Jason Patel, the founder of Transizion, a college and career prep company that connects the best consultants and mentors who provide advising to high school students, college students, and professionals. Transizion prizes itself on excellent customer service, a 100% customer-satisfaction rate, and client success. Jason is a purple belt in Brazilian Jiujitsu, former boxer, an avid outdoorsman. He brings his competitive spirit everywhere he goes.
1:06 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Focus your company on specific audience and specific areas.
Jason talks about the focus of Transizion Inc. to help high school students pick the right college and major, college students to transition into graduate school and professionals about networking and interviewing.
3:36 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Business opportunities can knock on the door from anywhere. Keep all possibilities open.
Jason talks about the beginnings of the company where his volunteer help with a kid to get into a good school presented him the opportunity to start his own prep company. He also talks about how he bootstrapped the company with six to seven thousand dollars of his money inspite of his student loans etc. because he believed in the cause.
8:13 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Starting a business may not be that difficult but one needs to iterate on the business model to find the right one.
Jason talks about the process of starting a business which did not take much time but the need to iterate the business model until he found the right one. His initial business model of trying to contract with schools / public sector organizations was a money sink but a learning opportunity until he found the right model.
12:42 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Identify your strengths and focus on them instead of your weaknesses.
Jason talks about his competitive spirit, his unique strength of learning from failures/mistakes, and how middleclass upbringing in New Jersey helped him become a better person. He talks about the importance of focusing on strengths instead of weaknesses.
15:40 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Differentiation from competition is key. Focus on having a unique value proposition.
Jason talks about two key areas of differentiation: one, his highly trained mentors and second the unlimited value based pricing & packaging.
17:11 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Keep learning from great inspirational books. Entrepreneurs need motivation to stay on track.
Jason talks about some great books that inspire him and keep him motivated. Books mentioned are: 50th law (about 50 cents singer), Shoe Dog (Phil Knight, Nike), Elon Musk(Tesla), Howard Schultz (Starbucks), Hard things and hard things (Ben Horowitz).
24:43 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Rely on key apps and tools to improve overall productivity
Jason talks about the tools that help him in running his business and improving his productivity. Tools mentioned are: Trello for project management, Errands for task management, Amazon Echo for alerts, Mailchimp for email marketing.
27:19 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Launch your first product quickly, iterate, and prepare for a long journey.Jason gives the following key tips: 1) Launch the first product as soon as possible and iterate 2) Eat healthy and get good sleep – It’s a long journey 3) Don’t quit your day job until you are certain your side gig income is sufficient 4) Be mentally strong – Entrepreneurial journey is long and hard.
Episode Transcript (Click to expand)
Ramesh: Hello everyone welcomes to the agile entrepreneur podcast. This is your host Ramesh Dontha. This podcast is about starting and running your own business with purpose, passion, perseverance and possibilities. Today we have a unique business model started by Jason Patel. So, Jason Patel is the founder of www.transizion.com, a college and career prep company that connects the best consultants and mentors to high school students, college students and professionals. Jason is a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, a former boxer and avid outdoorsman. He brings the same competitive spirit everywhere he goes. Transition prizes itself on excellent customer service, a 100% customer satisfaction rate and client success. So, let's go talk to Jason. Hi Jason welcome to the podcast.
Jason: Hey thanks for having me really happy to be here.
Ramesh: Fantastic, so thank you. So, let's start with your business itself. So, what is this www.transizion.com about?
Jason: Right so what we essentially are is a college and career prep company and what we do is we connect really talented mentors to college students, graduate students and professionals looking to take the next step of their journey and what that means is if a high school student for example needs help with college selection or college application guidance, we'll connect a mentor to them who will guide them through the process. If a graduate student needs help with the next step of their lives, whether they should go to law school or just get a regular graduate degree or something of that sort, we'll connect them with the mentor. We'll help them shine a light on the answers that the student is looking for and help them with all the applications for the next step which is a graduate school, and this is all guidance and advising and then for professionals let's say you're a manager or an executive looking to move jobs or rise up in the career ladder and we connect them with the mentor or we'll help them with the resumes and cover letters and the interviewing process which is really big. Another part that the mentor will help with this an elevator pitch, because networking is so important. So, the idea is to connect really smart people with people who need the help and that's the way we really add value to our clients lives.
