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What is Markao, and is it right for me?

Markao is actually a combination of the first three letters of the last name of each of our founders, Kim Marie and George Kao.

The name also represents the 6 guiding principals of our academy:


Mission could be thought of as our calling, that inner sense of something we’re drawn to do that feels aligned with why we’re here on this planet. Markao helps you find and stay connected with your unique mission, path and purpose, both in business and in life.


We believe authenticity and integrity are paramount to generating fulfillment in both business and life.  Markao’s teachings emphasize collaboration over competition, generosity over scarcity, and blending wisdom with tried and true knowledge to be sustained financially while being yourself. 


Relevance ensures that what we do relates to our values and those we wish to serve. We emphasize relationship building and ‘net-caring’ that directly support and improve the lives of those we interact with. We teach you how to create products and services that resonate with those who need them, while staying aligned with your mission and purpose.


Kai = Change. Zen = Good. The Japanese term Kaizen is about continuously striving to change for the better, improving ourselves and our businesses, and thereby improving our lives. Markao shows you how to face challenges and difficulties head on, repairing or adjusting as needed so that further issues are mitigated, and higher levels of quality, in your business, relationships and life, are reached.


When we appreciate our experience, we learn. Markao helps you to gratefully accept all experiences as valuable learning, celebrating your progress and appreciating others along the way. Cultivating gratitude allows us to see the opportunities and possibilities in the challenges, and find greater connection to our life and work.


Entrepreneurship is about seeing the possibilities that exist, and offering our skills and passions to meet them. A true entrepreneur is able to reframe problems and challenges as opportunities for innovation, growth, connection, and, well, profit…not only financial profit, but personal, spiritual and community profit.


We’re so glad that you’re asking! We love it when families work together to take on these big decisions and activities.  We’ve created a page just for the parents to help, and we’re happy to talk to you to answer any questions you may have.  Just schedule a time to talk, and we’ll connect! 

No.  Our process is about helping you to discover yourself and what makes your heart sing, just as much as it’s about guiding you to turn that wisdom into a business that supports and fulfills you.

We’ll be exploring your strengths, talents, personality, experiences, etc. to help you find something that you feel aligned in creating a business around.

Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty to do and work with, even if you have to go through a few iterations of what your focus will be.  Entrepreneurship is about experimentation and resilience. You’ve got this!

Markao is not just something to do before going to college. It’s an option that just might change the course of your life. 

Markao’s curriculum is a unique blend of personal exploration, development and understanding with all the tools needed to create a sustainable business that expresses your special gifts in fulfilling ways. 

Our academy can stand alone or blend with other trainings to create the vocational satisfaction you’re seeking. For an affordable price, it offers personalized, step-by-step guidance to support you in achieving your goals.


You might consider measuring and comparing the options. We have.

When we consider the cost of college education, the limitations of moving straight into a job without additional training and experience, and the lack of educational programs geared toward helping young adults become the best of themselves AND bring that to shine in the world, the value is clear.

Markao is here to shift the paradigm around education and opportunities for future generations. We’re educating and advocating for the idea that our world needs more young people to bring their gifts and shift the paradigm. 

A paradigm shift is not going to happen by continuing the old models of education that tend to generate “good workers” as opposed to visionary creators with confidence in their unique gifts.


We take full responsibility for ensuring that we offer you valuable skills that bring out your best, and allow you to create a business.

You must take responsibility for implementing the work, engaging with the program, and stepping out of your comfort zone.

We’re here to support you, and we want to see you have a business that is earning income by the end of our program. We’re not about a “quick fix” or a “magic pill” that’s going to promise you big money in a short time. 

Markao is about creating sustainable, tested, authentic practices that work over the long run to build an income that supports you. Everyone will have their own unique experience of how long that takes based on their prior work, their talents, the field they choose to go into, etc. 

We know that if you’re willing to come with the courage, curiosity and commitment needed to follow your calling, and the willingness to collaborate and communicate your needs, we’ll be there supporting and encouraging you every step of the way.

Take a look at our blog post on Creative Ways to Earn Income After High School for more ideas on how the Markao education can get  you going with an income generating business.

