From Classroom to Enterprise: Elevating education through entrepreneurship  

EdChoice and NEXT Studios launch an ideation workshop, turning passionate educators into successful entrepreneurs and filling the gaps in educational choice.

With eight states joining the roster of those offering educational choice to all students, 2023 has easily become the Year of Universal Choice. In a matter of two years, the number of students eligible for choice programs has grown by 60 percent, with approximately 20 million students now free to learn in the environment of their family’s choosing.

But enacting programs is just the beginning. Without alternative learning options to their zoned district schools, these students still won’t have access to an education that works best for them. That’s why EdChoice, in partnership with NEXT studios has launched the EdChoice Education Entrepreneurs program.

“We heard from many organizations and donors supporting education entrepreneurs that one of the things they wanted was basic training on how to take their idea and turn it into reality,” said EdChoice’s Vice President of External Relations Brian McGrath. “They had the passion but not the tools to make the idea a sustainable reality.”

The EdChoice Education Entrepreneurs program seeks to give entrepreneurs the skills and knowledge they need to be successful long term, which will help build up a more permanent ecosystem of diverse learning environments, platforms, and programing. The goal is to create a robust marketplace of options that families may choose from when creating an creating a learning path for their children.

Entrepreneur class

The first class of EdChoice Education Entrepreneurs was launched in November of 2022. Out of a pool of 50 applicants, 20 participants were selected to form the first cohort. The class was split into two groups. One was led by our partners at NEXT Studios, and the other by partners at Edupreneur Academy.

“Two observations played a role in our agreement to partner with EdChoice,” said NEXT Studios founder John McDonald. “There seems to be a hole in the marketplace for Edtech or education business model acceleration. There have been organizations that have come and gone trying to do this, but there generally seems to be a vacuum here—helping education entrepreneurs.”

“My second observation of the education industry is that it’s exceedingly fragmented, for lack of better words. There may be thousands, if not millions, of people trying to make a difference in their community. So, if you had the most effective possible thing happening in a certain classroom, in a certain school, in a certain district, in a certain city, nobody knows about it,” McDonald continued “There’s no ability for that particular educator to build a business model around that and make it be something that’s used by a lot of different people because there’s just no notion of venture capital or entrepreneurial support.”

Amanda Sinnott (left)

One participant, Amanda Sinnott, used what she learned to help launch her online personalized tutoring company for students with ADHD and virtual learners.

“I was working full time at an Autism curriculum development company while also tutoring for third graders for a Minecraft club on the side until I found out about EdChoice. The timing was perfect because I had just decided to start full time, but I had no clients,” said Sinnott.

“I didn’t know where to start, so it was kind of impulsive but I decided to trust the process. Within a month, I was fully booked then scrambling to find tutors and get everything in place. I’ve worked in business, but without EdChoice I wouldn’t have realized all the steps I needed to launch. I really don’t know how I would’ve done it.”

Once participants complete the program, their community support doesn’t end there.

“Just being around the right people that were talking about things that were relevant to entrepreneurship was super valuable,” she continued. “Just last week, I talked to John and Tom [NEXT Studios Managing Entrepreneurs] to be able to ask these questions about incorporating. There’s just this constant cycle of business-related questions that come up and having [John and Tom] as an ongoing resource is priceless.”

The class included four online sessions stretching from December through early February. In late February the group convened for an in-person session where participants finished the formal learning part of the program by presenting pitch decks. They were also able to connect with each other, share ideas, and meet with some entrepreneurial mentors that we brought in.

Supporting education entrepreneurs is an extension of our mission and intellectual legacy.

“Milton Freeman taught all of us that there are three things needed for an effective marketplace of opportunities: customers, in this case parents, armed with demand, and the ability to make choices; great information about all the choices that are out there; and a robust, unencumbered set of supply,” said EdChoice President and CEO Robert Enlow.

“Despite the successes achieved over the last 27 years by the choice movement, our marketplace of educational options looks essentially the same as it did in 1840, regardless of whether it’s a charter school, a public school, or a private school. And so, we must figure out ways to accelerate entrepreneurs with new ideas for how to deliver education in the modern world. Without those options, we’ll be left with the same system we’ve had for the last 200 years, and that’s not acceptable.”

After receiving so much positive feedback about the first effort, EdChoice launched a second class in September. The 15 participants will meet virtually monthly through January, before gathering in-person in February to conclude the work.

“These people didn’t enter teaching because they wanted to be entrepreneurs, so it results in what I think are millions of really good ideas that really never get scale because there’s just nothing in place to help shine the light on the best ones,” said McDonald.

“We’re trying to go after the opportunity that it exists within all these great ideas and these great people and increase their impact.”

If you or someone you know is considering or currently working on an idea or project to improve the delivery of educational options for K-12 students and would like to learn more, email