Head of the Class

Starting Smart

Think you've got an idea for an educational company? Like many of these entrepreneurs, you may see an opportunity based on something in your kids' lives. But to make sure you do it right, don't act on your intuition until you can confirm a real need for the service you're considering.

With this type of business, it's also a good idea to start small and on a local level before branching out. Before Peter-Lawshe launched her Reading and Language Arts Centers, for instance, she tested the waters by offering seminars at local libraries for parents whose kids were having trouble learning or needed extra help with homework.

Remember, too, that traditional centers of learning are't the only market for entrepreneurs in this field. In addition to school districts, day-care centers and preschools may be a potential market. Or you can add education to an existing child-care business.

To see if there's a need for educational enrichment in your area, research what others in your community are doing. If educational centers offering enriched classes are booked, there's probably a need for more such centers.

Of course, one of the best sources for market research is parents in your area. Talk to them to see what services they'd be interested in for their kids.

Education is always a hot topic in the media, so take advantage of that interest: Once your business is up and running, start a grass-roots public relations campaign. That's what Gold-Dworkin did when getting Little Scientist off the ground, and before she knew it, "people were coming from all over the state," she recalls, "and all the classes were filling up!"


Leah Ingram is a writer in Ann Arbor, Michigan

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Leah Ingram is a freelance writer and the author of 14 books, including Suddenly Frugal: How to Live Happier and Healthier on Less (Adams Media, 2010).

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This article was originally published in the June 1996 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Head of the Class.

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