Long before the word entrepreneur became popular, the concept still existed


Founded in 2007, the Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative originated through a collaboration with the Cisco Entrepreneur Institute to conduct a gap analysis in entrepreneurship curriculum, in which it was determined that an entrepreneurial mindset was a significantly overlooked aspect of entrepreneurship education programs.

The discovery led to an ethnographic research project where ELI conducted interviews with hundreds of entrepreneurs from the United States and Canada to better understand the underlying beliefs and cognitive process that stimulate entrepreneurial behavior.

Among the interviewed entrepreneurs was Clifton Taulbert, a Pulitzer Prize Nominee and Co-Founder of Stairmaster. Clifton shared the impact of his Uncle Cleve, an unlikely entrepreneur and owner of an ice house business in the 1950s Mississippi Delta. Shortly after, Gary invited Clifton to speak about his entrepreneurial journey at a national conference. The overwhelming public response to the powerful story led to Clifton and Gary agreeing to co-author the book Who Owns the Ice House? Eight Life Lessons from an Unlikely Entrepreneur, which was published in 2010.

That same year, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation made a program-related investment to evolve the eight life lessons into the Ice House Entrepreneurship Program. Kauffman Foundation President & CEO Carl J. Schramm stated that: “The eight life lessons Taulbert and Schoeniger describe are timeless examples of the power of entrepreneurship to overcome adversity and achieve independence, regardless of one’s circumstances.”

The Ice House Entrepreneurship Program was launched in 2011 at the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship in Portland, Oregon. The inaugural Ice House Facilitator Training was hosted at the Kauffman Foundation in 2012, and Kauffman Foundation Vice President of Entrepreneurship presented Ice House to the United Nations General Assembly in New York and the Papal Council on Peace and Justice at the Vatican in Rome in 2013. In 2016, ELI Founder Gary Schoeniger presented Ice House to the European Commission in Brussels. 

Since its launch, Ice House has been applied in ways that could never have been imagined, reaching a broad audience all around the world. As a result, Ice House has evolved into multiple editions to advance student success, develop the workforce, and improve small business outcomes. In addition, ELI has trained thousands of educators, business, government, and nonprofit leaders while tens of thousands of students have been enrolled in the Ice House Entrepreneurship Programs.