After migrating to Australia just 3 years ago, I’d gone from having nowhere to live and not a friend in the world, to having a business valued at more than $3 million dollars and 23 staff.
My company, MainTraining was primarily delivering training to the long term unemployed in remote communities throughout Australia, helping those with very minimal access to training and education to prepare for work within their local communities.
We were making a real and positive difference to people’s lives, and we had a business to be very proud of. I was living the social entrepreneur’s dream.
Then, at 10:35 on a Tuesday morning in March 2015, I received a phone call that changed everything.
Without warning and only 19 months in to a 5-year promise, the federal government, who funded our Job Services and Remote Communities clients’ terminated the budget.
No warning, no ‘teach out’ period, nothing. Just a complete and deadly lethal blow to my business and hundreds of others like mine all over Australia.
One by one my customers called me to tell me that all work had to cease immediately. My heart shattered into pieces as I thought of all the people we wouldn’t be able to help anymore, at the thought of how on earth I was going to find wages for my 23 staff.
Slowly the enormity of my situation came to haunt me. We had bookings for venues, flights and accommodation in remote communities that had to be cancelled – and paid for.
The saddest part was that our programs were being so well received by our highly ‘in need’ and high-risk participants and now they no longer had any support.
How would I tell my team that I’d failed them? How could I have allowed myself to put everything at risk by only having ONE income stream? This was in fact all my fault. I had built a beautiful one-legged stool and put all of my eggs on top of it; and it had toppled over into a terrifying mess.
Somehow, I managed to hold it together until my staff left for the day. When the last employee closed the office door behind them, I was deafened by the silence.
I walked around the office feeling like my life had ended, looking at the empty desks, normally buzzing with activity and the beautiful sounds of training developers singing to the latest pop songs.
I picked up one of the recent feedback forms posted back from the Mid-West agriculture and horticultural course. ‘You’ve changed my life MainTraining’ stared up at me – and now it all was gone.
I vomited in the wastepaper bin beside my PA’s desk and cried on my office floor for hours.
Five months later, I used this experience to dramatically change the way I did business and as an opportunity to reflect on my life as an entrepreneur and businesses woman.
As a result of this reflection, I started the Edupreneur Awards.
What is missing and most needed in business and in the education industry is recognition of the amazing work that we do as educators; or what I call, ‘Edupreneurs’.
We don’t have anyone to recognise the endless hours we pull to ensure everyone gets paid; or the non-stop sleepless nights of worry about the next payroll, or how on earth will we get through the next quarter whilst still improving our services.
Whats missing is recognition and a pat on the back. We don’t even get a chocolate bar.
Entrepreneurs and business owners like me who specifically build a business around contributing to the body of knowledge within an industry, to the skills, knowledge, competencies and capabilities of others – are the people who I call ‘EDU-PRENEURS’.
These people are passion driven and they often put the bottom line as low priority so long as they can share their unique gift of knowledge with the world.
Edupreneurs have been doing what they do forever, but without the title. They selflessly learn, develop, and expand upon their own expertise and then spend hour upon hour finding ways to share that knowledge with others.
They put on webinars, seminars, eCourses, workshops, courses, and learning programs – whether for profit or as lead generation tools, but always in a way that gives to others and not just to their own bottom line.
Over those five months following the unexpected cuts, I struggled to come to terms with how much my life had changed, and had been frightfully low mentally and emotionally – who wouldn’t after going from a multi-million dollar business to selling the office toaster to make a tax instalment overnight?
Down but not out, I decided to put my energy into finding a way of celebrating, recognising and appraising other hardworking Edupreneurs. To raise awareness of the level of effort and commitment that entrepreneurs who ‘give’ (instead of JUST ‘hustle’).
To thank these unsung and silent heros for not only contributing to our economy, but also to the the knowledge and skills of our population across industry sectors; for without learning and progression we are nothing.
And so it was born. In less than 8 weeks, I single handedly pulled together, from nothing, The Edupreneur Awards.
I didn’t have time for getting sponsors, but that wasn’t going to put me off. I wiped away my tears of self-pity, pulled my sleeves up and got networking.
In just 8 short weeks, the awards received entries from over 100 award nominees, from 9 countries and the nominations site has had over 70,000 views (view the entries here: www.edu-awards.strutta.com). The awards night itself reached nearly 2 million people, JUST through the twitter wall in a few hours.
Onwards and upwards, for no adversity comes without it’s opportunity – and that unfortunate experience gave me not only the chance to reduce the high-risk operations of my business; but also the Captain’s hat to lead the way of a new and wonderful era.
It’s out with the entrepreneur and in with the edupreneur; and I am at your service.
Sarah Cordiner holds the record for being the youngest University “Executive Director & Head of Campus” in Australian history; a university ranked number 1 in Australia at the time of her leadership, and is one of the most remote university campuses in the world. With over 14 years in business in the education industry, Sarah currently has over 180,000 students from 181 countries enrolled in her own online courses in her own global education company. @Sarah_Cordiner