Closing the Circle: Emily Levy

Blessed with smarts and an array of choices, a Emily Levy set goals for a startup, but only after remembering what makes her own heart thump.

Emily Levy has entertained a lot of options in her 20s. She was accepted into Brown University’s medical school, chose instead to pursue a career in finance, then stopped for a self-examination.

Today, a sharp turn toward teaching has returned her to finance – as a new business owner. Levy, 27, owns EBL Coaching, a New York City-based company that offers specialized tutoring for children.

She came naturally to the entrepreneur/educator’s life: When Levy was a child, her mother started a Florida-based company to help kids with special needs. Her mother’s daughter says she never thought about following the same path until working full-time in investment banking and money management. Something didn’t feel right.

Goal 1: Take Risks (Carefully)

Levy decided to tutor a few kids at night. By 2002, she was running a full schedule of students that had grown to late afternoons and weekends. Necessity was the mother of her intention. She decided to take the plunge.

“It was very scary to leave my day job,” says Levy, who returned to college for an education degree. “The fear of leaving comes from the financial instability.” But by the time the young banker did quit her day job, she’d already built a healthy client base for a new business.

Only three months after startup, Levy needed to hire other tutors. She trained them very deliberately in her methods and set them to work. EBL Coaching now fields 75 tutors for some 300 students.

The company differentiates itself from the competition by offering individually tailored tutoring. The instructors are chosen with a specific student’s learning style in mind, then customized multi-sensory techniques are used to teach such core skills as reading, writing, test-taking and studying.

Goal 2: Make a Name

Unable to find written materials that suited her teaching needs, Levy published Strategies for Study Success, a 14-book series laying out more than 22 tutoring techniques designed to build independent study skills.

“The workbooks came out of need to give practice with the skills we were teaching,” she explains. The response was good, so good that Levy took her workbooks to a national audience, and now speaks around the country in teacher-training seminars.

Goal 3: Never Set an End Goal

With company revenues that have doubled every year for the past four, Levy says she’s living well. She didn’t borrow startup money for EBL Coaching, so there are no debts to retire, and merely fed its organic growth. This leaves her free to set other goals “as the climate changes,” with no end in mind.

Though she could easily work only on managing her company’s growth, Levy still carries a small caseload of students for personal reward. “It’s important that I keep involved in the field,” she says.

And though her next big goal for EBL Coaching is to expand beyond its New York office and summer camps in Southhampton, Colorado and Chicago, first step is to grow the company’s publications and professional development sides.

“I try to be realistic in my goal-setting or it just creates too much anxiety,” says Emily Levy, business owner. “I take risks while staying in my comfort zone. I like to find a balance between what I’m doing and growing the business.”

Alice Rhein is a frequent contributor to StartupNation.

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