The Educational Entrepreneur: Making a Difference is a result of our deep appreciation and respect for the American free enterprise system, which allows and encourages individuals to become entrepreneurs. The book is an outgrowth of our professional experiences, commitment to quality education, and passion for lifelong learning. Our many years of experience dedicated to education have convinced us that changes must be made. For education of high quality to flourish, we believe that entrepreneurism in education is the key to identifying and implementing those changes.

We have been fortunate throughout our careers in both public and private education to have worked with many extremely talented, creative, and dedicated teachers and other professionals. We are convinced that for positive changes to take place in the field of education, the vast potential of outstanding educators must be allowed to fully develop and be properly rewarded. For it is these committed people who will take advantage of the exciting new opportunities to transform education.

As educators, we have been able to observe education from many perspectives by serving in leadership positions at every level of education, both public and private, including preschool, elementary school, middle or junior high school, high school college, and graduate school. We have experienced the great American Dream - the joy and excitement that comes from creating an educational business. We have felt the fears and frustrations of uncertainty about financial security for our families and our businesses, and concern about whether we would be able to meet our payrolls, pay our bills, and service our loans.

Through being in business, we have learned the connection between autonomy and social responsibility. We have sensed the personal satisfaction and pride resulting from effort and sacrifice. We have enjoyed wonderful words of gratitude from parents and former students for the educational programs we provided in our schools.

In 1998, we established the International Academy for Educational Entrepreneurship (IAEE). The mission of IAEE is to identify, encourage, and support educators who have already invested or are interested in investing time, energy, and capital to create, develop and market programs, products, services, and/or technologies designed to enhance and improve education. We decided IAEE's first endeavor should be a book profiling and celebrating successful educational entrepreneurs.

This book features twenty-two educational entrepreneurs representing a variety of educational businesses. Some of the businesses represented have international dealings. The businesses include for-profit and not-for-profit private schools; educational travel services; early childhood programs; developers, manufacturers, and publishers of educational products, and media; and author of children's books; tutorial services; a school for high-risk students; a homeschooling management network; educational consultants for curriculum and charter schools; an educational software publisher; and educational camp; and an entrepreneurs range in size from small family businesses generating a few hundred thousand dollars in revenue each year to a company that recently sold for over $1 billion. Three of the individuals featured have sold their companies but continue to stay active in educational endeavors, and one passed away in January 2000.

The educational entrepreneurs were selected from individuals we already knew or who were recommended to us. These educational entrepreneurs established a variety of educational businesses that have had a dramatic impact on education. The profiles of educational entrepreneurs in this book have been gleaned from on-site and/or telephone interviews, and other source materials that provide candid views of each individual. Prior to publication, those educational entrepreneurs featured reviewed their chapter for accuracy.

Of course, all the women and men featured in this book are unique individuals from different age groups, backgrounds, and socioeconomic situations. Likewise, they have had very different experiences as educational entrepreneurs. Many have found that their entrepreneurial efforts have solidified their marriages; a few just the opposite. Some have businesses that have been in existence for over twenty-five years; others for as little as five or six years. Most have actively participated in their businesses with their spouse and/or children. Many have had some false starts. Most, if not all, have watched their business transformed to meet changing needs. Most have found ways to work directly with both public and private institutions for the improvement of learning. Some of the businesses rely heavily on public contracts and funds. All truly enjoy and appreciate the freedom that comes from their own initiative, while a few admit they sometimes miss some of the "perks" that come from being an employee in a traditional school setting. Most find that long workdays and workweeks, though somewhat limiting, are very satisfying. Most see themselves as providing leadership, not only to their profession buy also to their communities. While in all cases the monetary rewards have been enough to keep each business profitable, money has never been the major motivator for any of them. Collectively, these educational entrepreneurs provide a number of "life models" for others to consider as they make personal and professional decisions.

Never before in the history of American education has there been a period with more opportunities for educational entrepreneurship. In the United States over $700 billion is spent on education annually, of which approximately half is for grades kindergarten through twelve. This amount represents approximately 10 percent of the Gross Domestic Product, second only to health care. The estimated annual revenues of for-profit educational services are $70 billion and growing at a rate of 25 percent a year.

