Is the Asora Education Enterprises Company Attractive to Investors?
Before describing Asora Education Enterprises’ company characteristics and plans, let’s review its prospects as a profitable enterprise. We believe that our proposed franchising network and the franchisor provided instructional services will be successful and popular. The question regarding projected revenues is: what market share will be achieved? What is to stop other operators with nearly identical services from competing and eroding our market share?

Currently, Asora does not have patents, copyrights, proprietary secrets, brand recognition, or exclusive licenses to protect it from competitors who may be able to “execute” this type of operation more efficiently than Asora. So how do we proceed? How can we reasonably assure prospective investors of some return on their capital?

The answer is that Asora needs to obtain the aforesaid “missing” items. We would like to have an exclusive arrangement with Hillsdale Academy to hold an exclusive license to use their name as a second name for our enterprise: The Hillsdale Online Academy. As Asora develops the numerous courses for its K-12 schools, it will hold copyrights to them. In many of these courses, the instructors’ lecture notes will comprise the primary text and these will be published as a hardcopy book in addition to having a digitized version on the student’s computer. The examination database, which under Asora’s practice, defines the Stellar Schools curriculum will also be copyrighted. If Asora can make the licensing arrangement with Hillsdale Academy, that will help build the Asora brand. In the course of building the instructional environment for Stellar Schools, we may be able to patent various methods that we invent. Other procedures and policies may be protected as proprietary secrets.

Because of these vulnerabilities, we think that at this time investors, and particularly passive ones, will be reluctant to provide Asora capital. Alternatively, active investors who may want to participate in making Asora Education Enterprises a thriving concern may find joining the Asora enterprise an acceptable risk. When we say active investors we assume they would contribute “sweat equity” as well as capital. In fact, we welcome “sweat equity” investors without capital if they can contribute to the development of the Asora Education Enterprises company. We intend to pay such contributors with company stock.

Additionally, Asora will encourage the development of an "allied" non-profit enterprise that will likely be called the Stellar Schools Development Corporation (SSDC). Its goal will be to obtain grants and donations to fund the development of Stellar Schools. Altruism is a powerful motivating factor in the field of education reform. It may lead donors to look favorably on the Stellar Schools concept and the SSDC. When (or if) the non-profit version of Stellar Schools demonstrates that its services are superior to the alternatives and that they are popular among parents, it will be a model worth emulating by Asora or another for-profit enterprise, if Asora has not already developed its own Stellar Schools first. Since we can't predict the for-profit or non-profit form that major financial resources contributed to our efforts will take, we think it prudent to work on both sides of the for-profit/non-profit divide.

To keep the discussion focused on the for-profit
Asora Education Enterprises we shall not further discuss the non-profit SSDC effort although many of the points to be made will also apply to it as well.
Overview of Asora's Stellar Schools
Students of journalism are often taught to address the “What, why, where, how, and when” in stories they write. So, too, we will summarize Asora's Stellar Schools effort in that framework. In terms of a headline, we say that...

Asora's Stellar Schools will Overcome Mediocrity with Excellence.

Our organization, Asora Education Enterprises, under its Stellar Schools Franchising Project, intends to develop and operate a K-12 on-line instructional service to be used in its own physical schools and by others under contract such as homeschoolers. Its primary functions will be instruction and testing. We eventually plan Asora to be the franchisor of the Stellar Schools network of franchisee schools and also the provider of instructional services to home schooling families. Asora's Stellar School division will operate an on-line school and will distinguish itself among its competitors by including video lectures and a novel method of assessment. All routine teacher chores will be automated leaving teachers to work one-on-one with students needing help. We will provide instruction based on the curriculum publicly available from the Hillsdale Academy. As the company's resources expand we may add other curricula to its repertoire. Instruction will be self-paced in most of the core courses although some group instruction may be included in elective areas. The video instructors will work in pairs with one an experienced K-12 teacher and the other a university/college instructor highly expert in the subject. Asora's Stellar Schools will accept part-time students and will issue certificates of mastery to students who complete its various courses. Diplomas will also be issued to full-time students who master all the courses. Mastery of a course requires achieving a score of 95 or higher.

Many studies of our current K-12 educational systems, including both public and private schools, conclude that we are not producing adequate levels of student performance and that we are expending far too many resources for such unacceptable outcomes. We believe that K-12 instructional services can be reformed to greatly improve student performance and do so at less cost than the status quo. We also intend to provide subject content that is free as possible of politically biased information- unlike what is seen in many public and some private schools. We see no need to force our customers (parents and their children) to be enrolled full-time. We can adapt to customer needs by teaching them in the areas they deem important. Of course, the certificates of achievement and/or diplomas will not be issued unless all relevant subjects are mastered at the 95 percent level.

