Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative

We are educating people how to think like an entrepreneur and empowering them with a new sense of agency to navigate our complex world.

Photo of Rob Herndon
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Written by


  • I am not an employee of BNY Mellon, or an immediate family member of a BNY Mellon employee
  • I am over 18 years of age
  • My organization is incorporated as a non-profit, for-profit, or hybrid organization, or I have a partner that is incorporated and could accept funds on my behalf
  • I have already piloted my initiative and have some initial evidence of impact
  • My organization is headquartered and creating impact in the United States


  • Man

Where are you making a difference?

Pennsylvania: Erie (16501) | Mississippi: Vaiden (39176) | New Mexico: Albuquerque (87106) | Florida: Plant City (33563), Fort Pierce (34981) | Kansas: Independence (67301) | Ohio: Struthers (44471) | Kentucky: London (40744) | Michigan: Flint (48503) | Minnesota: Willmar (56201)

Focus Areas (required)

  • Business & Social Enterprise
  • Children & Youth
  • Civic Engagement
  • Development & Prosperity
  • Human Rights & Equality
  • Peace & Harmonious Relations

Date Started

April 15, 2007

Organization Type

  • for-profit

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways)


  • $500k - $1m

Website or social media URL(s) (optional)

https://elimindset.com/ https://www.instagram.com/elimindset/

Twitter URL


Facebook URL


LinkedIn URL


1.Founding Story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed.

Our founder, Gary Schoeniger, tells the story of flipping through the newspaper in the early 1990's and seeing an article about a husband and wife who were having tough economic times due to his recent loss of a factory job. As an entrepreneur, Gary realized that while his mindset allowed him to see opportunities everywhere during this time, for some reason this man and his wife couldn't see any at all. This led him to study the psychological and sociological factors around the entrepreneurial mindset for the next 25 years, with the goal of helping those who don't have hope for the future. This led to the establishment of ELI and our mission to expand human potential through entrepreneurial mindset education and professional development.

2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Within the United States there is a huge untapped reservoir of human potential. Students aren't flourishing in our education systems, workers aren't highly engaged in their work, and an "employee mindset" pervades. The economic reality of our time points increasingly to the benefits of an entrepreneurial mindset to successfully navigate the complex world in which we live, create value for others and our communities, and contribute to society.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

We travelled across the US to interview hundreds of "unlikely" entrepreneurs. These individuals didn't come from the top universities, wealth in their families, significant social connections, etc. But, they were able to transcend their very difficult early life situations to solve problems for others and create immense value in their communities. Following this study, we published "Who Owns the Ice House? Eight Life Lessons from an Unlikely Entrepreneur" and created three programs designed to develop an entrepreneurial mindset for disadvantaged people. We have since trained nearly 2,000 individuals to facilitate these ideas with people in their communities. We also perform keynote presentations and workshops with organizations to try and drive their conversations towards how to create positive change, in any situation. Because the programs are experiential, participants learn through action and over time their mindset changes. Participants diagnose a problem that they are passionate about solving, create a vision for what a solution could look like, act on their ideas, develop new knowledge and skills, and become optimistic, resilient and increase their self-efficacy.

4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of how your solution is working to solve the problem.

One of our trained facilitators, Dr. Linda Keena, from the University of Mississippi works with inmates at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility. She has implemented an Ice House training program for the inmates who will be soon be released back into society. The inmates read the "Who Owns the Ice House?" book and participate in our Opportunity Discovery Process (ODP) to determine a problem that others have that needs solving, develop a solution and bring that solution to life. Because of the limited economic opportunities for formerly incarcerated people, many become repeat offenders and return to prison. However, her program provides hope to these individuals that their future can be a positive one, and that they can create value in their communities once they are released. A recent class used the ODP to pack over 100,000 meals in one day for impoverished children.

5a. Too many people in the U.S. have unmet needs for financial products and services. How is your work reaching a population(s) that is currently underserved? If it is not reaching an underserved population yet, how might it in the near future?

The book and programs were initially designed for at-risk youth as a way to show them that entrepreneurship is a viable economic option. While they have been used in school entrepreneurship programs, they have also been used by multiple nonprofit organizations, schools, and community organizations to help guide underprivileged people throughout their communities. These individuals develop a renewed sense of agency to navigate daily struggles and create value by solving problems for others.

