Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Andrea Schiralli, Co-Founder of Ivy & Quill College Consulting, located in New Canaan, CT, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Ivy & Quill, a college consulting service. Our clients are full-service education consulting companies, independent education consultants, and students applying to (private) high schools, universities, and graduate schools. Basically, education consulting companies outsource the writing component of the college application process to us so that they can take on more clients. This is our B2B aspect. We also work directly with students who find us through word of mouth and Google searches. This is our B2C aspect.
Tell us about yourself
I used to teach high school English then moved to China to pay off my student loans quickly after graduate school. At the time, I was working for a full-service education consulting company: they help students with school selection, essay/resume development, interview prep, and anything related to the college application process. I love reading, writing, and working with teenagers, so this was perfect for me. I love cleaning things up, helping students learn to manipulate language for effect, and just editing with headphones. I also prefer working with students in this manner - only teaching them how to convey their ideas more clearly in written form, brainstorming, and discussing various fields - rather than having to waste time on topics that do not interest me. I learn so much from them, and their essays and our conversations have made me oddly good at Jeopardy.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Learning everything from scratch and "inventing" my own job. My students received excellent results during my first year working at a company in China, and many companies started reaching out to me. I immediately realized it wasn't in my interest to only work for one company and to spend half the year doing random things like teaching courses to stay busy (the college application process is very seasonal, fall and winter).
Hence, I started working B2B (business-to-business). I also only enjoyed helping students with essay development, so that's all I do now. I help students develop their college application essays, run intensive workshops, and give marketing talks/workshops for the companies with which I work B2B.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Learning everything the hard way. I knew nothing about business beforehand, but now I know much more and things I never expected to/really wanted to know. I've become less naive, constantly refined my contracts, and cleaned up other companies' business models to maximize efficiency in our B2B collaborations. The worst part is that every service you perform is a reflection of yourself. I have tried to expand and micromanage consultants/editors and gone through around 30 people from top schools, book editors for major publishing houses, etc. It is very difficult to find reliable people who also churn out quality work and are responsive in a timely manner. Also, there is no 9-5, but that's obvious.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
Focus on ONE project at a time. Find help where needed. For example, don't waste time trying to learn about SEO/marketing when you can hire a professional who will do the job much better and faster than you. Spend your time doing what you're good at and outsource the rest. Always stick to the contract even when it seems "unfair" to set standards.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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