Ramesh: Fantastic. Hey Jason when did you start this company?
Jason: I officially started it in 2015. But I would say I’ve been doing this sort of work in an unofficial capacity since the year 2010, 2011. I've been advising and guiding students and other people on these topics for almost a decade now. So, I really very much enjoy it and I’ve changed a bit as business model a couple of times and it's been a really exciting journey ever since.
Ramesh: Okay so you took what your experience under your passion into this coaching and started your own company?
Jason: Exactly exactly and I'm assuming you're going to ask me how exactly this all happened a little later. So, I’ll leave it at that. I got started with this on my own and then I chose a scale and hire other people to help me along.
Ramesh: Actually, you read my mind. I was going to go there right away. So how did you start, like why didn't you continue doing what you were doing? Why did you think about starting a company?
Jason: So, what end up happening was that when I was a student at the George Washington University, which is located in Washington DC, I wanted to be more a part of DC's cultural fabric. The city is really beautiful. I still live here; my company is based here and ultimately the city had given me so much that I wanted to give back and especially to the people who've lived here for so long. So, what I ended up doing was volunteering with a lot of students in the DC metro area and these are students who are come from middle-class, lower income households they, a lot of you know some of them come from single-parent households. I just wanted to help a lot of, help students when they need help but didn't know where to go and then I help these students with the college process. How do you choose a school? How do you enjoy college? How do you choose a major? How do you fill out college applications? What's a good structure to writing a college essay? All of these subjects and it turns out after helping these students after a year, a couple of them did really well in the application process and one of them in particular got a full ride to a couple of top schools in the country and he studied biotech or biomedical engineering to make prosthetic limbs for veterans and children who had their limbs essentially blown off in conflict ridden areas or areas that were once ridden with conflict and still have mines that are in the bushes or in the forest from the grasslands around where they live and all told this student's mother she was very real with me. She said that if I was going to volunteer to help students all the time, she knew that I was going to go broke and that I wouldn’t be able to help as many students as I wanted to. So, what ended up happening was that she advised me to start a business and scale my curriculum and scale the way I teach students to a much larger level and that's how transition was born. It wasn't really even my idea. It was a mother's idea and she's the one who implored me to really do this on my own to make some money doing it, so that I can actually give back while forming a proper business model around what I was doing.
Ramesh: It's great. Actually, so this podcast is about for people who want to start a business if they have an idea. So, I think this is a good discussion. So, the question I have next is did you have to put in a lot of money to start the company or if so where did you get the financing?
Jason: So, I would say it's this, did I put in a lot of money? I would say in relation to what other companies raised you know foreign aid, in an angel round or a Series A, no I did not put in a lot of money. But on a personal level yes, I put in tons of money that caused me lots of mental anguish to be quite frank with you. I initially funded the company on credit cards. I was tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt and then I had money saved up. So instead of putting that to student loans, I put it to starting my business. So not only did I put in I want to say around six or seven thousand dollars of my own money, but there was an opportunity cost there. I chose to use that money for my business instead of paying off my loans instead of traveling across the world which is what a lot of people my age does. Instead of going on vacation somewhere I chose a sort of business with it. So, I would say the opportunity cost of doing that was quite high and in general six seven thousand dollars is a lot of money to anyone. So, I think a lot of times we as startup entrepreneurs and startup entrepreneurs especially, if we look at other companies we read these articles and we learn about how much other companies have raised in whatever around and we get kind of jaded. We think that a million dollars isn't a lot, because this other company did thirty million dollars in a series B and that's not true. I think each entrepreneur has his or her own journey and you have to judge how much money you raised on the bona fides of what your current situation is, and you know to be frank with you, I'm not a tech guy either. So, you know this is a service business with a tech slant to it, that's how we connect students to our mentors, exactly. So not being a tech guy this is a lot of money. The tech space, this is not a lot. But for me and what my expertise is, it was a lot. I studied politics in college. So, it's not like, it's not like I knew what to do when I was putting investing that money in the first place. So, it was quite a bit of learning to be done.