These schools will provide three important (and long sought) benefits: Superior instruction, lower tuition, and an absolute end to the harms of social promotion.

We are encouraged to develop Asora’s schools and services because we are witnessing many successes in these types of instructional services that are now becoming more available at the college level. There are also scattered success stories in K-12 education as well. A number of vendors already provide the full range of K-12 courses on-line including testing and other services. We hope to extend those services- particularly with extensive video lectures- that will add another dimension to the instructional environment (which will make it more traditional as well). The rapidly falling costs of providing video content over the Internet makes it feasible for Asora's Stellar Schools to offer the video components. For example, each course will have about 5 gigabytes of content; typical Web servers now charge less than $1 per gigabyte transferred, which suggests a nominal cost for the video component even in today’s cost structures.

My personal experiences as a student of an early form of distance education as well as more recent experiences with a course I took that was computer based are among the facts that have convinced me that I’m on the right path. They each demonstrated the two essential elements: Higher quality instruction and lower costs of delivery. These two are needed to make instructional services more effective and more affordable, respectively. If I have benefited from what were rather crude implementations of the methodologies/technologies, surely others can benefit if these avenues are further perfected.

Several individuals, who are well known experts in their fields, such as economics, business, education, and computer technologies, have provided valuable supportive feedback. The little negative feedback I’ve heard mainly revolved around the worry that computer instruction would bore the students. Luckily, there are counter examples of on-line instruction that even children in kindergarten find stimulating.

Asora is now and will continue to be based in the United States and will mainly serve customers within the country in its early operations. Asora, itself, is the franchisor and lead organization in a network of franchisee operated schools. It is currently located in Providence, Rhode Island but is considering having a facility in Southern California, as it expands. Like many franchisors, it will provide goods and services from its franchisor location and will coordinate the delivery of many other goods and services that will go directly from third party suppliers to its franchisees and other home-schooling customers. We intend to serve home schooling families in all parts of the U.S. In its initial stages Asora will also operate a small wholly owned network of K-12 schools in order to perfect its operational format. The locations of these schools have not been determined. As Asora moves into the franchising phase it will seek existing schools to be converted to franchisee operations and also solicit developers of new franchisee schools.

We at Asora Education Enterprises have been developing many of the ideas and plans for Stellar Schools over the past four years. We have a fairly detailed (120 page) business plan. It will surely evolve as we gain experience and input from other players. We have been lining up informal (unpaid) advisors (correspondents, friends, potential suppliers) who have given us valuable feedback.

In a sense the whole effort in building Asora's Stellar Schools revolves around expanding the list of suppliers- as conceived in a general sense. Thus we need suppliers of capital, suppliers of labor, as well as the usual third party suppliers of those goods and services that will not be within our core competencies. Our most recent efforts have resulted in identifying potential suppliers of our computer based instructional system: hosted application service providers. We have identified a number of suppliers of our curriculum: Hillsdale Academy, Hirsch's Core Knowledge Sequence, The College Board's Advanced Placement content, and the International Baccalaureate requirements. Generally, as we identify a list of willing suppliers it helps us refine our business plan which should increase our likelihood of raising investment capital- including the recruitment of those players willing to invest their “sweat equity.”

To demonstrate how such methodologies/technologies will work, we have embarked on the development of a mathematics course: Algebra 1. We have completed one video lecture (the first of the course) that runs about 30 minutes. It is integrated with the examination data base to show how closely connected the knowledge items are connected to possible examination questions, on the one hand, and the actual instructional material, on the other. These items are included in the demonstration CD currently being developed.

The Stellar Schools effort began in mid-2003 as we began to explore the idea that technology could be combined with franchising to develop a school system model that would be more effective and less expensive than existing public and private systems. Since then we have developed a list of several hundred correspondents who we have kept informed about SSC developments. A few dozen of these have provided us feedback on an informal basis.

Four years have now passed since we began this endeavor and we have yet to find financial resources nor have we found partners to carry out the leadership roles.

When we ask ourselves if deficiencies within our plans and efforts are responsible for our lack of wherewithal we don't get a simple answer. If we saw competitors advancing that might suggest defects in our approach, but we see no one advancing in this area. In fact, if we do see anyone moving forward in this area, they'll be hearing offers of assistance from us. Failing that we'll aspire to be their competitor.