Monthly Archives: September 2014

Steve Feldman: The Entrepreneur Tutor

Steve has over 15 years of tutoring experience and specializes in math and standardized test prep. As Educational Director, Steve oversees curriculum development and the Academic Coach hiring and training process. He is focused on maintaining the high level of service that our NYC students and families have come to expect from Private Prep.

Listen to Steve’s story to motivate your company!

Want to apply to get featured on CEO Mojo? Submit your entry here.

Listen to the full interview with Steve Feldman and Joe Apfelbaum! Download MP3.

A Quotable CEO Mojo Moment:

I truly care about what I do. I still tutor. By working with students directly, it reminds me what I do and why I do it. I really think that what we’re doing is very important, and because I care so much about what I do, it motivates me to do it well.

– Steve Feldman, http://www.privateprep.com/

Read along!

Joe Apfelbaum: Welcome to CEO Mojo, where we motivate business leaders to inspire the world with their stories. In our show, we talk about the ideas, stories, and lessons that motivate business executives. At CEO Mojo, you will get motivated. Whether you’re listening to CEO interviews or reading our blog, you can count on getting inspired and maybe even learning something along the way. Remember, you can always tune in at www.ceomojo.com.

Joe Apfelbaum: Today, we have with us, Steve Feldman, the founder and educational director of Private Prep. Steve, welcome to the program.

Steve Feldman: Thanks for having me, Joe. I’m excited to chat with you and help out anyway I can.

Joe Apfelbaum: So Private Prep is a company that helps students with tutors. Can you tell us more about what the company does?

Steve Feldman: Absolutely. So, we are a private tutoring service based in New York City. Our three biggest markets are here in New York City, in Long Island and in Westchester. About half of what we do is standardized test prep. We cater to students taking the SAT and ACT, primarily juniors and seniors applying to colleges. The other half is working with students who just need help in academic subjects, whether it’s enrichment, remedial support; a lot of times we work with students who really want to excel and get to that, be the best they can possibly be. So they maybe have a B+ or an A-, and they want an A. So we do a lot of tutoring just for classes, languages, sciences, math, et cetera. And we also do college counseling so we provide student guidance on which schools to apply to and then help them make the application the best it can be so they have the best opportunity to get into the elite schools they’re going after.

Joe Apfelbaum: So you started the company in 2006. You completely started it from scratch. What gave you the idea to do it? I know that you were in finance, and then you moved to tutoring. That’s a big transition. Did you have some type of a problem that you couldn’t solve?

Steve Feldman: I never really had a problem, and finance and education are certainly very different industries. The one thing I always highlight is that they’re similar in that before I graduated from college in 2003, I worked in finance, as you mentioned, for a couple years, and I worked in wealth management where we worked primarily with high net wealth individuals, managing their money and helping them grow their wealth. And then, what I do now, again, is working primarily with high net wealth individuals and their families. And what’s in common is that it’s a very . . . people are highly sensitive and highly emotional about their wealth and their money, and they’re also very emotional about their students, I mean, their children and their academic success.

So, those two things are in line and a lot in finance, I had to manage families and manage people and support on the client services side, which is hugely important; I think one of the things that differentiates Private Prep. But yeah, so I’ve been involved in education for a long time. My mom was a teacher when she was growing up so I’ve actually been tutoring since high school, tutored throughout college. I went to school in Atlanta at Emery, and then when I moved to New York City to work in finance, I moonlighted as a tutor and recognized that that was more of my calling. I really enjoyed it. Students liked working with me and parents thought I was a great fit for their kids so they started referring more and more friends; and I was at the point in my career where I had to kind of choose to devote myself to my, at the time, was my full time job in finance versus what I was doing on the side in the evenings and weekends with tutoring.

And in 2006, I decided to walk away from the job in finance and focus on starting my own business, which was obviously a challenge.

Joe Apfelbaum: So you focused on, yeah, so you focused on starting your own business. You made the transition, you launched. What was your first year like?

Steve Feldman: The first year was arguably the greatest year of my life. I joke that I was 25 years old, and I was still learning and I’m still learning today, but learning even more then. I was really tutoring a lot on my own and I knew that I was building a business, but I wasn’t necessarily dead set that this was what I had to be doing. And there was days that first year and even the first two years, probably, where I would look in the mirror or talk to my then girlfriend, now wife, about how I was starting the greatest company in the world and I was so excited and knew that what I was building was going to be really spectacular. And there were days when I’d look in the mirror and say, “What am I doing? I need to get a real job.”

And so I think, along the way, there was more and more days where I was gaining confidence in what I was doing and it was clear to me that I was doing something special that would work out. And so, it was challenging, I think mostly, if anything, psychologically because I was doing it on my own at the time. I was doing a lot of tutoring myself, and I knew it wasn’t sustainable for me to be teaching and tutoring on my own every afternoon and evening, and it wasn’t the life I wanted to live so I needed to start to hire more and more people to work with me. And I’ve been fortunate to be successful at doing that.

