From the Classroom to a Tech Startup

Alicia Herald claims that she is neither a natural born teacher nor a natural born entrepreneur, yet when she noticed the need for a technology platform that matches teachers with value aligned schools her mentor asked her to take the lead. Alicia is the founder of myEDmatch, launched in October of 2012, they have raised $2.89M in angel and Series A investment. In 2015, St. Louis Business Journal named myEDmatch the Most Innovative Company in Education. Alicia’s path toward education reform started when a friend convinced her to meet with a Teach For America recruiter at her university’s bakery…watch to hear more about her inspiring career. 

Points of interest

  • Teacher turnover has more to do with job fit then low salary and hard work (most teachers know what they are signing up for after all)
  • How does someone with no computer science background launch a tech start-up?
  • The education gap in America is wide but there is plenty of room for technological innovation in a system critical to addressing injustice in this country


Alicia was the first speaker at the Journey to Social entrepreneurship virtual summit hosted the week of January 18th, 2016.  The recordings are available at the link below. 


Access other #Journey2SocEnt Speakers


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 :-)

Dear April Ludgate-Dwyer…We have a job for you!

Have you watched Episode 8, Season 7 of NBC’s Parks and Recreation? Always featuring both the triumphs and defeats of public service, it highlighted April’s discovery of the “American Service Foundation*”, which as she explains to her mentor Ron: it “takes people who don’t know what they want to do and puts them to work doing cool stuff all over the world.” This, in different words, is EXACTLY what we do at Next Generation of Service.


A bit of background on April:

April is a classic Millennial…with an added strange, dry humor. She graduated from college with a “create your own major” (Halloween studies), a sign of wanting to do something different. At 19, she took an unpaid internship at her local Parks and Recreation office. Now in her late twenties, she is disenchanted with her government job and is trying to find her passion. To help in her journey, April’s proactive former boss, Leslie Knope, prepares a binder for April that included a 5-year career plan for working in government. However, like most millennials, April is not enthused with such a practical plan. Leslie then suggests that April check out the American Service Foundation.

american-service-foundationHow the Next Generation of Service is like the  “American Service Foundation”:

Leslie explains that the foundation “takes young people trying to explore a new path and matches them with one of the thousands of jobs across the country that help communities.” NGS guides young people to service opportunities through our database featuring hundreds of organizations, one-on-one guidance sessions and workshops.

Leslie even mentions some of the organizations we match young people with: Teach for America, Habitat for Humanity and organizations working with animals (April’s passion).

Millennials don’t want to settle on a job – they want a purpose-driven career. Like Ms. Knope, NGS would suggest Ms. Ludgate-Dwyer participate in a service year which would meet all of the characteristics of her dream job:


Be My Own Boss:

The majority of not-for-profits around the world are under-funded and under-staffed. This means that long-term stipend volunteers can be assigned leadership roles despite a relative lack of experience. Over the substantial service period, volunteers are provided opportunities to work autonomously and make significant contributions to the organization’s mission.


Passion and Interest in the Subject:

There are service year positions available at organizations that address almost any issue and cause. April is passionate about protecting animals…check out these two AmeriCorps members who work for the Humane Society in Diamond Springs, CA here.


Creative Problem Solving:

Worldwide, not-for-profits are providing creative solutions for some of the biggest problems of our time: poverty, disease, climate change; and most are doing it with very little money or resources.  There is creativity, passion and action EVERYWHERE, whether they be in a social media campaign revolving around pouring ice water on your head or in a charity concert.

If you relate to April at all and are still figuring it all out, we hope you will join our movement!


Sign up for a session

*From what Google tells me the “American Service Foundation” does not exist. If I am mistaken, please let us know.

Co-Writen by Anna Lenhart and Nicole Campbell

Consider the Ripples: Interview from Serve Reflect Repeat

Blake Shultice 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 redirected his career from financial planning to teaching.

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

Marissa Kelly on Why Service? Why TFA?

Service has been an integral part of Marissa Kelly’s life and as she prepares to graduate from Babson College with a degree in Entrepreneurship she is continuing to serve. Marissa is preparing to be a Teach for America Corps member in Connecticut.

This interview explores her path to TFA and her hopes for the future.  Listen here.