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Friday Feature: Fersken Education

Colleen Hroncich

Chase Eskelsen’s career path has included lots of twists and turns. But each of those experiences benefit him in his latest endeavor: founding Fersken Education, a consulting firm that helps education entrepreneurs.

After a stint in the business world, Chase became an administrator at an online charter school in Texas. His focus there was growing enrollment and creating a standard operating procedure manual since it was a relatively new venture, and they were figuring things out as they went. Chase moved into a national role dealing with policy at online schools, which allowed him to travel the country working with state policymakers to help them understand important considerations and differences in the virtual realm versus brick‐​and‐​mortar school policy.

In 2019, Chase joined a non‐​profit that wanted to create hybrid learning sites, which gave him the chance to be involved in creating schools from the ground up. After a few years there, he decided to build on his varied experiences to create FerskenEd. “I’ve touched school administration, government and public affairs, policy, board and partner relations, leading a nonprofit,” he says. “So now when people come and ask, ‘What do you guys do?’ I say, ‘What do you need?’ Because we can either do it or we can put them in touch with the right people.”

Education entrepreneurs, or edupreneurs, can become members of Fersken’s Edupreneur Mastermind, a group that provides networking, webinars on relevant topics, and access to resources to help grow and sustain their businesses. It’s aimed at young entrepreneurial endeavors in their first three years of operation.

There’s a diverse group of edupreneurs currently involved with Fersken, and the team works hard to help each one with what they need. “We wrote the manual for one client on how to launch pod schools. We do advocacy and government affairs for another client—it’s parent advocacy for school choice and we do the policy work for five states,” says Chase. He helped another edupreneur who created a successful course that she sold directly to consumers. She approached Chase for help structuring the course in a way that would work for high schools, which Fersken was able to do.

Most of the education entrepreneurs Chase encounters were teachers or administrators who realized there had to be a better way to do what they were doing in the classroom. “So, they go and figure out a better way to do it,” he says. “They leave their school and launch this business. And then the businesses way too often were failing—not because the idea is not great, not because it’s not helping students, but because they’re educators, not business people. And they were failing on the business side.”

The realization that these edupreneurs often needed specific business‐​related help inspired Chase to start bringing in experts to discuss key issues. Recent webinar guests include a bookkeeper who explained the importance of good record keeping and a lawyer who gave tips on what they could do before hiring a lawyer to save on billable hours. Other times the members just share their own experiences with each other so they don’t all make the same mistakes or jump through the same unnecessary hoops.

Membership with Fersken is currently free as it gets up and running, but Chase says there will eventually be different levels. Entry level will be very inexpensive and similar to what’s currently available. The next level will include consultations—with Chase and outside experts. For example, he has an agreement in place with a legal firm that specializes in education, especially charter schools, private schools, and education savings accounts (ESAs), which allow parents to use a portion of state education funding for a variety of educational options. One of the membership tiers will include access to the legal firm.

He’s making similar arrangements with an education marketing firm and an education human resources firm. “We’re really trying to take all the business side off so you can really focus on your reason for starting your company,” he explains.

Fersken Education was recently awarded a VELA Education Fund microgrant, which will help them “expand their reach, develop new initiatives, and continue fostering a culture of innovation in education.”

It’s a great time to become an education entrepreneur. Parents are increasingly expressing interest in educational options beyond their district schools. More states are adopting or expanding education choice programs, including ESAs. And organizations like Fersken are sprouting up to help edupreneurs navigate the complexities of the changing education landscape.

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