Joe Apfelbaum: So how do you take that spunk that you had the first year, and after doing your business for many years now, how do you put that, inject that, into your day to day right now to keep motivated? Because you have to create systems now, things are not the same. You have 150 people that work under you. What is that you do to motivate yourself?

Steve Feldman: You know, I think I’m very fortunate in that I truly care about what I do. I really, I still tutor. I used to tutor 20, 30 hours a week. I now tutor just one or two hours a week. But by working with students directly, it reminds me what I do and why I do it. And so, I really think that what we’re doing is very important and I know that our end product of working with students and helping to mold future leaders is important. Because I care so much about what I do, it allows me to, it motivates me to want to do it and do it well. And I think that caring is one of our core values, is that we have that type of culture of caring where we not only support our students but also our families. We care about not only their academic success but their overall happiness as a student given all the pressures that many middle school and high school students face especially in the very competitive world that they’re in.

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Larry Cohen: The Promotional Professional

From the day he opened Axis Promotions, Larry Cohen was a consultative promotional professional, twenty-one years before “trusted adviser” became a key component of most distributors’ value proposition. Over the past twenty-one years, Axis Promotions has grown from a one-person operation to over 50 employees and six offices.

Listen to Larry’s story to motivate your company!

Want to apply to get featured on CEO Mojo? Submit your entry here.

Listen to the full interview with Larry Cohen and Joe Apfelbaum! Download MP3.

A Quotable CEO Mojo Moment:

You can put a mission statement up on your website and you can print it out and put it on pieces of paper, but if the people who work for you don’t believe that you really believe it and you’re willing to invest in it and commit to it, they know. Those are the people you are really trying to influence with your culture is your employees.

– Larry Cohen, http://axispromo.com/ 

Read along with the audio podcast! 

Joe Apfelbaum: Welcome to CEO Mojo where we motivate business leaders to inspire the world with their stories. I’m Joe Apfelbaum your host and today with us we have Larry Cohn from Access Promotion. Larry, welcome to the program.

Larry Cohn: Thanks for having me.

Joe Apfelbaum: So Larry, you started the company 21 years ago, what’s your scope, what do you guys do? How do you get into it?

Larry Cohn: Well it started off with just one idea which was giving away binoculars in arena sporting events and it’s now evolved in a full service promotion agency where we work with our clients to figure out the best ways to help them to develop their brands by using promotional products as part of their marketing mix. I think the key to our success has really been us being more than about the product, but really about the strategy of using those products and how to integrate them effectively with your overall marketing campaigns and the other aspects of advertising that you’re doing.

Joe Apfelbaum: Okay, so would you consider yourself a marketing company?

Larry Cohn: We would. We’re an agency and everything that we talk to our clients about and consult with them about is how to use promotional items in terms of building brand awareness, building web traffic in some cases, building traffic in a trade show, rewarding employees, referral gifts. There’s so many aspects of our lives that you don’t realize you’re being touched and you’re being promoted through the use of a brand; whether it’s a bag that you’re carrying or the shirt that you’re wearing, or the pen that you’re using, or the direct mail piece that you get from your credit card company that encourages you to use their credit card or sign up for a credit card. It’s a very effective medium when it is done really well. It’s about an $18 billion a year industry and for many companies less thought goes into how they use those items than goes into other aspects of their advertising.

Joe Apfelbaum: So, before you started, I’m always intrigued by people during their journey, and you started off as an attorney, you were practicing law and you transitioned into this level of mutual respect. Talk to me more about what went on over there.

Larry Cohn: My family was very entrepreneurial when I was growing up and I think if I can attribute one of my better skills that I got from my parents, no fear of stepping into the unknown. That if you’re confident in your skills and abilities you will find ways to succeed. Doesn’t mean you won’t have failure along the way, but we learn a lot through trial and error and some of those failures.

So sitting at my desk and just thinking about things I wanted to do and just things that interested me, I just had this idea, I go to a lot of sporting events and I thought wow, wouldn’t it be great if they gave away binoculars in arena sporting events? I was fortunate enough to meet with an NBA basketball owner and he’s like this is amazing, I can’t believe all these years no one’s ever thought of this and connected me with the National Basketball Association and I flew up and met with them. That was kind of the leaping off point and six months later I quit my job as an attorney and really worked on developing this concept and then came to my job as an attorney and really worked on developing this idea as a concept and then came to the realization which I think a lot of entrepreneurs do is when you’re starting off your first great idea leads to next, but you couldn’t really be a one product company. So then became the next search for how was I going to take this one branded item and build it into something more? I think the one epiphany I had, I went to law school at Penn and took some classes at Wharton, was about marketing.

I thought about promotional items in a way that I think a lot of companies did not. Our next meeting, we had some at the NBA, our next meeting with a client and a friend at American Express, and I was really asking marketing questions, themes, target audiences, demographics, all those kinds of questions. And the response I got back was an inquisitive look as to why are you asking me these questions, it’s just the giveaway. Some people call it Tchotchkes, and doodads and all of that stuff, and to me that was the light bulb that said people don’t understand that these items last longer than the brochure that you print or the billboard that you put up or the advertising that you do on TV because if you do it well someone will use that item over and over and over again. And the number of brand impressions per cost is tremendous.

So that kind of became the light bulb that made me realize that there’s a whole aspect to this advertising world that isn’t really being explained effectively to clients and that kind of became the genesis of the company we are today and it is really part of our DNA which is it’s all about the strategy and why to give something away and how to give it away and how to communicate that information to the recipients and to the clients and that’s kind of what drives us. There’s an educational aspect to what we do. Sometimes it would be a lot easier to sell them anything they want, but we’d rather educate them and find the right item as opposed to selling them the simple item.

larry cohens team

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Sarah Endline: The Social Entrepreneur

About Sarah Endline:

Sarah E. Endline is a social entrepreneur and a self proclaimed ‘hippie capitalist.’ 

Sarah is currently the Founder and CEO of sweetriot in NYC, an activist candy company, which is creating a sweet movement to fix the world. sweetriot has started by sourcing cacao in Latin America, featuring artwork on packaging, and by only using all-natural, healthy ingredients.

sweetriot’s award-winning products are sold in 1,000’s of stores including Whole Foods and have been enjoyed at 30,000 feet on board Virgin America. Sarah’s entrepreneurial work has been covered by The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Today Show, Forbes, and Fortune.

Listen to Sarah’s story to motivate your company!

Want to apply to get featured on CEO Mojo? Submit your entry here.

Listen to the full interview with Sarah Endline and Joe Apfelbaum! Download MP3.

A Quotable CEO Mojo Moment:

Working for the World Bank and I ran the world’s largest student cultural exchange organization. It was rooted in that, but what Yahoo gave me was that real experience and what it’s like to create products that people love. One is to build a community to have a really strong culture within your organization that people are excited about. I was able to take those lessons and layer them onto the social change of work that I had already done.

-Sarah Endline, sweetriot.com

Read along with the audio podcast! 

Joe: Welcome to CEO Mojo, where we motivate business leaders to inspire the world with their story. I’m Joe Apfelbaum, CEO of Ajax union and today, we have with us, someone very special. Her name is Sarah Endline, the founder and CEO of Sweet Riot. Sarah, welcome to the program.

Sarah: Thank you so much!

Joe: Sarah, you do something that’s very sweet.

Sarah: That’s for sure.

[laughter]

Joe: Tell us about the idea, the dream that you had behind Sweet Riot.

Sarah: You know, even dating back to college days, I was learning about these businesses where the entrepreneurs were trying to change the world and changing the world, really, through their business and their products. I thought Ben and Jerry’s and their ice cream story was amazing. Anita Roddick with her cosmetics at the body shop. I just really keyed into that idea and thought, “You know what? I do think this business can change the world.” I am a hippie capitalist. I kept following the stories and when it was the right time to write my own business plan, I figured I would change the world through candy.

Joe: Wow. Change the world through candy, but in a positive way.

Sarah: Definitely. I thought, if I’m going to create a company that’s ethical and has really strong social value principals, I really have to think about the type of products we’re creating. We weren’t going to create something that’s artificial and full of bad ingredients, we wanted to create what I considered to be the future of candy, which means fair trade, organic and healthy.

Joe: All the different social responsible components that you could possibly put into food, you’re putting together and that’s kind of like the mission, the dream behind this.

Sarah: Definitely.

Joe: You started the company but before you started the company, you weren’t that company. You weren’t the Yahoo. Right? Tell us about what happened. What was the shift that suddenly you went from being an employee to being an entrepreneur?

Sarah: What’s interesting is if you look kind of at my whole background, I did a lot of social entrepreneurship out of college and then I went and got my MBA at Harvard and at Harvard I was really studying all of entrepreneurship. I went to Yahoo because a founder of a company that had been purchased by Yahoo recruited me. It was really an incredible entrepreneurial experience with that organization. He was one of the people that said, “When are you going to do your own thing?” Because I don’t think I was ever meant to just keep climbing some kind of a company ladder. I already had those entrepreneurial roots.

Joe: You’re always set out on that course. Maybe, the job at Yahoo was also kind of an entrepreneurial endeavor for you.

Sarah: It definitely was. My choice to be in Silicon Valley between 2000 and 2004 was really around embracing the internet as another social change tool that was really kind of completely changing our world and the way we communicate and interact. I wanted that experience because I just felt like it was going to inform everything I did in the future and when I was creating Sweet Riot, I was taking so many lessons that I learned from Yahoo.

Joe: Would you say that you learned some of your social responsibility at Yahoo? Is that kind of the reason why you’re so focused on that?

Sarah: I think that all came rooted back in kind of the very beginning of my career. Working for the World Bank and I ran the world’s largest student cultural exchange organization. It was rooted in that, but what Yahoo gave me was that real experience and what it’s like to create products that people love. One is to build a community to have a really strong culture within your organization that people are excited about. I was able to take those lessons and layer them onto the social change of work that I had already done.

endline

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