5b. Please specify if the population you are reaching is underserved due to any of the following characteristics:

  • ability
  • geography
  • work status
  • language
  • race/ethnicity
  • gender
  • age - youth
  • socio-economic class

6. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

There are many organizations trying to decipher the entrepreneurial mindset. However, they are generally focused on doing so only to increase small business creation. The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) has done a great job of helping students in low-income urban neighborhoods, however they only focus on secondary schools, and have as a goal for these students to start businesses. Our approach is more broad. We work with all people and organizations interested in the entrepreneurial mindset, with the goal of empowering them whether or not they wish to start their own business.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

With nearly 2,000 trained facilitators who are reaching at least 10,000 people per year, we consistently see news articles and hear about the impact from our work in defining and democratizing the entrepreneurial mindset. Our "Client News Stories" which is attached to this submission shows just a few examples of how our work has been highlighted in the news over the last few years. A self-published book that has sold nearly 50,000 copies, Who Owns the Ice House? has been described as "required reading for humanity". Ice House has been presented to the United Nations General Assembly, the European Commission, the US Department of Education, and the Papal Council for Peace and Justice at the Vatican. Students and workers have used Ice House programs to reinvigorate their interest in school, create new businesses, and solve problems in their organizations and communities.

8a. Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling your impact?

We recently adopted a new licensing model for our programs which allows for broader implementation of the Ice House programs. In order to increase the impact moving forward we are working on an online training model and partnerships with school districts and state educational organizations in both K-12 and at the college level to allow for wider distribution of our professional development training, books and curriculum.

8b. If applicable, which of the following scaling strategies have you launched?

  • Franchising, Licensing, Accreditation
  • Large Scale Partnerships
  • Trainings, Consultation
  • Federations, Associations
  • Campaigns
  • Lobbying, Policy Change

9. Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

We currently maintain financial stability through client purchases of our training, workshops, books and curriculum. As we look to scale and impact more people with our work, we are planning to continue to support our trained facilitators with their implementations. We also will be developing new and updated training methods and products which should help connect with greater numbers of individuals. We are also looking to partner with businesses on corporate social responsibility programs.

10. Team: What is the current composition of your team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?

We are a core team of four full-time employees. Our CEO, Gary is a internationally recognized author and thought leader. Rob is a veteran with over 25 years of experience in various leadership roles and in education at the secondary and post-secondary levels. Joanie is highly experienced in the operations of a small business, and Nic brings his expertise in community development and training. Our board includes Harvard's Dr. Tony Wagner, and key leaders from all across the globe.

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 - Which of the following categories do you identify with? (optional)

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 - Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities? (optional)

  • Other

If you replied "Other" in the question above, please specify. (optional)

Mental illness within my family has greatly impacted my outlook on life.

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others

Evaluation results

2 evaluations so far

1. Overall, would you champion this entry as a excellent example to move forward to the next phase of the challenge and become a semifinalist?

Yes, absolutely! - 50%

Yes/maybe - 50%

Maybe - 0%

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No - 0%

2. Is this entry INNOVATIVE?

Yes, absolutely! - 50%

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No - 0%

3. Is this entry IMPACTFUL on financial wellbeing?

Yes, absolutely! - 50%

Yes/maybe - 50%

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No - 0%

4. Is this entry SUSTAINABLE?

Yes, absolutely! - 100%

Yes/maybe - 0%

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No - 0%

5. What are some of the HIGHLIGHTS of strengths of this entry?

Connection to underserved community - 100%

Clarity of Model - 0%

Clarity of Writing - 50%

Idea Originality - 0%

Understanding of the marketplace or sector - 100%

Impact measurement - 50%

Impact Potential - 50%

Financial Sustainability - 0%

Team - 50%

Partnerships - 100%

Potential to scale - 50%

6. What are some of the areas for IMPROVEMENT of this entry?

Connection to underserved community - 0%

Clarity of Model - 100%

Clarity of Writing - 0%

Idea Originality - 50%

Understanding of the marketplace or sector - 0%

Impact measurement - 50%

Impact Potential - 0%

Financial Sustainability - 0%

Team - 0%

Partnerships - 0%

Potential to scale - 50%

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Attachments (2)

Client News Stories - 19 Jul 17.pdf

This document gives a small sample of the impacts that are being seen through our programs.

IHEP Course Description - 2016.pdf

This document provides a good overview of our Ice House Entrepreneurship Program.


Join the conversation:

Photo of David Rixter

As a practitioner who focuses connecting domains of the entrepreneurial ecosystem to enable inclusive entrepreneurship,I have read "Who Owns the Ice House" and I believe its strategy to change our
"mindset" is paramount. We must be willing to be open, curious, aware, engaged and to explore our common challenges as opportunities to find the avenues that will result in shared-solutions.

Photo of Rob Herndon

Thanks for the comment David!