Josh Schukman of Social Change Nation

Podcasts have become one of the fastest growing mediums for storytelling and are a great space for entrepreneurs to play. Josh served as a City Year member back in the pre-AmeriCorps days, before their 100% education focus.  At just 18 years of age, he served as a volunteer coordinator in Cincinnati. He categorizes City Year as social justice work and said it laid the foundation for “everything that I [Josh] have done in my life.”

In this conversation, Josh talks about unrealistic expectations many millennials have around becoming a social entrepreneur and the importance of taking service into the traditional workforce.

Social change in business is becoming business as usual, Josh is telling this story at Social Change Nation. 

5 Ways Service Years Prepare You for Entrepreneurship

I frequently meet students looking to become social entrepreneurs after they graduate. They are seduced by the idea of freedom, making a difference and not having “vacation days.” When I meet these students I often ask, “What is your big idea?” I am responded to with a shrug, indicating they will figure it out once they get real world experience. Used to hearing more traditional advice like get an MBA or work in consulting, they are surprised when I suggest a year of service with a program like AmeriCorps.

How can serving in the nonprofit sector prepare you for the day when you start a business?

1. Expand Your Ability to Serve

Customer service is the new marketing. With the rise of social media platforms and comment boards, every brand is subject to word-of-mouth affecting sales. The most successful companies are those who treat their customers with a heart of service. What better way to understand service then to spend a year working in the nonprofit/social services sector?

2. Learn to Make Money go Far

Projection Hub recently gave a break down on how start-ups are funded. They noted that 34 percent are bootstrapped, literally funded off the founders’ personal savings.  Translation: founders have little to no paycheck for at least a few months during the startup phase. And for founders operating on borrowed money, salaries tend to be skimpy early on while investors wait for proof of concept.

To work at a startup, you must be able to create and market products on a shoestring while also living on a minimal salary. Service year programs, like AmeriCorps and Peace Corps, offer you the opportunity to live on a stipend (enough money to cover room and board). Service members are placed to work at nonprofits. That role gives you the opportunity to practice creative ways to market and provide services with out spending money.

Founders coming off of a term of service are already equipped to bootstrap their new startup.

3. Selling an Intangible

Being effective at sales takes practice. People often think that because most nonprofits are not product based and discounted services that there is no selling. In fact the opposite is true. Nonprofits are funded by donations and grants, meaning that the staff are responsible for selling an idea or vision. Wendy Kopp funded Teach For America by selling the idea, “One day all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.” Yup, people gave her money and the only thing they got in return was a tax donation receipt and the knowledge that they are part of something great. This is not much different than when an investor writes a check for your half-baked app idea that has not even been built or market tested. If you want to start a business, you better know how to sell an idea.

4. Long Job Descriptions

82 percent of nonprofits with a staff have 1-10 employees. This means there are 1-10 people trying to take on the mission of ending homelessness in their town, raising the reading level of every child in a low-income school district, providing a safe place for all the victims of domestic violence in a zip code. To execute on these missions, each staff member (and service year member) must take on multiple roles spanning from events planning to marketing to administration. This is similar to when a founder starts a company. On paper, they are a CEO, but they are also the accountant, the data-entry specialist and the blogger. It is important to be able to learn skills fast and be able to switch between roles if you want to work in the startup world.

 5. Family Style Workplace

Both nonprofits and startups tend to have tight-knit teams that are inspired by passion. They work together on the weekend and grueling late nights. Co-workers know who you are dating and when your father is in the hospital. They are like family. This type of work environment can come with challenges and drama. It is important to learn how to navigate these types of relationships sooner rather then later.


Real Service Alumni Running Social Enterprises


Meet 20 social entrepreneurs that started their career with a year of service on next week’s Journey to Social Entrepreneurship Virtual Summit. We are connecting with alumni from Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, City Year and Teach for America who leveraged the skills learned in their term of service to launch a start up that is working to solve today’s complex issues.

