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This blog series is meant to shed light to the world of edupreneurship and show an honest, behind the scenes look at trying to make it in this space. If you are just starting out, or on the verge of starting, I hope my experiences help you navigate this space with confidence and clarity.
My edupreneurial career was marked with so many mistakes and failures… And that’s a good thing! What it allowed me to do was analyze where I was failing, what I was doing wrong, and most importantly, how I could continue to improve.
The first real break came for me when I stopped looking at what I could do to make an extra buck. Instead, I began looking at what I could do to serve the people and community around me.
In my role as an educator and wrestling coach, I had the fortunate pleasure of working through a program called Wrestling Mindset. Purchased by a local wrestling club, I was able to put my athletes through this intensive program led by experts in sports psychology and mindset training.
The program allowed me to work with my athletes in critical components of their mindset, like building their confidence, increasing motivation and discipline, and other various aspects of their mindset. I soon realized this was a piece that was missing from my athletes and a beneficial way that I could serve them, both in athletics and in life!
The more I watched these athletes thrive in the mindset program, the more I realized that it was missing from schools. What about the non-athletes? What about my students who struggled to obtain academic success, or who fought paralyzing nerves every time they faced a standardized test?
I even began to see the need for mindset training in my own work. Towards the back end of my PhD studies, I was incredibly nervous to take my qualifying exams. Frozen with fear, I began applying the Wrestling Mindset principles to my own studies.
The results were immediately evident. My students were growing at tremendous rates and with more joy and satisfaction in the classroom. I pulled out the best performance I’ve had on any test in my life with more confidence than ever before. The pieces were fitting.
The click I was beginning to feel happened in the midst of my several failed side hustle endeavors. With each failed opportunity, I began to realize… I was just trying to make a quick buck to keep my own family safe. I wasn’t really providing value or adding my passion or expertise to anything. This set in motion the change that would turn me from a hopeful side hustler to an “Edupreneur.”
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The newfound idea of serving and bringing value rather than seeking a quick income boost led me to Wrestling Mindset. With my wife’s help, I wrote a pitch including a vision and business plan for their next branch of the company, “Academic Mindset.”
I want you to understand at this point that it was incredibly difficult for me to pull the trigger on this move. I wrote out the e-mail but I did not want to send it. It was nerve-wracking! I was about to write a pitch to a company that specializes in mindset, working with top athletes all the way up to the Olympics!
I did not feel qualified for that position and doubt set in. I am so grateful for the constant support that my wife gives me, otherwise that email would not have been sent. Our conversation looked like this:
“You have to send this letter,” she said” because you have something of value to offer them. You have something to offer to your students and students around the country as well! Don’t hold back. Give it a shot. What’s the worst they say, no? You’re a big boy, you’ll get over it.”
So I did. I sent out the pitch. I detailed how important their work was to my athletes and how I saw it fitting into an academic sphere. I wrote about the vision for this new branch of their company. I even wrote with confidence on how Anala and I would be the right fit for leading this project.
Shortly after, we were on a plane to New Jersey to meet the CEO’s of the company. Several discussions later, Anala and I were the brand new directors of the brand new branch of their company, Academic Mindset. The idea I was so fearful of became the start of an entirely new opportunity in all of our lives.
In my next post, I’ll tell you all about the start of my first real entrepreneurial pursuit. What I want you to take from this post however, is that I had many opportunities for excuses. Throughout the many failed side hustles and pressure of bills and debts, I could have easily said no to any unknown. Many teachers who are in that position settle for a second (and third and fourth) job so they can collect their hourly rate.
I did not want to be another teacher out there, working 80+ hours a week for something that can’t grow or build into more. As tempting as it was to stop, or not send that pitch, or go to more reliable income, my wife and I both knew that it would also limit the impact that we could have in this field.
If you are at the beginning of your journey, do not let those setbacks prevent you from pursuing your greatness. We all face roadblocks on the path to edupreneurship. Prepare yourself to convert failures into learning experiments and foster an excitement for the adventure. I can’t wait to share more of my journey with you in the next blog post!
I would love to hear from you! Tag me on social media (@kevinleichtman) and let me know what your first side hustle was in education. If you haven’t started yet, tell me what you think your first side hustle will be. Every journey starts somewhere and I would be honored to hear yours! Don’t forget to read the first post in this journey series.