Markao is a wonderful gap year option, but it’s also a great college alternative.

We’ve listed many ways traditional/systemic education is different from a Markao education (see “How is Markao education different from college education?”), and Markao’s differences make it a great college alternative.

We’re not saying one should or shouldn’t go to college. What we are saying is that it may not be a requirement in order to live a fulfilling life doing work you love.

Markao teaches you life skills that allow you to navigate the world effectively, and creatively share your gifts. You’ll learn how to be an entrepreneur, which means you’ll have the potential to be employed for life, by YOU! You’ll be able to apply the Markao education to any new creative ventures that you wish to pursue in your life.

You might find yourself going to college, or into the workplace, or getting a certificate from trade school. What’s great about Markao’s entrepreneurial education is that you’ll be trained to transform any skill or passion that you have into a business.


Absolutely!  You might already have a degree or other training beyond high school, and find yourself longing to apply it via your own business offering. Markao is a great way to do that.

If you’re currently enrolled in an intensive college program, you’ll have to determine how much time you have available to make the Markao education most beneficial for you. Will you have the time to attend the weekly sessions? Will you be able to meet with your mentor(s) weekly and implement the projects? 

These are things to consider as you determine the right timing to participate in the Markao Business Academy. Feel free to contact us with your questions as to whether it seems right for your situation.



That depends on how you define the “college experience.”  

If you’re looking for an experience of discovery, experimentation, collaboration, creativity, development, implementation, and growth, you’ll get a great experience with Markao.

If you’re looking for in-person opportunities to socialize, study, or join in activities, you’ll be encouraged to create those yourself. You might consider getting a friend to enroll too, and share some in-person connection while building your businesses.

Entrepreneurs know how to create opportunities for themselves, as well as respond to opportunities to share their gifts. Initiating your own extra-curricular activities in creative ways that add to your educational experience is another great way to build your skills. 


Markao is a 10 month program, as opposed to a multi-year degree program. While duration is an obvious difference, here are a number of ways in which the Markao education differs from traditional/systemic education.

Traditional Education Markao Education
Great for those who are very clear as to what they want for their career path and calling, or have significant funds for the “college experience” and a liberal arts education in hopes of finding that clarity
Great for those still exploring who they are, what they value, what their calling is, and how they can best share their unique gifts with the world
Tends toward a “one size fits all” model
Offers self-directed learning with guidance based on your unique skills and talents
Focused more on knowledge, theories, and employment based learning
Focused on cultivating creativity, outside-the-box thinking, empathy, communication, relationship building, innovation, wisdom and leadership/service based learning
Little to no emphasis on the development of the human being or relating with others and life itself
Significant emphasis on knowing who you are, relating well with others, overcoming obstacles, and meeting life authentically and courageously
Typically assumes the need for “well roundedness” with costly, required, general education courses that may not be related to your course of study or your interests/passions
Works with you to explore, discover and cultivate your inherent abilities and apply them to a calling of your choice, without costly “extras” that don’t apply to your unique path
Companies are growing ever more frustrated at the lack of capacities for collaboration, teamwork, empathy, and innovative thinking, which are not taught in traditional education
Offers the creative, innovative, and collaborative capacities, in addition to the self-discipline, focus, openness, and relationship building skills companies and potential collaborative partners are looking for
Tends toward a fixed curriculum based on a focused major or course of study, with little to no personalized interaction, attention or mentorship
Works with project-based learning combined with regular personalized mentorship to guide you toward creating tangible results and significant value that can be offered both in service to the world, and as income generation for you
While traditional educational experience may come with the opportunity to meet significant challenges that need to be overcome, there’s little to no guidance as to how to effectively navigate these challenges
Provides mentorship and coaching to help guide students through self-sabotaging thoughts and emotions, supporting them to truly learn who they are, how they can best relate with others, and to effectively build the confidence, responsibility and empowerment that is possible for every human being
Students typically graduate with knowledge and certain understanding that is not accompanied by hands-on experience
Students graduate having been immersed in numerous hands-on learning projects that directly apply to their success in creating a viable business
Students work independently, accountable only to themselves and the teacher
Students work collaboratively with each other, and have personalized mentorship and coaching to hold them accountable and encourage them every step of the way
Many relationships are impersonal, often with teachers not even knowing the students’ names
Personalized relationships and meetings with each student creates a safe space that allows for self-development, in addition to knowledge and skills development
In larger universities, there’s little to no space available for students to process challenges or express emotions, needs and concerns, or for advisors to offer encouraging, honest feedback and support
Students have many options for support, whether via their peers in the community or their mentors. They’re able to express concerns and get regular, honest and encouraging feedback
Risk taking and learning to fail are not taught in traditional education, which often generates a sense of limitation that exists not only in one’s career, but spills over into life
Risk taking and failure are inherent in the iterative, exploratory, creative process of developing a business and testing the market for its viability, building resilience and fortitude for life
Many teachers/instructors are trained as teachers or researchers, and not necessarily experienced directly in the field that the student wants to move into
Mentorship based education offers those with direct experience of what’s being taught as teachers, guides, and encouragers
Students have teachers that direct their learning and grade them based on adhering to set standards
Students are respected and encouraged by the group for the discoveries they make and the milestones they reach
Graduates of traditional education often report having “lost the passion” for what led them to choose the education in the first place, often experiencing job dissatisfaction and burn-out
Students learn to stay connected with their own values, rather than adopting the values of an outdated system that is clearly not meeting the needs of today’s world

