sharing and getting feedback on your ideas, the sooner you can begin refining your ideas.

In the startup world, everything is a race. You are also racing against your potential competition to refine your ideas to create a market-worthy product. If you never start the race, you can never win.

Start thinking like an entrepreneur

If you want to become an entrepreneur, you need to start thinking like an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs are in the business of finding solutions for problems they see, then finding a way to sell that solution to an end user. Many people see problems, and many people have solutions for the problems they see. But not a lot of people are able to make a solution to a problem, then charge money for the solution. At the end of the day, businesses need money to pay their bills. Teacherpreneurs are no different from other entrepreneurs when it comes to needing revenue to pay bills.

Brainstorming, prototyping, and testing innovations in the classroom are only pieces of the startup business puzzle. To complete the puzzle, you must be able to see a path forward for creating revenue from your ideas. That is often the most difficult part. Selling an education solution is not as tangible as selling a physical commodity. The value in education solutions is inherently not measurable by traditional product metrics. You need to deliver and sell both real and perceived value. The perception of value to your end user is critical when pitching an education business. Start practicing your pitches on value early, as the practice will come in handy later when you are pitching for real.

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