Ramesh: Right, so how long did it take for you to actually start the business and then get into an operational mode?
Jason: To start the business to get into an operational mode it took two or three months. Actually, it probably took six weeks. It did not take that long and the grand scheme of things. Because I am a go-getter. I would say my weakness is an entrepreneur is that I'm not tech savvy or I wasn't as, at that point in time I wasn't very tech savvy. But I knew that I had hustle and knew that was willing to work hard. So, getting things started wasn't really that difficult. It was really finding the footing in the foundation which was kind of difficult and I'm assuming that's going to be one of the next questions you'll ask later about the journey. Because this is of course a podcast about entrepreneurs and how they built, established businesses. But getting to operation wasn't too hard. It was iterating afterward which was really difficult.
Ramesh: I see. So then after the operations how long did it take for you to get the first set of customers?
Jason: It took about two three months to get my first customer. And frankly I had no idea how to market. I went into business with rose-colored glasses and idealism thinking that if I just established a business and I promoted it on my own social media channels, that customers would flock to the business because I had such a great idea. Which ultimately was so untrue, and it was such a you know to look or way of looking at things that I cost myself a lot of time and money to learn about how business works. So, I had a business model that didn't work out. I got a customer in that business model, the customer wasn't a high dollar client. But you know I defended that customer and worked with the customer like they were my own brother or sister. So, it took me two or three months and even at that point I did not stick with that business model. So, I would say when did I get the first customer that was a part of the business model that we have now? It took probably a year. So, it took quite a bit of time.
Ramesh: So, do you mind talking about your business model a little bit?
Jason: Yeah absolutely. So, when I first got into the business I want to talk for one on one career services and then workshops to schools and organizations that wanted college and career services offered to them. So, I originally was, how do we go in front of a group of students and discuss with them what makes a good college process? How do you find the right college and things like that and I begin to realize that the contracting process with schools and organizations and the government was brutal. It was so brutal and the only reason, the only reason why there are big companies in this space is because you need to burn lots and lots of cash in order to get in the room, let alone get a client, get a contract with the government or these organizations. So, I had that business model for close to a year. It was a complete utter disaster to be frank with you and I spent all my money and it was not very good. But that process was really important as a startup owner. Because you need to iterate and learn more about where you want the business to go and where the customers are. So, I would say that part of the process was extremely important in how I learned what the business was all about. So, then a year later after I decided to ditch that business model, I went to a more one-on-one approach. Where we would offer only a one-on-one service to these college and career students and in doing that I realized that parents and students wanted these one-on-one services and they wanted them for not an exploitative price. Which I think a lot of, which I think some consultants do. So, after doing that there was, we hit I guess quote-unquote quite a product market fit and we've been growing ever since then.
Ramesh: That's great. Actually, thank you very much. I think sit ups and downs I think that's what is fascinating to know about the journey. So, let's switch topics a little bit and then I want to understand a little bit more about the Jason Patel, the person. So, what's your background growing up and going to college and things and what are the things that interest you, what are your hobbies?
