Have an idea that would solve a problem in higher education? An article from Bright Hub lists three characteristics of education entrepreneurs: (1) act as change agents, (2) bring new mindsets and beliefs, and (3) encourage experimentation and constant learning.
The Huffington Post reported a study last year from Babson College’s Global Entrepreneurship Monitor citing that “there are nearly 400 million active entrepreneurs around the world.” As the higher education industry in particular looks for innovative ways to solve problems in difficult times, there are more resources available to help you move forward with your own ideas. And overall growth in small business, independent contracting, and entrepreneurial activities suggests that the opportunities are just beginning.
One of my online students recently contacted me about a project he is working on and wondered what the next steps would be to either market his idea as a potential business or even make it available as an open source project. It’s an interesting idea that sent me on a search for helpful resources.
Take the Next Step
Depending on where you are in the process, your next step may be to research the market, get advice about moving forward, or even pitch your idea to an investor. Turning a good idea into a viable business model means researching the options and finding solid sources of advice. Fortunately, there are programs available to help you do just that, and you can begin by exploring the following websites:
- Challenge.gov: A project from the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. General Services Administration encouraged K-12 and undergraduate students “to tackle tough education challenges as innovators and entrepreneurs.” There are multiple challenge categories, and you can view the judging criteria and 2012 National Education Startup Challenge winners online. Search for current education challenges posted on Challenge.gov and prepare your submission.
- ED Startup 101: This MOOC focused on entrepreneurship in education took place late last year, but left behind some relevant resources. Check out the list of expert facilitators “who have done it before and succeeded,” and connect with them via social media. You can also read the class blog posts, which are organized by course topic, and browse the video presentations on YouTube.
- Edupreneur Jobs: If you are interested in working with other educational initiatives, including serving as a consultant, this Yahoo Group is one source for job openings and special events related to education and small business.
- The Launch Pad: This new program from The Sloan Consortium plans to help you demonstrate your project, as well as provide “the priceless opportunity to speak with the world’s leading online educators and learn how to improve your product to meet their needs.” Related activities are planned in conjunction with Sloan’s Emerging Technologies for Online Learning Symposium, taking place in April. Go online to apply before the February 12 deadline.
- StartUp Weekend – Education: Through this series of local events, “educators and entrepreneurs from various backgrounds come together to solve problems effectively in just 54 hours.” Find out more about how to participate as part of your community. Upcoming sessions include Raleigh-Durham, NC (March 8 ) and Charlottesville, VA (April 5).
- U.S. Small Business Administration: Find out more about what it takes to set up and maintain a small business with the guidance provided by the SBA. Services include free mentoring, workshops, and more both online and in your area through district offices and SCORE.org.
Build Your Network
Connect with leaders in the field, business advisors, and colleagues to assemble your own team, an advisory board, to field your questions as you take the next step, and then the step after that.
Students may want to include their instructors in the conversation, as my student did. Many of us adjunct-types are working on other contracts as well, and often have experience and connections in the business world. While not every person you contact will be available, interested, or even appropriate to add to your network, they may be able to recommend others for you to meet and possibly provide introductions.
Whether you are a current student or an educator, you are in a position to identify and speak to the needs of the online classroom. As higher education struggles to find the way ahead, consider how you could contribute as an entrepreneur. You might not make it big, but you might make a difference.
Image credit: nyoin, Flickr, CC:BY-NC-ND