New markets are emerging each year. Educational programs, products, services, and technologies that were unheard of or merely discussed hypothetically ten years ago are now becoming reality. These include voucher programs, charter schools, homeschooling, virtual learning, distance learning, and various software programs. In addition, the current high demand for more private schools tutorial services, preschool education, child care programs, programs for high-risk students, and many other educational programs, products, services, and technologies prove that parents are willing to pay for better and more flexible education over and above their tax dollars.

Webster's Dictionary defines an entrepreneur as, "A person who organizes and manages an enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk." For the purpose of this book, an educational entrepreneur is an individual who has served as an educator prior to organizing a business related to education and has invested time, energy, and capital to create, develop, and market a program, product, service, or technology designed to enhance and improve learning. It is important to note that according to this definition, educators who left the profession as entrepreneurs in fields unrelated to education do not qualify. Nor do the many educators who went to work for corporations and businesses, even though those businesses may be directly related to education. The educational entrepreneurs profiled in this book used their own resources to start and maintain a new venture - an initiative that puts them in a class by themselves.

After reflecting on the experiences of the educational entrepreneurs featured in this book and the literature on entrepreneurship, we have found the following qualities to be attributes of educational entrepreneurs: tenacious, optimistic, creative, courageous, persistent, willing to take risks, resourceful, independent, opportunistic, and thoughtful.

The educational entrepreneurs featured in this book are educators who personify these attributes. They have turned their dreams into innumerable benefits to the field of education. They have taken ordinary educational concepts and made them extraordinary. They have a refreshing passion for education and a tireless dedication to making a difference in the lives of children. They recognize the need for alternative delivery systems to meet the various learning styles of students. They dare to be a different kind of educator, primarily motivated by a strong desire to improve learning. They have given up the security of tenure, retirement systems, automatic pay increases, long summer recesses, and many other benefits of the teaching profession to contribute something of unique value to education and to find self-fulfillment.

These educational entrepreneurs are adventurous risk-takers who were not afraid to put everything on the line. Where others see problems, these educators see opportunities. They began their businesses with little more than a good idea and a strong determination to make the idea work. To finance the establishment of their businesses, these individuals withdrew retirement funds; took out second mortgages on their houses; spent their children's educational funds; borrowed money from banks, relatives, or friends; and employed other forms of creative financing. Generally, they kept their "day jobs" while testing the waters of educational entrepreneurism by working on their new business ventures in the evenings, weekends, or during summer recesses. After they were able to eke out a living from their new ventures, they plunged into their businesses full-time, successfully growing them.

As we focused on the lives of these educational entrepreneurs who are making a difference, we found two important common threads. First, these educational entrepreneurs do not ask the question, "How can I improve education and learning?" They have found the first question too limiting. The second question, by focusing on processes, opens up many new ideas, possibilities, concepts, applications of human resources, uses of technology, procedures for delivering instruction, and structures for organizing delivery systems.

Second, none of these educational entrepreneurs changed their goals; they merely altered the strategies they employed in achieving them. With out exception, these entrepreneurs chose education as their profession, and their goal was to improve the lives of children and the well-being of society. They did that as educators and they are continuing to do that as educational entrepreneurs. They still make a difference, but today they are doing it in more innovative ways and for more people.

There are certainly many educators who wish to become more independent, creative, and take greater responsibility for their lives. Over the years, we have been approached on numerous occasions by educators who were interested in how they could organize a business around an educational idea. Although this is not necessarily a how-to-book, we hope educators who are considering going into business will obtain useful information from the various models provided by reflection upon these educational entrepreneurs in relation to their own lives.

Not only educators will find these educational entrepreneurs of interest. Business leaders, elected officials, and the general public who see education as something more than buildings, books, and schedules will find the lives of these educational entrepreneurs compelling. For it is through such individuals that new ideas will emerge and improvements and innovations will be made to enhance the educational process. In the future, we envision the focus shifting from schools to learning so that questions like "How do we improve learning?" will replace the confining and limited " How do we improve schools?" And there will be more emphasis on exciting new possibilities in education, rather than criticism of current problems. We believe that the necessary changes in education will be provided in the future by educational entrepreneurs.

We consider it an extreme privilege to get to know the outstanding individuals profiled in this book, and to honor and celebrate their successful endeavors. These educational entrepreneurs have earned our deepest gratitude and admiration, and we hope they will inspire others to find their own creative methods of improving learning and education.