Jason: Right so as a person I would say that I'm very competitive and I have a lot of deficiencies and weaknesses. But one thing I think I'm good at is being able to learn from mistakes and learn from failure. So, when I was a kid and it was brutal at the time. But when I was a kid I got bullied quite a bit. I suffered from a lot of that you know physical abuse at school and whatnot and I was a skinny brown kid after 9/11 and you know it was tough. Most people were very nice to me. But you get human beings who just have negativity in their hearts and I got bullied quite a bit for a long time and that's where I learned I would say how to be mentally strong and really push through bad times in my life. So, what ended up happening was that I took that attitude, that attitude I had about persevering into college where I studied political communication at the George Washington University. I had a great time at GW. But I would say that most of my learning came from outside the classroom. Meaning that I was in a fraternity, I played football, I began martial arts, or I started boxing at a local DC gym. I competed at a very high level at the national amateur tournament and then I suffered a pretty significant injury to my labrum. Which forced me to stop boxing and go into jiu-jitsu to, basically which is just as damaging to the body but in a less, in a lower impact sort of way. So, you know having everything taken since then I would say that I'm not super technical. But I'm very open to learning from other people. I grew up in middle-class New Jersey to two immigrant parents from India who showed me what it was like to work so hard growing up and my parents always told me that if you, you know if and when you make it in America always give back. Because America was the country that gave to us and that's why it gave to you. So never be selfish about any success that you have and if you do succeed and if you do make something of yourself, you're always a work in progress. But as you become that work in progress, you should always be willing to share with your community and share with other people. Because in America no one makes it alone. We all have a stake in each other's success. So, I would say, you know as a person that's really where my fundamentals are at.
Ramesh: Okay hey Jason thank you very much sharing your personal story. It's difficult at times, but it’s great okay. So now switching to the business side of it, what do you think is the unique value proposition of transition? Like what is that you are trying to offer something that's different in the marketplace?
Jason: Yeah absolutely. I would say there are two key prongs to what we offer customers that a lot of other companies don’t, or our competitors don’t, and the first part is that we really, truly heavily vet our mentor’s mm-ham and with that said when I say we vet our mentors, we interview them, we train them. It's not like we just take anyone off the street who wants to work and have them work. We really vet them and connect them so that our customers really love the experiences that they have. So that's the first thing. The second thing is that we don't count ours. So, a lot of companies that they'll say that you'll have, you'll be able to work with this consultant or mentor for five or ten hours. We don't do that. All of our packaging and pricing is unlimited. We'll say here's a scope of work, you can talk to this mentor for as long as you like it doesn't matter to us.
Ramesh: I see, so easier one-on-one remote or like a people your mentors actually meet with the students in person?
Jason: So, when we first started the business it was done in person. Because you're a local around DC. But as we started getting more customers, frankly we started getting customers around the world. Canada, Israel, China, Korea, California, you name it we have a customer there. So essentially, we're now a remote company and we built an entire process around having the best customer service in a remote capacity.
Ramesh: So now I want to switch to people who motivated or things that motivated. First thing is any books that you recommend that you inspired you or motivated you in your business and your personal journey?
Jason: Yeah absolutely. I think from a personal standpoint a couple of books that I strongly recommend to entrepreneurs or other people who are going to struggle, but this one is kind of cheesy but it's actually a great book. It's called the 50th law. It's by Robert Greene and 50 cents. It's about 50 Cent's lives when he was growing up in South Jamaica Queens and all the rules of power that he used to survive. Because frankly if you are born you know in his shoes you're not supposed to become a success and this guy became such a successful musician and entrepreneur, I really respect it and I tend to respect people who don't necessarily go far. But I respect people who go far in compared to where they started. So you know born in the inner city or rural America and you know couldn't afford college and becomes somewhat of a success, I really respect that, I really respect people that are like that. So that's one book, that's one personal book that has meant a lot to me. Another more recent book is called shoe dog, it's by Phil Knight, who was the founder of Nike. And it's basically his entrepreneurial biography. Where how he started Nike, what were the motivations behind it and what were the early days like. That book is incredible. I started reading it and I simply could not put it down. Some other books I would say that I really enjoy are the, one book is the hard thing about hard things by Ben Horowitz, it's a management book. He's one of the great venture capitalists and he helped found Netscape. So, he's one of the fathers of Internet you know internet browsing history. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius is great for personal well-being. I'm a big believer in stoicism. I think a human being should definitely embrace stoicism. Because we live in a world with a lot of negativity. You can't allow that to bring your soul down. Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance, another really great book. I mean Elon Musk; the guy is incredible, and Ashlee Vance wrote a book that again and you could not put it down. I was on a long-distance flight international overseas. I read it in one sitting. I mean it's that good. Yeah, it's a fascinating book. Another one is pour your heart into it. Its by Howard Schultz. It's his basically autobiography. He's the guy who made Starbucks into what it is today and he's running for president now. Fascinating fascinating guy and what makes them so interesting is that a lot of business owners or you know they don't talk about their failures or what makes them vulnerable. What about their past haunts. But Howard Schultz really just know goes into his past about you know his father having a workplace injury, not being able to work again. His mom trying to hold the family together. They're living in the projects in New York. I mean this is some rough stuff. I really respect how he came from nothing. Yeah, I would say in general man there are a lot of books that you know I love reading. I love love love reading. There are books that are about politics and history that I simply cannot put down. Books about the Roman Empire you know Mark Antony, Julius Caesar.
