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How She Got There: Emily Cole & Jessica Brondo, Co-Founders of Admittedly

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Name: Jessica Brondo
Age: 31
Job Title and Description: Founder & CEO of Admittedly: Manage all things Admittedly, from fundraising to user acquisition strategy, community management and partnerships.
College/Major: Princeton University/Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs
Website: www.admittedly.com
Twitter Handle: @JessBrondo

Name: Emily Cole
Age: 34
Job Title and Description: Co-Founder & Chief Operations Officer of Admittedly, the ultimate college advisory tool. I run operations and oversee product development.
College/Major: Boston University/Psychology
Website: www.admittedly.com
Twitter Handle: @emilycole13

What does your current job entail? Is there such a thing as a typical day?

Jessica Brondo: Literally everything! We’re still a small team (only five of us), so we all work on most aspects of the business. I try to schedule different tasks for different points throughout the day.

On a typical day, I try to wake up at around 6:30 a.m., head to the gym (I’m currently loving the Tone It Up program!) and then tackle emails during the morning. I try to do all of my meetings and strategy sessions with the team between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. so we can bond over lunch, and then I’m meeting investors and potential partners between 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. and then am working with our Community Manager from 5 to 7 on videos for our YouTube channel and answering posts in different forums. Then, after 7:00 p.m., I usually cook dinner and have some “wine time” with my fiancé, or [I] am at a start-up networking event somewhere in the city!

Emily Cole: There’s no typical day in the Admittedly office, and like many roles in a start-up, I wear a lot of hats. I can be writing up questions and games for the site one moment, interviewing potential employees the next, building partnerships and decorating a team member’s desk for a birthday all in a given day.

What is the best part of your job?

JB: My team! I absolutely love coming to work every day with such passionate, amazing people who inspire me in more ways than I could ever iterate.

EC: The best part of my job is sitting with students and listening to their feedback about Admittedly.
 
What was your first entry-level job in your field and how did you get it?

JB: I was an SAT instructor back in the day when I was a student at Princeton. I absolutely fell in love with teaching, especially for the SAT and ACT, which seemed so daunting for most students, so it was particularly rewarding when students “got it” and began to hit their target scores. I had gotten a perfect score on my SAT, so it was definitely a natural area to focus on in terms of teaching, but in order to get the position, I tried to focus on making my lessons fun and engaging during my “audition” and really trying to relate to the students.

EC: My earliest peek into the admissions process was my first job after college teaching pre-kindergarten in London.  I spent a lot of time meeting with families and helping them figure out which school would be the right fit for their child. I got the job by asking contacts in London to introduce me to schools and headmasters. 

What is one thing you wish you knew about your industry when you first started out that you know now?

JB: I wish I knew how inclined students would be to do tutoring sessions online and how engaging an online course could be. I would have started working on Admittedly much sooner!

EC: I transitioned from academia and didn’t know much about the business side of things. I’m really pleased that we took part in a tech accelerator program and that helped me learn the ins and outs of starting a business. 

Who is one person who changed your professional life for the better?

JB: My parents! My first job after college was as a director of another test prep company, and the person I was working for didn’t really have much vision for growth and expansion and also didn’t value his employees enough. I took a leap one day and quit and started working on launching my own test prep and admissions counseling company, The Edge in College Prep. Had it not been for my parents’ belief in me, I don’t think I would have had the confidence to start my first business at 22. They certainly inspired the entrepreneurial spirit in me.

EC: Jess Brondo has certainly changed my life for the better; her drive and passion inspire me daily. Admittedly may be our first venture together, but it won’t be out last!
 
What words of wisdom do you find most valuable?

JB: One of my favorites is: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” -Margaret Mead

I like to be inspired that individuals can make big changes, but that also even improving one small aspect of society is worth it. You don’t need to make monumental changes to have done something great.

And then [I] absolutely love Winston Churchill’s “Never, never, never give up!”….when you’re an entrepreneur, there will ALWAYS be bad days. You need to just push through, and never give up on your goals.

EC: “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”  Things happen so quickly in a start-up and it can be difficult to anticipate exactly how the next day will be, so I try to make this quote my motto.

What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it?

JB: Not trusting my gut. When I was first starting out, I obviously had very little experience running a business since I started my company just a year after graduating from college. I had hired someone to run a marketing campaign for the company, and he started launching things on the radio, on train platforms and in a variety of media that were very expensive. Deep down I knew those wouldn’t be the ideal outlets for a test prep and admissions counseling company, but never voiced my opinion because I thought the marketing consultant would know better.

EC: I once took a job because it was an amazing opportunity and an honor to be selected for it even though I knew my heart was not in it.  To me, this was not a mistake, but rather it helped me realize that I needed to be doing something more entrepreneurial and was willing to take the risk to leap into the start-up world.
 
What do you look for when considering hiring someone?

JB: Hunger and drive. I like working with people who seem hungry and driven. I hate complacency and like people who want to actively make things better and are inspired to always try their best and never just do the bare minimum of what is required. I think it is so important to surround yourself with the best so you always remain challenged.

EC: First and foremost, we look for someone who understands the product and our vision.  We are a small but growing team, and hiring goes far beyond assessing someone’s skill sets.  It’s equally important that each new person’s work ethic and personality is a good fit with the rest of the team.
 
What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?

JB: Just do it. Basically to stop dawdling and waiting for the right moment to take a leap of faith, but to just dive in and take chances. Your twenties is the time to make mistakes and take risks. People always put off their dreams and get the cases of the “When I haves…”, but nothing will ever be perfect. Just like they say there’s no ideal time to have a baby because it changes everything, there’s never an ideal time to start something new, but it is a magical journey and you’ll never regret it once you embark on the path.

EC: Explore your passions and try different things. You learn just as much from a job you don’t like as you do from something you do.  In today’s world, it’s so easy to stay in touch with friends, former classmates and colleagues; make sure you do.  Your network is one of your most valuable resources. Even though Jess and I didn’t meet in London, we did eventually meet through a mutual friend in NYC, and to him I’ll forever be grateful.

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