Tell me about the learning experience with Markao.

Markao’s education is a unique blend of business, personal and community skill building.

In the realm of business, you’ll be learning practical and technical skills that help you to set up and run your business, including platform setup for things like social media and web presence, fundamentals in financial management, and effective ways to stay connected to your community.

You’ll learn authentic marketing skills that help you become visible to those you can best serve, and build relationships with those you can collaborate with. Whatever e-product or service you’re interested in offering, Markao will help you to learn how to develop it. You’ll get clear on your messaging and the language of the customers you can best serve.

We focus on giving you the important foundational skills to build a lucrative business in areas that need your support and match your talents and passions. Markao does not specialize in things like venture capital and fundraising, or prototyping for larger product development at this time. These are considerations we’re exploring for advanced training for those who may want it after the initial program.

A key business skill in entrepreneurship is leadership. Here are just a few of the important leadership skills you’ll learn with Markao:

  • Communication – Language is generative, so creating a successful business means we must know how to clearly communicate, both in what we say and how we listen.
  • Failing Forward – Leaders / Entrepreneurs know the value of making mistakes and learning from them to improve their offers and their businesses.
  • Inspiration – You’ll learn how to inspire others in the way that you show up, share your unique gifts, and conduct business.
  • Creativity – Markao students are immersed in creative opportunities throughout the program, bringing forth their talents and applying them to building a successful business.
  • Responsibility – You’ll learn the value of taking ownership of your actions, being transparent with yourself and others, and setting a tone that helps others believe in you.
  • Commitment – Perseverance, devotion, passion, prioritization, and follow through are qualities you’ll explore as part of establishing strong commitment in your work.
  • Flexibility and Resilience – Leadership requires the ability to adapt, see unique opportunities, and bounce back when things are challenging.
  • Inner Wisdom – Great leaders have deep connection with their inner wisdom, having learned from their experiences, and knowing how to trust themselves.
  • Trustworthiness – You’ll learn the importance of accountability, credibility, conscientiousness, reliability, integrity, respect, empathy and safety as key elements of cultivating trust in yourself and from others.

In the realm of personal skills, you’ll get to know yourself really well. You’ll learn to deal constructively with feelings and emotions, something that is too often overlooked and yet so important as we navigate the emotional ups and downs that can come with running a business and navigating life. We offer many tools for managing time effectively and staying joyfully productive, avoiding procrastination, and staying focused. You’ll also learn how to plan and balance your life and work in realistic, healthy ways that nourish you rather than generate burnout or overwhelm.

As for community skills, you’ll be interacting with your peers, learning to encourage and support one another. You’ll learn to provide gentle feedback that benefits others, and receive feedback openly.  With the help of your mentor, you’ll receive guidance on dealing with differences and conflicts you have with others, in or out of the Markao program.  We want you to feel confident and compassionate in relating with others, while staying true to who you are.


