The Essentials Fellowship supports people from across the USA with ideas for schools, educational programs and services, and edtech tools. The Essentials Fellowship will take you from having an idea to running a short, 1-day experience for the families and students you want to serve to give feedback on the solution you’ve created. We like to call these pop-ups, which are similar to pop up restaurants or retail shops in their beginning stages.

The Essentials Fellowship begins with a 3 day program we call Camp in New Orleans, where you’ll dig deeper into your understanding of what you are building, who it is for, and what problem you are solving alongside 15 other teams. You will also start to identify what needs to be true in order for your venture to succeed and learn how to best test those pieces when you return home. We get you feedback on the spot by assembling students, teachers, parents, and community members. By the end of the weekend, you’ll have a plan for your first pop up of your idea that you can run in your own community.

Once you get home, the real work begins. You’ll continue to receive funding and virtual coaching on your pop up and have virtual meetups with your cohort.

Essentials is free to attend if you’re accepted and travel scholarships for Camp are available to founders who demonstrate need.

Want to learn more? We hosted a webinar explaining the ins and outs of both the Essentials and Tiny Fellowship. You can watch it here and see a transcription here.

Upcoming Essentials Dates

August 31-September 2
September 21-23
October 12-14
October 26-28
November 9-11
November 30-December 2

Application Timeline

Application Opens: April 17
Application Closes: May 14, 11:59pm CST
Webinar #1: April 25
Webinar #2: May 8
Interviews: May 29-June 16th
Selection Announced: by June 30th

The Spring 2017 application process has closed, but we’ll reopen our application in Fall 2017

Sign up for our newsletter to stay in touch and be the first to know when we launch the new application. You can also refer someone who you think should be notified for our next application period.


Who is a Good Fit for Essentials?

Idea Stage

Essentials is great for teams who have just started developing their idea. This means you have both identified a problem you are passionate about solving and laid out your first draft of a plan to solve it. If you’ve already run a pop up, we suggest taking a look at the Tiny Fellowship.

Type of Organization

We work with founders launching different types of education organizations. These include for-profits, non-profits, schools (anything from pre-k to high school), programs, services, and tech tools. Our goal is that 50% of the teams we serve are schoolbuilders.


Being a successful founder means taking tough feedback on your idea. We look for founders who are obsessed with the problem they’re trying to solve, but flexible about what’s the best way to solve it.

What do you get at Essentials?

Coaching from Experts


We believe entrepreneurship is a mindset you can learn. You’ll get coaching from experienced entrepreneurs and tools to build smarter.

Feedback from Users


We believe ideas grow stronger and faster within community. You’ll be part of a cohort of 15-20 founders from around the country who are at the same stage you are.

Community of Peers


We believe that a small amount of capital at the earliest stages of idea development can make a big difference. You’ll get a small amount of cash from 4.0 to help you run the first pop up of your idea.



States Essentials alumni hail from


Alumni around the country over the past five years


% of recent participants whose pop ups we funded through the Essentials Fellowship


BEFORE CAMP: Pre-work to hit the ground running

Understand your problem

Understand your problem

You’ll define the problem you’re solving, and hone in on the root cause, rather than symptoms.

Talk to your user

Talk to your users

You’ll talk to your users and deepen your understanding of the problem the users are facing.

build your protoype

Build your prototype

You’ll design the simplest version of your solution, distilling it to just one page.

DURING CAMP: Coaching to run smarter

Community of Peers

Day 1: Build community with peers

Put people first. You’ll spend time getting to know your cohort and building a shared foundation for learning throughout the weekend.

Day 2 Get Coached By Experts

Day 2: Get coached by experts

Dig deep and challenge your biggest assumptions. You’ll be pushed to clarify all aspects of your venture, starting with your problem, user, and solution.

Day 3 gather feedback

Day 3: Gather feedback from users

We’ll help you design your first pop up of your idea that you can then show to New Orleans students, parents, and teachers to start getting feedback. You’ll leave camp ready to put your work in front of the people that matter most: the people you want to serve.

AFTER CAMP: Resources to run your first pop ups

Connect with Coaches

Run Your First Pop Up

With the pop up you planned and cash in hand, you’ll go home and give families and students you want to serve the opportunity to experience a simple version of your solution and get their feedback.

Connect with Peers

Connect with Coaches

As you run your pop ups, you’ll get virtual coaching from our community of founders on how to learn from your tests and run your next test.

Connect with Community

Run Bigger Tests

As you run more successful pop ups of your idea, you’ll be eligible to apply to the Tiny Fellowship, which offers $10,000 to help you create a proof point for your idea.


Amirah Cummings, The Cummings School

Before attending Essentials I simply had an idea. I’d spent countless hours contemplating the best way to create a plan and execute it just right. Essentials taught me to slow down, really dive into the world of my user, and take the necessary steps to test my assumptions without taking on any substantial upfront risk. Since participating, I’ve begun to test numerous assumptions and am concluding a 13-week Pilot of my multilingual project-based initiative for toddlers, simultaneously teaching them English, Japanese, and Spanish. I recommend the weekend as a starting point for anyone thinking of making an impact in the education space.

Lauren Sikes, Summer Teachers Institute

I walked into Essentials blindly, not knowing what to expect, and feeling like a fish out water — my entire professional career I have been just a teacher and never considered myself an entrepreneur. However after attending the Essentials program and collaborating with a diverse set of minds, I learned I am both a teacher and an entrepreneur, and unbeknownst to me at the time, this is an excellent combination. Essentials gave me the framework and support system for testing my idea, analyzing the results, and planning next steps.Essentials is more than a three day experience; ultimately I walked away with a community who inspires me daily to press on with my work and to be a part of reimagining education so we can best serve our students and communities.

Lauren Sikes

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a cost?

Nope. Essentials if free if you’re accepted and we offer travel stipends for accepted teams who need it.

Are you going to host Essentials in other cities?

Nope. Our goal is to provide the highest quality experience possible, so we’re only hosting Essentials camp in New Orleans and helping teams come to New Orleans with travel scholarships. Plus, there are worse things in life than a weekend in New Orleans.

The application process is closed, but I need help right now. What do I do?

Sign up for our newsletter and tell us if you’re working on an idea when you sign up. You’ll be the first to know if we have any extra spots that open up in our process.

I have a team or a cofounder, should we apply separately?

Nope. There’ll be a space on the application for you to list the name of your team or cofounder. To ensure we have the right people in the room, we do limit the number of people on a team to two individuals.