Register for your free spot today.


By Anna Lenhart

Founder, Next Generation of Service

Founder, Anani Cloud Solutions

Past employee of 3 start-ups

AmeriCorps Alum :-)

Teammates for Life: An Interview from Serve Reflect Repeat

Jarrad Plante is one of 20+ authors for Serve Reflect Repeat, a collection of stories from AmeriCorps Alumni across the country.  Listen to learn more about how service lead him into life long friendships and meeting the love of his life.

Note: all the proceeds from the sale of Serve Reflect Repeat benefit the NGS movement.

Alternatives to Teach for America

Teach For America has an average acceptance rate of less than 15%, the majority of the applicants from Ivy league schools…tough odds for the majority of young people. The good news is there are plenty of other ways to work to address the education disparity in this country and even in other parts of the world.  Some of these programs are service years, other are designed for people who want to become teachers for a longer period of time. If you would like help exploring these opportunities or completing the applications, sign up for an NGS mentor here.

City Year (nationwide)

“City Year’s mission is to build democracy through citizen service, civic leadership and social entrepreneurship. It is through service that we can demonstrate the power and idealism of young people, engage citizens to benefit the common good, and develop young leaders of the next generation.

City Year is wholly focused on fighting the national dropout crisis. We have committed to leverage the talent, energy and idealism of corps members to serve as tutors, mentors and role models in schools to help students stay on track – and get back on track – to graduate. “

World Teach  (worldwide)

As a WorldTeach volunteer, you will witness firsthand the challenges and rewards of education in a developing country. You will share the skills and knowledge gained through your education and life experience with your students, and you will make a lasting difference in their lives, opening their eyes to a world beyond their classrooms.

You will gain cultural understanding and the ability to work independently in a new and often challenging environment.

You will develop key skills– including teaching, language, cross-cultural communication, and leadership– that will be useful in any career path.

Americorps Builds Lives Through Education (Buffalo, NY)

“AmeriCorps Builds Lives through Education (ABLE) members serve K-12 students in the city of Buffalo, NY by tutoring and providing academic assistance. ABLE members commit to one year of full-time service as AmeriCorps members at a partner site. Many ABLE members come to the program as certified teachers, but it is not a requirement for service. In addition to serving at a host site, ABLE members participate in continuous professional development including monthly trainings, site visits with ABLE staff, reading & discussion series, and other opportunities provided through ABLE. “

Citizen School (nationwide)

The AmeriCorps Teaching Fellowship at Citizen Schools gives leaders real teaching and non-profit experience, while engaging them deeply in communities and schools. Two years of service helps to build the school of the future.

Build relationships with a team of middle-school students. Learn how to make lessons engage the toughest classrooms. Analyze student progress in academics and help teachers provide targeted support.

CoaHcorps (Boston)

The 2014-2015 CORPS will include 42 full-time staff members working with approximately 15 CoaH students each day. There will be 19 CORPS members at CoaH I with grades 9-12 (on Circuit Street in Roxbury), 14 CORPS members at CoaH II with grades 9-10 (on Washington Street in Roxbury) and 9 CORPS members at the New Bedford school, which will only have a 9th grade. CoaHCORPS members deliver individualized instruction in literacy and numeracy. The CORPS seeks to meet students at their entering achievement levels and advance them past grade level.

Japan Exchange Teaching Program (Japan)

The Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme, now in its 27th year, is aimed at promoting grass-roots international exchange between Japan and other nations. The number of countries sending participants has risen over the years, as has the number of participants. In 2013, the Programme welcomed 4,372 participants from 40 countries.

No matter where you go in Japan today, you will find JET participants developing strong relationships with their local communities through foreign language education and international exchange activities. After completing their time on the Programme, many former JET participants use their experiences in Japan to continue enhancing relations between Japan and their home countries.

