Joining has been one of the best decisions of my entrepreneurial career
When I first came up with the idea in the fall of 2017 to create ww.InkandescentLearning.com — a high-quality K-12 distance learning clearinghouse that connects master teachers with homeschool and public / private school families — I went searching for guidance.
As a journalist, owner of the PR and publishing firm www.InkandescentPR.com, and a serial entrepreneur with a masters degree in educational leadership, I knew I could make this idea work — if I could find the right people to help me understand the distance learning industry.
The first hit that popped up when I searched Google for distance learning was USDLA.org. After a quick look through the website, I put a call into the main office to learn more. Kimberly Airasian answered the phone, and during a friendly and informative 15-minute conversation, she provided answers to my many questions: Should I attend the upcoming conference? Should I join? Who were the other members? Was this a good investment for an entrepreneur looking to learn more about distance learning?
Kim likened the organization to a family of like-minded professionals looking to bring distance learning to as many people as possible. She thought I’d fit right in, and convinced me that attending the 2018 National Conference https://usdla.org/2018-national-conference/, which included a year of membership, was worth the investment.
When I arrived on April 29 at the Hilton in Indianapolis, I knew I had made the right decision. Not only did I meet a group of very friendly, high-educated professionals at a cocktail party that first evening — I was optimistic that I was about to learn something essential for the growth of my business.
But here’s the rub: While I found several of the keynote speakers and workshops interesting (who doesn’t love to learn about the future of education), I discovered that my area of interest — entrepreneurship, and K-12 distance learning — wasn’t the focus of any of the presentations.
When I asked the conference organizers for guidance, they did their best to match me with the presenters who might offer assistance. I never did find a direct hit at any of the workshops. But I knew that while my big business idea might be an outlier — this was a group worth continuing to explore.
So I volunteered to join the marketing committee for the 2019 national conference, and also signed up to attend the organization’s International Forum for Women in E-Learning (IFWE) the following November. I am so glad that I did.
IFWE was perhaps the best women’s conference I’ve ever been to. Full of fascinating, highly educated women, everyone I met was eager to share their knowledge and experience (personal, as well as professional). The schedule of events flowed seamlessly, the keynotes were inspirational, and the Hotel Contessa where we stayed along San Antonio’s charming Riverwalk, provided a luxurious backdrop. I bunked with two new USLDA friends, Rhonda Blackburn and Georgiana Laws, which made the trip truly pleasurable.
Perhaps best of all — at this conference I attended several workshops that provided essential information for my project. Special thanks to Kristin Deprospero of Solutionz, Inc. for her talk about finding funding and grants.
Also helpful was that I was accepted to present two posters about my project — the K-12 academic platform, www.InkandescentLearning.com, and the magazine for kids, by kids, about kids that we’ll be launching this spring to teach students to think like reporters: www.InkandescentKids.com.
Dozens of fellow-attendees stopped by my section of the table to explore more — and that was a win that inspired me to craft a proposal to create a workshop about my project for the 2019 conference in Nashville.
Plus, I have been invited to share my experience as a Kundalini yoga instructor and teach a movement class that will focus on expanding your creativity on Tuesday morning, May 21 (6-7am). What fun!
As I continue to explore the many opportunities that working with USDLA provides, what impresses me most is the kindness, professional caliber, and intellectual curiosity of my fellow members and the leadership team. While I do hope USDLA expands its outreach to include more entrepreneurs and K-12 educators, I know that I have found an organization that shares my values and interests. Kim was right. I am very happy to be part of the USDLA family.