Sophia Parsa is Introducing On-Demand Learning Sophia Parsa Is Introducing On-Demand Learning She might only be 24-years-old, but she is more forward-thinking and action-oriented than most. Sophia Parsa is the founder of Toot, an app that connects students to tutors in their area. Users requesting tutors range from high school and college students to young professionals and parents wanting to learn how to be a tutor themselves. When you use the app, which Parsa started at 21, participating tutors pop up, complete with a 20-second video pitch, a bio and hourly rate. Alternatively, customers can email a request for a curated list of who Toot will think is a good fit, which Parsa’s team arranges manually. According to Parsa, the app’s rate of dissatisfied clients has not even reached 1 percent of users. So just how did Parsa end up starting such a successful company at such a young age? Start Now, But Start Wisely Companies don’t happen overnight, but ideas do. Parsa realized that she had hit the jackpot with her idea, and that she needed to make this idea happen. But she didn’t stop everything to start Toot. In fact, she stayed at the first company she started until she was sure she could execute – something she realized when she was introduced to her equally passionate co-founder Shaq, a self-taught engineer who had just emigrated from Iran. Know Your Strengths Parsa knows she’s not a technical expert, but she also knows she’s a marketing whiz. “While I agree I’m not technical, I’m the customer here. I’m the student who knows what the student needs in order to be happy and feel like this is a successful product.” Have A Long-Term Vision Parsa knows the process to expand, at least in terms of her business: get the required capital, visit a college campus to recruit tutors and Toot ambassadors, and then create a digital campaign to spread the word. “Hopefully, in 10 years, we’ll be international,” she says. “That’s the dream, right? I’d love that, no matter where you are, no matter what you want to learn, if you were in Spain and you wanted a Spanish lesson, I’d love to connect you with a local,” she says. Surround Yourself With Good Vibes “It’s more about the team than anything. Show that you have a great team – and if it’s just you, that you can prove that you’re the one to do this,” says Parsa. Find A Balance Between Supply And Demand Parsa created a waiting list for prospective tutors in order to balance the overwhelming supply of eligible tutors with the growing demand of clients. Don’t Let Anyone Build Your Vision For You “I would never suggest that someone just starting out [with their own company or brand] should hire an agency,” she says. “You really have to build your own brand – that’s the most important part. I would hate for someone to build my vision for me.” Prove Yourself To Investors Start “to build as much as you can without capital – to show what you can do with practically no money,” advises Parsa. Show that “users that really love [your] product and can’t live without it.” Once you can prove that to an investor, you can get them to really believe in your idea because they believe you’re going to take it to the next level. Set Your Company Apart From The Competition Standing out as a business has perhaps never been more important. “This space is really noisy – every space is getting crowded at this point,” she says. “People are being more and more innovative. Every day, there’s a new entrepreneur. I think it’s really, how do you set yourself apart? What differentiates you from the rest of the crowd, and why is it going to be you to be the one that makes [your company] successful?” No Fun? No Point Parsa doesn’t “want to be that person who is just working around the clock and stressed out all the time,” she says. “That’s not the life.” Starting a tech company is hard work, but it is certainly not impossible. College students especially are usually overwhelmed with homework and don’t think about cultivating any ideas or visions they may have, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Parsa’s advice to everyone: “If you have a vision… do a little bit of research, validate the idea, and start immediately.” Colleen Minkewicz Colleen is a college student at SUNY New Paltz graduating in Spring 2017 majoring in English and Creative Writing. She aspires to become an editor/work in publishing in the future.