What makes Markao special is our unique blend of entrepreneurial business building skills, and personal self-building skills. 

You’ll get personalized attention to cultivate these skills in a safe space that generates a sense of trust and support. We believe that education is about more than learning cognitive skills and putting them to use. We care about educating the whole person, supporting students to feel confident in who they are and how they show up in the world. 

Most online training programs are self-study based, and few include a live component. Not only does Markao have live group trainings on a weekly basis, but we also offer personal 1 to 1 mentoring for every student, every week. 

There’s no doubt education is moving more and more to online platforms, but we don’t believe it needs to be impersonal or lacking in depth. 



We are initiated by our relationships. In today’s fast paced world, there are few cultural rights-of-passage celebrated anymore. We’re asked to pay attention to our relationships and what they show us. In doing so, we learn more about ourselves and grow as a person.

Few people pay adequate attention to relationships. Markao encourages you to connect with intention to your mentors, instructors and others students. In this connection, you’ll learn so much more about yourself.  We encourage you to ask questions, make mistakes, and trust that in vulnerability there is strength. 

Your mentor will be there as a guide not only for the practical side of education, but also as a guide to support you with whatever challenges you’re facing in your life.  Your mentor will have resources to refer you to additional support if you need it, and offer you a safe space to learn and grow. 

Students are encouraged to support one another with inclusivity, honesty, and compassion. You’ll be building amazing relationships in Markao that will last a lifetime if you’re willing to open yourself to them.



Markao’s founders are passionate about community building, and they’ve built communities out of which the best of friends have been made. Many friends have chosen to visit each other in other countries and states, and not only cultivate their online relationship, but also connect in person. 

You’ll be connecting with other students in discussion pods, study-buddy connections, small group activities, and authentic relating games. You’ll also connect with friends in our online group forum, sharing questions, encouragement, and your skills. 

The many opportunities to interact with your peers and mentors will cultivate special, lasting friendships. 



You’ll be expected to commit to the trainings and projects, but all meetings are recorded and can be reviewed outside of the live delivery times. So, if you have a job that conflicts with the lessons, you can still get the information. 

You’re encouraged to attend group Q&A sessions to learn from one another, and to ask your own questions. However, those will also be recorded for your learning. 

One thing you will need to do is meet with your mentor weekly to ensure you’re getting your needs met and staying on track with the learning and development. You’ll also need to plan your time wisely for completing projects and staying on track, but Markao helps you with that!

Having a job while participating in the Markao program is a great way to gain experience, relate with others, and pay for the program. In fact, just 15 hours per week at $15 per hour will pay for the program in one year. Of course you can choose to have a job with more hours if you need as well. We’ve made the program accessible for students, whether they can pay up front with support from family, or have to earn income to pay for it themselves. 


We estimate an average of 15 hours weekly to attend the live trainings, mentoring sessions, and Q&A sessions, as well as tend to the assignments and projects we ask you to take up each week.

The required hours can change week to week, requiring a bit more or less depending on the assignments, your prior experience, and/or how quickly you’re able to implement. 

You’ll be linking to our Google Calendar to be sure all of your sessions and appointments are on your calendar. 

There will be weekly group teachings, and Q&A Sessions, weekly individual mentoring sessions, and guest presenters.

There is a learning area to which you’ll be given a login account. The learning area holds recordings of all the learning sessions, downloadable assignments and resources, as well as pre-recorded learning videos. 

You’ll also have a private community forum where your peers and mentors can interact with you. You’ll be able to ask questions, share celebrations and successes, and be witnessed in your challenges The forum will be an active, engaging space to share and generate lasting friendships and support. 

You’ll be asked to do regular self assessments, allowing you to more actively see your blind spots and areas for improvement, as well as the areas you have ease and flow. We help you celebrate what’s working, and transform what’s not working into learning and development that supports you and your business to grow.



Markao is not focused on large scale company building or venture capital, fundraising, and prototype building for new products.

We are more about online business building than brick and mortar businesses. However, if you have a brick and mortar business idea, Markao will give you tremendous skills for marketing that business and making it successful.  