Ramesh: That is my passion as well. So that is, I can really connect with you. So that's my passion. That's great yeah.
Jason: Yeah, it's one of history's great, history's greatest empires. You have to respect what people built and to that point about the Roman Empire I'm really interested in Hannibal or Barta, I don't know people pronounce it differently. But he's the Carthaginian who crossed the Alps. You know one of the greatest military adventures, one of the greatest military feats of all time bringing what you know twenty thirty thousand men and elephants over a mountain? Range of mountains. It's crazy, it's unbelievable. But as entrepreneurs who are we? We do crazy and unbelievable things. As entrepreneurs we strike out on our own, we try to go for our dreams. Things that probably won't happen simply because of the percentages. But here we are, we're crossing our own mountain range to get things done to confront our inner demons and to make hopefully the world a better place.
Ramesh: Jason that is quite a breadth of books man, that's fascinating. That's very good. So, a couple of other areas I want to probe and number one is you talked about your parents as the people who inspired you motivated. So apart from your parents anybody else that shaped your life either personal or entrepreneurial journey?
Jason: Yeah absolutely one I mentioned earlier you know 50 cents. Again, really unorthodox choice. But the guys journey is incredible. Howard Schultz, I mentioned before Elon Musk, these are people that inspire me. These are people that I want to be like. But when I switch gears from businesses field to another field, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and Cincinnatus of Rome. You know these are men who could have exercised power at great great power over their country in a vulnerable time and they chose not to, and I think that's really something that impresses me as a man. You have the chance to exploit lots of people and you don't. That is a very powerful thing. Because usually the way history goes as we know, when powerful people have a chance to exploit you know how many times out of ten do they indeed exploit? You know more often than not, it's very unfortunate. I think people who choose to buck that trend are quite fascinating and I think Lincoln, Washington and Cincinnatus are really like that. And then... Yeah go ahead.
Ramesh: I mean you have a very fascinating perspective on all these things, it's great.
Jason: Yeah and then I appreciate that and then from a personal standpoint I have a couple friends in my network. All of my friends are really people that I want to be like. They make me better. They're my age, they’re all different. They do different things and they never strive for less than. They're always striving to be better and moving forward. Now one of my best friend's is a guy named Vic. He's a very private guy, so I won't divulge too much information about him. But you know he didn't grow up in the best area, had a you know kind of a tough life and I met him at the George Washington University at the steps the first day of school and we've been best friends ever since. I mean he's a guy who works hard and you know when I asked him a question would you want your life to be any different? He tells me no, because he wouldn't be as hard working as he is now. I'm think that kind of perspective is really refreshing. I've had you know I have friends from home who didn't go to college, but they're still you know they're working in a union or they went to the military who are you know really impressive people. You know overall, I would say that who inspires me, I name those people. But in general, the people I'm around tending to inspire me. That there are bits and pieces of them that I want to take into my life and really emulate. I would say is the group these are human beings that I want to be more like.
Ramesh: Great hey so going back to the business little bit of towards the end of this podcast, you said you are not a technologist, but you do and technology to grow your business. So, what are the tools that help your business that you could share with the listeners that they can benefit from?
