I am Adam Shlomi the founder of SoFlo SAT Tutoring. I went to Georgetown University, scored a 1570, and now SoFlo brings in 6 figures of income. In 2020 we grew 600 percent, in 2021 we hope to grow another 300 percent. I started SoFlo about two years ago; I really wanted to start a company coming out of college, and I am glad that I had the opportunity.
Can you briefly walk me through your journey and how you got to this moment in the present?
I broke my foot when I was a junior at Georgetown, and I had to take a semester off of college. The doctors said that I may never walk again, so I was bedridden, recovering from ankle surgery without much to do. I was really excited about entrepreneurship - I was taking entrepreneurship classes in college and I had even changed my major (to entrepreneurship). I really wanted to start a company and use this time as a learning opportunity. I thought “I am learning all this stuff now so in two years I am more equipped to do something, and that this will be my first failure.” I was really planning SoFlo as a failure and a learning opportunity. Instead we kept growing.
We focused on one-on-one online SAT tutoring, taking really smart people who crushed the test and came from top colleges, and connecting them through the internet to people in my home town in south Florida and now several more places around the country. We then focused on the best customer service experience possible and leveraged technology. These two thoughts of business (using the computer and the internet better than other tutoring companies and delivering the best customer experience possible) and doing this for a small vertical has made us successful. We now have 80 tutors, we are about to hire another part-time sales person, and I think this focus on doing great work has been paying off so far and will hopefully continue to pay off in the future.
Can you elaborate a little bit more about what you do daily? What does your daily work day look like as the founder?
About 3 months ago I made this very calculated decision as a result from my mentors saying, “if you are already very busy now, you need to stop running your company. You need to grow your company, and other people need to run it.” Other people handle interviewing, other people handle billing, but if things really go wrong I’m here. My job is focused on growth. I think about what are the biggest bottlenecks that slow us down and how we can beat them. Right now the biggest bottleneck this week is going to be tutors; the question is how do we have more tutors come in and how do we train them. We already have a bunch of applications so now it is more about refining our interviewing process. Normally the number one problem is how do we find more clients; this is a very competitive market, there are a lot of small tutors out there, so how do we win?
The answer to this question has been optimizing YouTube ads, optimizing click funnels, reworking our marketing and copy. An example of a project that I am taking on is: on the internet you want to build backlinks to drive traffic to your website and rank in Google. I hired a pretty smart guy in England that is doing outreach for backlinks, and he said he never ran a campaign that was as unsuccessful as ours. So, we are trying something different now; we are going to build a webpage that is infographics of where the 2020 US Senators went to college, and giving information on the newest class of the Senate and their education background. I hired a web developer to build the page; I found a guy who already built the dataset on last year's Senate and paid him to update the dataset, and our SEO guy is going to do the email outreach. I am managing this one particular project, and I am handling a bunch of small projects like this, trying to carry them past the finish line.
What do you wish you knew before you first started SoFlo SAT Tutoring?
I wanted to start a company really badly and I think that was the most important thing. I remember being a sophomore in college being like “I want to drop out of college with a company good enough to drop out with,” and I was tough on myself that I didn’t have that. I think the biggest thing is doing it. So many people I talk to say, “I am thinking about building a website tomorrow.” You just have to say “I am building this tonight,” you can’t be thinking about maybe doing something. Doing is the first step from going to zero to one.
Just by the nature of being an ambitious, smart, young person you will probably be better than a good amount of the competition in whatever vertical you go into (unless you go into sneaker trading where everyone is young, smart, and on the internet). In most industries in America, if you are young, smart, and ambitious, you are going to beat most people. You just have to do the work.
In college, how did you balance your time between classes, co-curricular activities, and then your business?
I really didn’t. I think if you want to be the best, you have to be obsessed. I stopped really seeing girls, and I was just like “my life is SoFlo.” I really focused on the company; I had a few friends, but I said that SoFlo is first and foremost the number one priority while school and everything else is number 2. I think senior year I came back, living in the entrepreneurship house, and it worked alright. SoFlo was growing, but not super fast, and for the first half of senior year I had good grades. Second half of senior year I actually really got bailed out by Covid - I had like 3 “Cs' ' when classes were changed to pass fail. I decided to stop showing up and stop doing work, and therefore was really excited in March when I was able to wake up and commit full time to my company. I really don't balance my time so much, and I don’t think I would. I think if I want to do something I have to commit to something a lot. I had a lot of friends in college who had good companies, but they didn’t commit to them, and they failed for that reason. At the same time, something I am learning right now is that this is only one step of my life, and I shouldn’t prioritize SoFlo over my family or my health because these things are going to be longer lasting than this company that probably won’t exist in ten years.
What are some obstacles you have faced because of your age?
I haven’t met a lot of other people who are my age doing the things that I do, so it is hard to make friends. I was speaking to someone today who was cool, and he is 35. I want friends who think about the problems I am thinking about, but I know that this guy doesn’t want to be my friend; I get that, if I was 35 I wouldn’t want to be friends with a 22-year-old either. I want to find people who are excited about the problems I am excited about, and love entrepreneurship the way I do, but are also 22, 23. I have met two people like that, and they are both doing their own thing. The thing about entrepreneurship is that it’s very much internal - I focus my time building my company.
What do you think has been the key to your success this far?
I think for a very long time the idea was to have a very high standard - the mentality was that we are smart and we are going to a better job of this than everyone else has. I think relying on technology - we decided to automate every possible thing that we can, and there is still so much room for bringing things up to the current technology standards.
We have hired a lot of really smart people to fix our problems; a lot of our people are college students, and maybe they are not super dedicated, but I never have to worry about someone making a stupid mistake or being rude to a client - most people are very trustworthy and can handle themselves. This has allowed us to focus less on monitoring the company and more on growing it because we can trust the people to do their work.
Throughout your journey what has been the best advice you have ever received?
I took an entrepreneurship class in college that really was the best class I took in school. I wasn’t a huge fan of college, but my professor would just bring in entrepreneurs who would talk about their story where you can start learning patterns. I took a lot of good information from this class about going from zero to one. Things like building lean, building an MVP, diving deep and not going wide, and the importance of people. I didn’t learn a lot about valuations and investments, but I learned a lot about how entrepreneurs think and how to start a company.
Is there any final advice you would want to share with an aspiring entrepreneur?
The number one thing is do. Build a website. Whatever you are doing, whatever idea you have, throw it on the internet, and see if people like it. When you start writing out your idea you begin to develop what is and what isn’t your idea. You get to work on your language and modify your idea. The night that changed my life the most was when I stayed up from 12AM to the morning building my website.