While Markao is not focused on these areas in our one year program, we offer powerful foundational support for eventually moving toward these options if that’s your vision.



How do I enroll in the Markao Academy?


To participate in Markao’s Business Academy, we ask that you have a high school diploma or GED equivalent. 

Beyond that, we ask that you come with a courageous spirit and curiosity. We want you to bring your creativity and inspiration. 

You’ll be discovering your passions, and stepping into the person you are here to be. Markao is a place of inclusivity, encouragement, compassion and care. We bring generosity and openness to all that we do. 

If you are truly committed to learning, growing and opening to new possibilities, you will fit in at Markao.


A high school diploma is not an absolute requirement. You can also have a GED equivalent.

If neither of these are possible for you, and you’re sincerely interested building a business while learning more about yourself, contact us and we’ll discuss what’s possible for you. 


You can.

We will make every effort to schedule mentoring sessions that work for you each week at a reasonable time.

You may find that some live sessions will be less accessible to you, but you can easily listen to recordings of those and stay up to speed with the program.




You’ll want to be sure you have a good internet connection. We encourage you to create a Google account if you don’t already have one. 

We’ll be offering orientation information as we get closer to the program starting, which will have additional preparatory details.


What are the pricing and financial details?

For our first cohort running from September 2020 to June 2021, all students receive a $1,500 scholarship, bringing the cost to $10,500 for the year.  

You can pay a one time payment of $9,000 up front, or make monthly payments of $1,050 per month for 10 months. 

For those in need, we do offer a limited number of partial scholarships. If you’re interested in applying, there is a spot on the application form to indicate whether you are in need of a scholarship. We will work with you to see what’s possible. 

We’ve made Markao an affordable option that will generate significant learning and opportunity.

We ask that you understand that Markao is a 10 month commitment. There are those who will be turned away if we fill our spots, and we ask that you only apply if you are sincere about making the commitment to complete the program.

We are happy to work with you if there are extenuating circumstances that require you to step out of the program, and decisions will be made on a case by case basis.

Students afford the Markao program in a variety of ways.

You can receive support from parents or family members willing to invest in your education and future.

You can seek employment to help you pay for the program. At $15 per hour, you would only have to work 15 hours per week for one year to cover the cost of the program.  This assumes you have other means of covering your living expenses, but also leaves room for additional hours of employment as needed.

You can fundraise from your community to help you with this venture.  Perhaps you already have a great idea that you want to learn to turn into a business, and friends and family would be happy to help you raise the funds to do that. 

There are many creative ways to afford the program if you’re willing to look for them. We’ve made the program very affordable by comparison to most college tuitions and other similar mastermind type programs. 

We’re happy to talk to you about need based partial scholarships too, or to help you brainstorm creative ways to make Markao possible for you.


Markao offers creative ways to build a business that require minimal expense. Most student businesses will have less than $30 per month in operating expenses, and not more than $100 per month.  

These expenses are minimal, and cover things like purchasing a domain name and hosting your website. Beyond that, expenses are more optional and dependent upon the type of business you wish to create.  

Feel free to contact us if you have concerns here and we can help you clarify any potential costs beyond the tuition for the program. 


We did a lot of research to consider what a program like this should cost, while being reasonable for the students and covering the expenses to bring a quality education. We understand that a program like this is an investment, and that there are other options out there, even if not quite like Markao.

First, we looked at gap year programs. Many gap year programs cost anywhere from $3,000 to $30,000 depending on the extent of the program. Shorter, less intensive programs are on the low end of the spectrum, while extensive travel-based or in-person programs are on the upper end. Most of these programs only last up to 6 months in duration.

We also considered college education, and the knowing that Markao’s program can serve as a college alternative. In the United States, in-state college tuition averages around $9,500 for one year, making a 4 year program’s tuition $38,000.  If you travel out of state or go to a private college, that price tag goes up to an average of nearly $130,000 for a 4 year program. This doesn’t take into account the room and board expenses associated with going away to college.

We looked at online business mastermind programs, which tend to be geared toward adults who already have clarity around the business they’d like to build and develop.  These programs range from $5,000 to $25,000 for one year depending on how much personal attention is offered. 

