Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in training and education but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Bruce Hanson, Principal and Founder of First Choice Admissions, located in North Hollywood, CA, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

My business is called First Choice Admissions. We are committed to the idea that the size of your wallet shouldn’t determine the size of your opportunities. We provide world-class ACT and SAT prep at incredibly affordable prices - our full test prep course is $50. While we work with organizations targeting underprivileged students, the course is actually open to everyone. The goal is to allow all students to do their best on the tests and allow test scores to open doors for them.

Tell us about yourself

When I was a kid, the superpower I wanted most was hitting a baseball. The superpower I got was teaching. And while that didn’t make me wildly popular with the girls in high school, it worked out all right in the end. When I applied to business school, I knew I needed to ace the GMAT. I took a fancy test prep course from a national test prep company that helped me… not at all. My score didn’t budge. But at least it was expensive!

So instead, I taught myself how to ace the test. I realized it wasn’t WHAT they were asking but HOW they asked the questions that made the difference. So I analyzed the questions a lot and created a way to approach the GMAT that was super effective. I scored over 700 on my first try and was accepted to Wharton.

I realized that all these standardized tests - GMAT, GRE, ACT, SAT, LSAT, etc. - all work the same way. I figured if I could teach other people the approach I took to the GMAT, they could ace these tests, too. It worked. And I launched a business teaching students how to get elite scores on the GMAT, GRE, ACT, and SAT.

The longer I worked in the industry; the more troubled I became with the disparity in SAT and ACT scores - which was driven primarily by who could afford high-quality test prep and who couldn’t. The students who could afford ACT and SAT tutoring scored well and had MUCH better educational opportunities available to them compared to students who were just as smart but didn’t have the money to pay for really high-quality test prep.

I realized I couldn’t fix all the inequalities in college admissions. But I could help to improve that one. So I pulled together all the lessons, practice sets, quizzes, and practice test breakdowns I used with my private students and put them into a self-study course. We offer that course for $50. It's available on our website.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

I am unbelievably lucky that I get to work every day helping people. And I get paid to do it! So I think my biggest accomplishment has been building a profitable business that serves a mission I really believe in. And the thing that makes everything worthwhile is hearing back from students who got into schools they never thought they could get into.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

For me, there are two really hard challenges to being a business owner - each is tightly related. First, I was often alone trying to make decisions - especially at the start. Sometimes I made good decisions; sometimes, I made not-so-good ones (okay, I made bad ones. Sometimes, I made a LOT of really bad ones). So trying to navigate on my own was hard. So when I realized I needed a bigger team, pulling together a team was hard as well. I didn’t have a lot of money - but more importantly, I didn’t have a lot of time. I was just trying to get through my day - I wasn’t thinking about prioritizing my strategic needs and figuring out where I could get help! But everything changed for the better when I got a team together.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Give. And then give more. And then give some more. Provide unbelievable value to your customers, and don’t worry about monetizing every cent. At the start, you don’t want money. You want people. You want a reputation for being the relentlessly reliable go-to person who helps customers solve their problems and help make their lives better and easier. People will tend to do business with and refer business to people they know, like, and trust. Giving is the best way to cultivate that. I HIGHLY recommend reading the Go Giver.
  2. You’ll need a team. After you have a team, you can do ANYTHING! Don’t be afraid to ask for help; don’t be afraid to invest time, money, and other resources to bring a team together.
  3. Do something you believe in, love, or are in some way passionate about. You’re probably going to encounter some challenges. Some might seem insurmountable at the time. Remember, so long as you don’t quit, you haven’t lost. But finding a way to keep going can sometimes be tough. It’s usually easier if you really believe in what you’re doing.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

There are two things I can’t emphasize enough. First, listen and research what your customers want. Don’t guess. Don’t try and get ahead of them. Listen to them. Provide them with what they need and want.

Second, competition is an illusion. You WANT to enter a field that has a lot of players. Because that means there is actually a market! No matter which market you get into, I guarantee that it is magnitudes more vast (and magnitudes more weird) than you can possibly get your head around. There will ALWAYS be more customers. No matter which market you’re in.

You don’t have to be the best or the biggest. You just have to be good enough and persistent enough to attract enough customers to make a good living. That is going to be the tiniest sliver of whatever market you’re in. Don’t let competition or market concerns scare you from doing something you love or believe in.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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