Jason: Absolutely I think as a leader of a business what's critical is that you need to know how to manage your time. Because you can get money back, you could blow money on a bad business initiative where you didn't have the right information, or you went into a project with haste and an impetus and if things didn't work out. Well you can always get money back. But you will never get back your time. So, I think that managing time is important. So, with that said one app that I really like is called Trello and Trello helps you manage different aspects different projects of your business and you can manage it in something called boards. Each board has a card and within each card you can have a calendar and a checklist. So, you can break down your little projects into the smallest degree, so you're keeping track of how things go. I think Trello is pretty great. I use another app called Errands. Which is on a personal level obviously manage my personal life. Because not only am I balancing business, I'm balancing my personal life. So that's been really great to use as well. It's basically like an alert system. And on more basic or fundamental level, I use Amazon echo. Pretty great you know I was really skeptical of the device. But it's great for reminders and using it as an alarm clock and then to switch gears and go to you know tech for websites, YouTube has been a great resource for learning for basically getting my sort of online MBA as I was learning about business from Stanford School of Business, Bloomberg, Harvard Business School, there's so many great channels there that have helped me learn more about business and learn about what I don't know. It really helps get rid of the fog of war and then moving forward when it comes to initiating and executing business, MailChimp has been great. You know google drive has been outstanding. These are the fundamentals of helping me manage different files and different sorts of assets, as we try to deliver value to our customers.
Ramesh: Great great hey the last question. So, based on your entrepreneurial journey and your experiences for somebody who wants to start a business or even I mean started a business that are running, to run them successfully what are the three to five things that you'd advise that they should focus on?
Jason: I would say the first thing is you have to talk to your customers iterative. Your first product is something you should launch right away. If you're trying to get perfection with your first product you're already late. You should release your first product and then learn how to change it as time moves on. So that's a first thing. Your first product will never be your last product. It's always going to be changing. Second thing is being very guarded about what you put into your body. Because you have a lot of people relying on you as you scale the business. Be healthy and get your sleep. Maintaining your health is really important. Because the more you could put into your body, the more output you'll have. I think we have this trope in entrepreneurship where we're working a hundred hours a week. Which is true, I mean it's true. But if you stay up every single night and you're getting two hours of sleep, eventually you're going to break down and have a panic attack. Because your mind isn't as flexible and as strengthen as it would be if it had sleep. The third thing I would say is don't quit your day job unless you know your day job will allow you to make up that lost income with the time that you'll put into your business. I quit my day job a little too early and you know I suffered quite a bit because of that. But that's a mistake I tell entrepreneurs now. You know everyone wants to quit their job and go for their dream. It's a great thing and you will eventually do it if things work out. But you absolutely don't want to do it early. Don't go into it in such a hasty way. Because ultimately, it's your bank account and your rent, your grocery bills that will come calling. Because you made those things suffer. Fourth thing I would say is the mental aspect of it is huge. You want to talk to people and you want to discuss these things. I would say particularly as men we don't do a very good job in discussing some of the things that we go through mentally and even if you're the first person to talk about these issues with your friends, you’ll be doing them a favor. Because they'll be more open discussing these challenges next time and things like stress and anxiety will really get on you and in your soul if you don't talk about it and then the final thing I would say is you really want to learn how to productize your time. Hearken back to one of my first pointers which was you'll never get time back. You know when we're looking forward as a business, productizing your time means how do you sell your time in a proper way that leads to multiples as business. You won't do that at first, but later on you'll learn how to do and that's how you're going to scale.
Ramesh: Yeah this is actually very very good advice. The last one is what you're trying to make a service business a product business, that's what you're trying to do.
Jason: That's exactly it. You said it in so many fewer but better words.
Ramesh: That's fantastic. Hey Jason, I mean the one word that comes to my mind with this podcast is fascinating. You are a fascinating person, you have a fascinating background and then I think the business is very interesting how you have evolved. Thank you very much for your time Jason.
Jason: I really appreciate you having me on and hope to be a guest again sometime in your future.
Ramesh: Definitely, we definitely will do that thank you very much.