Andrew Geant, CEO of WyzAnt.com, created a business just months after finishing college.
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Tell me about your business, Andrew. What is WyzAnt.com?
WyzAnt.com is a marketplace where qualified instructors can offer lessons in academic subjects, test preparation, musical instruments, foreign languages and more. Those seeking private lessons in these areas can use WyzAnt to locate local tutors and teachers.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
2005 is the year my cofounder and I graduated from college. We both had short stints at established companies before taking a leap of faith and creating WyzAnt.
How did you come up with your business idea?
The original idea for WyzAnt stemmed from two different experiences.
At Princeton University, where both co-founder Mike Weishuhn and I were undergraduates, the students were brilliant and talented, yet were working in the library or cafeteria for $8 per hour. What better way to utilize their knowledge than by providing them with opportunities to tutor local students?
After leaving my first job, I decided to tutor to make some extra money. Naturally, I turned to the internet to find tutoring opportunities. I was surprised that there wasn't a service to match people like me with students who needed tutoring.
Enter WyzAnt (Weishuhn + Geant = WyzAnt), a site for college students to find local tutoring gigs. We soon began including teachers, professionals and others and also expanded into more disciplines. Today, we have 20,000+ tutors across the country offering lessons in over 130 different disciplines.
Did you operate your business from your home? What were the challenges and benefits to this strategy?
For the first 3 years Mike and I ran WyzAnt from our apartment, and the cost savings were significant. It was impossible to get away from our work since it was always in the other room, but that was a good thing. We never would have gotten our business off the ground if we were just working on it from 9-5. Saving money on rent was part of our larger boot-strapping philosophy. We ate frozen food, focused on free and inexpensive leisure activities, used our computers from college, etc. As a result, we weren't forced to give up equity in the company to raise money.
Today, WyzAnt has a full staff of employees handling customer service, development, and legal and accounting matters. We are headquartered in a great 4,000 square foot office in Chicago, IL. While the days of ramen noodles are behind us, the cost-saving lessons learned from our early days will never be forgotten.
Have you outsourced any portion of your business? Has that worked for your business?
One of the biggest lessons I've learned in the last five years is the value of being able to handle every aspect of the business in-house. Having all the pieces in the same place allows us to move quickly as we execute new ideas, address problems and coordinate bigger picture ideas.
For an internet business such as ours, this approach requires having excellent programmers and developers. I have seen internet startups that outsource their web development and think of it as a one-time startup cost. No way. Internet companies have to constantly change, adapt and improve in order to survive. Calling India every time you have a new idea for your website is painfully slow and inefficient.
Finding employees to work in a new and growing business can be a challenge. How did you find your employees?
The best employees we have found are people we knew or those who were introduced to us by people we knew. This promotes trust and accountability for both parties.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Be flexible. Rarely have our first ideas been our best ideas. By listening to feedback and measuring what works we have been able to create a service that offers many useful but not unnecessary features. It's easy to fall in love with your own ideas, but relying on the masses to guide you will result in a much more useful product or service.
What is the best part of running your business?
The best part of being in the private tutoring/teaching business is that we have an impact thousands of people on a weekly basis. The second best part of running our business is that I get to wear jeans.
Not a bad perk at all, Andrew. Best of luck to you, and thanks for talking to me.