Boston Teaching Residency (Boston)

Boston Teacher Residency (BTR) recruits talented college graduates, career changers and community members of all ages and gives them the tools to make an immediate impact in the classrooms of the Boston Public Schools (BPS). Combining a yearlong classroom apprenticeship with targeted master’s-level coursework, the program offers much more than just an affordable route into teaching. BTR provides every Resident with the practical learning, hands-on experience and ongoing support essential to any successful career in teaching. Download the program flyer.

Match Education (Boston)

In the first year, residents are trained in Boston. During the year, they participate in our Match Corps tutoring program Monday through Thursday and receive MTR training on Fridays and Saturdays.  For more information on the Match Corps component of the program, click here. The intense Friday/Saturday MTR training sessions are a mix of graduate school classes, simulations, and ultimately student teaching.  In the spring, we help our residents find teaching positions in the nation’s top urban charter and turnaround schools.  School leaders covet Match Teacher Residents; many folks get multiple job offers. This first year culminates in residents receiving a Massachusetts teaching license. At this point, 80% of the MTR experience – and the work towards earning a Master’s Degree in Effective Teaching – is complete.

During the second year, residents have left Match Teacher Residency. They have full-time teaching jobs elsewhere.  However, they continue to participate in MTR in two ways: First, we provide ongoing support and coaching to residents who take teaching jobs in the Boston area. Second, residents take a yearlong distance-learning course that is closely connected to their work as full-time teachers. Ultimately MTR evaluates each resident’s performance as a first year teacher to determine if they earn the Master’s in Effective Teaching.

NYC Teaching Fellowships (New York)

Our mission is to recruit and prepare high-quality, dedicated individuals to become teachers who raise student achievement in the New York City classrooms that need them most. We value individuals from a broad range of personal and professional backgrounds who are passionate about making a lasting impact in New York City public schools. Learn more about our mission and values.

In New York City, almost 4 in 10 New York City public school students do not earn a diploma within four years, and black, Latino, and low-income students in New York City score, on average, several grade levels below their peers on standardized tests. We know that when students in high-poverty areas have equal access to the resources available to their more affluent peers they are able to achieve at high levels, and we know that effective teachers are the most influential factor in determining student success. Fellows are committed to ensuring that all students in New York City receive an excellent education—and they are making a dramatic difference. Learn more about why teachers matter in New York City.

Reach to Teach (worldwide)

Reach To Teach is a FREE ESL Teacher Placement Agency. We never take a percentage of your salary and there are no hidden fees. We have placed thousands of happy native English teachers in ESL teaching jobs and volunteer positions in destinations all over the world. Our extensive experience with placing teachers in government teaching programs and private language schools allows us to give simple answers to your questions and help you make informed decisions every step of the way.

Inner-city teaching corps of Chicago (Chicago)

Inner-City Teaching Corps (ICTC) energizes urban classrooms with tomorrow’s high-impact leaders today by recruiting top recent college graduates and accomplished career changers into urban education.

Inner-City Teaching Corps is an elite group of future leaders working to close the achievement gap. Committing to teach in Chicago’s urban schools for two years, corps members obtain their certification and receive ongoing, personalized coaching and support, living either independently or in a faith-based community

In collaboration with Northwestern University’s nationally ranked School of Education and Social Policy, ICTC develops beginning teachers through a rigorous academic curriculum, expert coaching, and opportunities for collaboration with other educators to develop the skills needed to be leaders within their schools. The path to educational leadership begins with outstanding, results-focused teaching. Focusing on qualities and skills that comprise The Alain Locke Initiative Leadership Framework, corps members provide the high-quality instruction that energizes schools and closes the achievement gap, opening opportunities for all students to achieve regardless of income level.

Teaching Fellow TNTP (nationwide)

Operating in more than a dozen U.S. cities, TNTP’s Teaching Fellows programs hold the highest standards for effective teaching of any teacher preparation program in America. Each of TNTP’s programs trains teachers to meet district needs in key subjects, such as math, science and Special Education. Click the logos below to visit each program’s website.