Innovation Series: Education and Entrepreneurship are colliding in the BEST way in KC!!

It is SO GOOD to be back! I took a mini summer break and though I needed it, I missed interacting with each of you! If you have been a reader of this blog for ANY length of time, then you know that I am a fan of education and innovative educators. In that vein, I look for experiences and people that push what conventional wisdom suggests traditional teachers are capable of accomplishing. Entrepreneurship is one of those areas for me. We often think of classroom teachers as these selfless types that dedicate their lives to the service of others. While that is true, I would also argue that plenty of educators have an entrepreneurial streak that needs attention as well. Recently I had the good fortune to be invited to attend an event hosted by the KC Startup Foundation in partnership with Innovation Exchange. The event was “Emerging From Failure” and focused on three panelists telling stories of how they braved #startuplife and failed but used that failure to achieve even greater success.

What interested me most about the evening was the way that starting a new business venture SO CLOSELY mirrors what happens to new teachers entering the classroom for the first time. We all begin with a good idea. We test that idea and we risk it failing horribly. When it does (because failure is a universal thing) we sometimes doubt our ability. We who love what we do get mentors, read literature, and go to training so that we can improve. After we invest in ourselves (and sometimes while we invest in ourselves) we dust the mistake off and try again. I think the most important thing for me is that all of you entrepreneurial educators out there who are sitting on a great idea but are afraid to launch realize that you have done it already. You have experienced the launch cycle several times over in your careers and while the arena is different, the game is the same.

These panelists included: Tyler Van Winkle, Jake Randall, Reggie Gray, and Anita Newton each brought their own experience, lesson and lens to the discussion. For the education community, I felt that there were three key takeaways for those of you in the classroom, or the principal’s seat, or central office for that matter looking to make the leap into full time entrepreneurship and/or side hustling:

  1. It is okay NOT to quit your day job.

“There are different types of risks and the type you take depends on who you are and your personality. It is a muscle that you build. It took me 30 years before I started.” – Anita Newton

Every entrepreneur does not have to have the live-by-the-seat-of-your-pants startup story. It is perfectly fine for hustle to be quiet. It is okay to build a secure foundation prior to making the leap on your own. I was so happy that Anita Newton focused on this because there are entire movies made and books written about people who took a big risk that paid off in a big way in their careers. After sitting in on several conversations at the event, I realized that there is some pressure for entrepreneurs around “throwing it all in” and “following your dreams”. Truthfully while those ideas are romantic, we all still have daily responsibilities to take care of and there is no shame in holding to the security of a regular paycheck while you work on your business.

2. Keep swimming

“Success is not final and failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.” – Jake Randall (quoting someone else)

On this journey from classroom to boardroom, you may experience a sense of self doubt or despair when something that you put your entire heart into flops. Jake shared his story of starting his dream business and then ultimately having to close its doors. Through that process he learned that he is entitled to be a human and not have all of the answers. He spoke about how freeing it was to not have to be right all of the time and while that knowledge came at a painful cost, he has emerged a better businessman as a result. The same is true for all of us. We may not reach our goal the way we anticipated reaching it. That is okay. The point is to not see failure as a stopping point but as a catalyst to bigger and better things.

3. Be like Madonna

Reggie Gray told us about the many businesses that he started in his life. The man has been a magician, a performer, a night club owner, and a real estate mogul just to name a few. The lesson he learned is that it is always important to reinvent yourself as an entrepreneur. As an educator, be flexible about the way that you market yourself and willing to pivot. Sometimes we box ourselves in by believing we only have one talent and one story to contribute to the conversation. In truth, each of us is multilayered and we should embrace the opportunity to reinvent ourselves like Madonna so that our other sides can show.

Overall, the event was highly informative and both the Innovation Exchange and KC Startup Foundation are organizations that I will visit again.

**NOTE** for more pictures of my travels, follow me on INSTAGRAM @drkiacoaches if you would like me to come and write about what you are doing in education, email me your event details at

Watch the videos for yourself below: