Name: Andi Atkins Hessekiel
Name of Business: My College Essay Coach
Length of time in business: 9
Location: my home
Number of kids and ages: two daughters; Kira, 28 and Sophie, 25.
Pets: Tillie, a cock-a-poo
Before starting this business, I had a career as: A magazine editor, writer, and journalist. (I’m still a freelance writer.)
I started my business because: Applying to college is tough. Not only do applicants have to produce a 650-word common application essay, many also have to write multiple supplemental essays on subjects ranging from why they want to go to a particular college to what they think will be the biggest problem in 100 years to what they wish their future roommate would know about them. It’s overwhelming to many. Add to that homework, clubs, sports, and much more, and the kids are stressed. Then their parents get involved, and it leads to hurt feelings and tears (and that’s just the parents!) and the feeling that this stuff will never get done.
I began my business because so many people asked me to read their kids’ college essays, and I found that I really enjoyed doing it. I found I could be helpful to them and encouraging at the same time, and that I could help keep peace between teens and their parents.
I help kids who don’t know what to write find their stories and their voices. I help kids who’ve already written essays edit and sharpen them. I help kids who are great writers as well as those who’d rather solve a quadratic equation, and those who would rather be anywhere than at my dining room table working on a college essay. Everyone needs an editor--even professional writers. I am happy to be the editor of a kid’s college essay. What I don’t do is write essays for students.
What I love most about what I do now is: Sitting with the kids and getting to know them, hearing their stories, helping them realize that they have something interesting and important to say, seeing their tension dissipate when they realize someone will help them with this daunting task, laughing with them, watching them take direction and produce really compelling essays, and then hearing from them when they get college acceptances.
To start this enterprise, I had to: Learn about what colleges are looking for in essays (there is not one right answer, by the way); develop a system to quickly get to know students and help them surface strong essay ideas; build a website, reach out to people I knew to see if they’d be willing to let me help their kids, collect endorsements from people I’d helped, and ask everyone I worked with if they’d be willing to tell a friend about me.
The biggest challenge I faced was: Scheduling. Have you ever worked with teenagers? Their schedules change all the time! I was holding spots and turning people away only to find out that the person didn’t want that spot after all. It was complicated.
I overcame that challenge by: Using calendly.com, a scheduling app that allows clients to book an appointment with me from their phone or computer. When they do, they get an email confirmation, I get an email confirmation, and most importantly, the appointment goes directly onto my calendar! It’s beautiful.
The thing that has surprised me most about this project: In nine years of doing this, I’ve never met a kid I didn’t love.
My best tip for fellow entrepreneurs is: Promote your business by donating your goods or services to local nonprofit organizations via their silent auctions--or advertise in their journals. It’s a great way to let your neighbors know you exist while at the same time supporting the organizations that make our community great.
My website is: www.mycollegeessaycoach.com
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