Finally, we considered what it would take for a high school student to work to pay for the program.  Most high school graduates can find hourly jobs that pay around $15 per hour, and at that rate, they would only have to work 15 hours per week for less than one year to pay for the program. This assumes that they have their living expenses covered, while allowing for additional work time if needed. 

Every Markao student will get one-on-one mentorship time with two entrepreneurial mentors every week for 10 months. That kind of personalized attention is almost unheard of is any of the options we’ve compared to. They also receive lifetime access to all of the training materials and recorded courses, and a curated support community, which will help them continue to meet business and leadership challenges with ongoing support.

The pricing for Markao’s 10 month intensive, personalized program is an affordable and valuable option for high school graduates. Markao supports students to find their passion and discover what really matters to them, without spending a lot of money on courses or degrees they may not be sure they want.  Our program is also a great option if one has developed or would like to develop additional skills to apply to their business, allowing them to get additional training as desired without the same price tag that a typical 4 year degree would have.


What will I be able to do upon completing Markao?


Graduation eligibility will be determine based on:

  • Attendance at live group discussions
  • Attendance at mentorship sessions
  • Participation in the group forum
  • Assessments
  • Projects/Work Completed

The the types of businesses you will be able to run upon completing the Markao Business Academy are only limited by your imagination and your drive to learn and explore.

Our goal is to have you earning income in an area that is in demand. This might be your first entrepreneurial venture that gets you started, and from there, you can expand into your imagination and possibilities.

Below is a list of just a few possible career paths you can earn income with upon completion of our training. 

Based on roughly 20 billable hours of work weekly for 48 weeks per year (i.e. half time!), the following annual rates are conservative estimates, and will grow by multiples as you gain experience,  credibility, and more clients. And, you’ll have the skills to share combinations of these offers to create full time income if you choose. 


  • Online tutor ($24,000+ per year) – $25/hour
  • Graphic design ($28,800+ per year) – $30/hour
  • Simple website design and/or development ($33,600+ per year) – $35/hour 
  • Social media manager ($28,800+ per year) – $30/hour
  • Virtual assistant ($28,800+ per year) – $30/hour
  • Online business manager ($33,600+ per year) – $35/hour
  • Tech hand-holding ($24,000+ per year) – $25/hour
  • Accountability coach ($28,800+ per year) – $30/hour
  • Social media influencer (depends on work ethic and talent)
  • Online course creator (depends on work ethic and talent)
  • Larger scale Entrepreneur (depends on work ethic and talent)

It’s important to note that we, nor anyone else, can guarantee an income. Self-employment comes with many benefits including flexibility and more meaningful work, as we’ve experienced, and also the risk of not having enough clients. 

What Markao does promise to students committed to learning are the tools, knowledge and encouragement needed to launch a business and be self-employed with income that you can grow.

Markao students are trained on how to tap into their unique gifts and strengths, build a business foundation, market authentically, and generate an income. Additionally, we as a community do our best to support students in finding clients in need of what they have to offer. 

Effective self-employment allows you to express your creativity and personality while earning a good income. 

With your creativity, unique gifts and focused commitment, the possibilities are endless!


Markao is about teaching you the ins and outs of entrepreneurialism.  This can apply to just about any venture you choose.

Our one year program focuses primarily on supporting you to create a business that is online based, with services and/or e-products. However, these skills can be applied to selling physical products and to offering local products and services in your area. 

The Markao mentors and instructors will be able to guide you in the right direction, no matter what entrepreneurial path you choose to take. 


Being an entrepreneur isn’t about auditioning for Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. This isn’t about external validation, or what the world thinks of you.

Markao is about learning how to create the authentic life you want to live on your own terms. This is about right livelihood and inner fulfillment. And if perhaps you become rich and famous along the way, you will have done that in alignment with Markao’s values of authentic business and authentic living. It’ll simply be a gift that allows you to share even more significantly your gifts with the world.

We’re not about promising a “get rich quick” process. In fact we value a sustainable, sincere, authentic approach to life and business that results in a sense of true joy and fulfillment in whatever way that is true for you.

The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.
W.H. Murray
The Scottish Himalayan Expedition

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