Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in training and education but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Susan Schaefer, Founder, and CEO of Academic Coaching Associates, located in Boca Raton, FL, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
The focus of my business, Academic Coaching Associates (ACA), is to provide students in middle school, high school, and college strategies to achieve academic success. The majority of ACA students have difficulties with executive functions, including organization, time management, motivation, pre-planning, and self-advocacy. They usually have a diagnosis such as ADHD, anxiety, depression, EF dysfunction, or are on the autism spectrum. Our customers are the parents of these students.
When a parent reaches out to me, they usually say how happy and relieved they are to have found someone that understands their child. They know their child is smart, and that’s never an issue. But they are underachieving. Their student’s low grades come from not doing homework, missing due dates, not studying efficiently, or procrastinating everything from projects to writing assignments. Parents may be frustrated because nothing they have tried to do to help has worked. That’s where academic coaching comes in.
ACA’s expert academic coaches create a non-judgemental, supportive space for students to open up about their academic struggles. Students are taught strategies to strengthen the executive function skills they are lacking in a way that makes sense to them. This is done by using their own authentic assignments and assessments, so the student is able to immediately practice the strategy. As their grades improve, students experience an increase in confidence and self-esteem.
Tell us about yourself
I am a former teacher with an entrepreneurial spirit. After teaching in the classroom for a number of years, I made the difficult decision to leave teaching and start my own business, helping students in a way that had not been done before. That was 12 years ago. I have always had difficulties with executive functions in school, and although my grades were okay, they were never stellar. I thought I was stupid, which was reinforced by the adults in my life. It wasn’t until my junior year in college that I figured out that I’m not dumb; I just learn differently than other students. My school years were difficult and frustrating. I made the decision to do something to help students who were like me so they would have a positive and inspirational school experience, and Academic Coaching Associates was born.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
As a business owner, I am very proud of the fact that although I did not invest a single cent in my business when I began, it has increased in sales every single year.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
There are many hard things that come with being a business owner, but I have to say for me, it’s self-motivation. Just like my students, I tend to procrastinate. But, my passion for what I do, and using the same strategies I teach, helps me get past this tendency.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
First, I would say to do your research. Not just online, but talk to people who do what you would like to do, ask questions, and find out if there is a place in the market for you. Don’t assume your edible candle business will be a success just because you think it’s a cool idea.
The second is to be exceptionally patient. The first year I was in business, I made $1,800 and had four students. Most businesses that fail do so because they expect too much too soon. Slow down and think about creative ways to get past issues, pivot when necessary, and get input from your team.
And third, surround yourself with people who know what they are doing and are emotionally invested in your success. Treat your employees well and regularly let them know you appreciate them. Show them you respect them and communicate that they are a vital part of the success of your company.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
If I were asked for a 4th tip, I would advise changing with the times. When I began Academic Coaching Associates, there were no such things as podcasts, and the thought of doing one was terrifying. Even so, I will be launching my podcast, Executive Function Experts, shortly.
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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