What would you like to promote?
Story2 empowers people to communicate authentically based on the art and science of storytelling, our brain’s most powerful form of communication. For high school students applying to college, Story2 provides an affordable interactive platform to complete authentic admissions and scholarship essays. We just launched a new product--StoryScape(TM)--with crazy prompts to get students writing 5 minutes a day. Even 5 minutes of daily writing unleashes better writing performance!
Is this your first business?
My first business was a digital marketing company in the early 2000s. We struggled after 9/11 and eventually went out of business.
What is the #1 reason for your company's success?
Fun! Story2 is built on the brain's love of storytelling. Human beings love to tell stories, and though narrative writing is rarely taught in schools, storytelling unlocks the secrets of all writing, expanding people's writing fluency.
When did it become a reality that you guys would be successful?
Over the course of 2014, as part of 2 highly competitive business accelerator programs--Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses and the Kaplan EdTech Accelerator, powered by TechStars--we completely transformed Story2 from a small, local courses and coaching business into a 100% scalable online business. That shift makes it possible for us to serve millions of people around the world and is the foundation of our success.
Were there any tough times financially in the beginning?
I used my personal savings, and we bootstrapped and struggled for several years. Startups are not for the timid!
What is working best for your marketing right now?
We love Facebook, both organic and paid, because it's so targeted. One complexity of our business is that our users are high school students, but often our customers are their parents. We have been able to connect with both parents and students on Facebook, but separately, with different messages.
What percentage of your clients find out about you guys this way?
What is your biggest differentiator?
In the college admissions space, our biggest differentiator is fostering students' overall writing mastery and independence. Unlike other companies, Story2 *never* writes or edits students essays; we teach students step-by-step how to write more powerfully and authentically.
What is the toughest decision you've had to make in the last few months?
At the end of the TechStars accelerator, we were a fundamentally different company with a different plan and priorities. To build the future, we had to replace two loyal and hard-working employees--a third of our team. That was painful.
What is your morning routine?
I was a swimmer in high school and a coxswain for the men's lightweight crew at Yale. Ever since my body wakes up around 5am, even in the dead of winter. I grind and brew fresh coffee, write for half an hour, and meditate for 12 minutes to lessen stress and open up creativity.
Where is the best place to eat in your city?
I get bored easily and love to try new places, but I never tire of Hooni Kim's Danji. he menu changes frequently, the ingredients are fresh, and the tastes are startlingly simple and complex. The Wall Street Journal featured a couple of his recipes recently, and my husband made the chicken stew with winter vegetables. That was really a treat!
What are your hobbies when you're not busy?
I love yoga and just about anything outdoors: walking, hiking, wandering. Also challenges of all sorts: crossword puzzles, quizzes, multi-step problem solving, physical challenges. Last spring I climbed Kilimanjaro.
What book do you recommend the most?
We have all new employees at Story2 read The Checklist Manifesto, The Lean Startup, and my book--Write Out Loud.
Favorite place to visit?
What business would you love for someone else to start?
A business that organizes all my doctors and medical records, and reminds me when I need to schedule visits, or better yet schedules them for me!
What are your favorite startups in or near your city?
I'm a huge fan of Jeremy Johnson's new company Andela, which teaches coding and entrepreneurship to the brightest students in Africa. Also Goods of Record, a TechStars company, that finds beautifully made clothing and accessories for men.
Do you have any Co-Founders? What do they focus on and what do you focus on?
Moshiur Tarafdar is our CTO, and Jack Scotti manages product + people. As CEO I am responsible for sales and finance, as well as overall company vision and priorities.
What position did you hire first, was it the right decision?
That's a great question! The person I hired first was someone who could get all of our systems up and running quickly and inexpensively. It was a good choice.
How did you decide on the name for your business?
For the first three years our name was "Story To College." But that name was confining and confusing. We were always explaining that we were about much more than getting into college. During TechStars we rebranded the company "Story2" to reflect the transformative power of storytelling.
What advice do you have for new founders, just beginning?
Learn to fail--fast and often. Learn what you need to learn from each failure, keep laughing, and keep moving forward.
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Eat Korean food at Danji in Midtown Manhattan
Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania National Parks
Andela is a global talent accelerator that produces world-class remote developers and connects them with your team.
Artisan men's goods, made only in America. Goods of Record.