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How Side-Hustle Made Me Who I Am

After graduating from college, I spent a few years working in corporate America. I’ve worked for quite a few companies, big and small, and got the opportunities to lead some key projects and initiatives that helped organizations drive improvement and efficiencies. I was working my way up the ladder until about two years ago when I realized that I was at a career crossroads.

I have always enjoyed problem solving. From collecting data, analyzing root causes, to building solutions, I was lucky to be able to do many of these in my career. However, I started getting bored on the problems I was tasked to solve and wanted to do something more impactful. So I started paying attention to problems around me.

My Startup Idea

For years after I graduated, I was regularly asked by my family, friends, and coworkers to look at their kids’ college applications. I usually met them at a local coffee shop where they would buy me coffee and I would review their application and admission essay. After a few of them reached out to me, I started to wonder why they wanted my help. The three reasons I heard the most were:

  1. I graduated from UC Berkeley so I must know something they didn’t
  2. The counselors in their children’s schools were always busy
  3. They couldn’t afford to pay for private college counseling. And I only charged a cup of coffee

Next thing I knew,

An idea was born — I want to create A Better & Affordable Way To Plan For College.

I got really excited about the idea and started doing some market research. It didn’t take me too long to decide that this was what I wanted to pursue. I found a startup pitch deck template online and started filling the blanks with problems, solutions, target customers, market size, revenue model, etc. Shortly after, I put together a prototype. Without much programming knowledge (the last programming I did was C++ in high school), I decided to create my first version on PowerPoint.

The first person I pitched my idea to was my husband. He believed in the vision, saw the opportunity, and was equally excited. And that was how I discovered my cofounder. At that time, my husband had a friend who invested in startups so we asked if we could meet with him and pitch him the idea. He was available and we were scheduled to meet at a coffee shop. I stayed up many nights before the coffee meet to prepare my best pitch. I was nervous as this was my first time talking to an investor and I had no clue what to expect.

My First Encounter with an Investor

The day came and we met at Starbucks. I sat down and had just fired up my MacBook when he told me that he didn’t need to see anything. “We can just chat,” he said. So I verbally shared what I prepared and he asked me some really good questions and shared some great insights. I learned a lot from the conversation and I immediately got tons of ideas on what to do next.

He paused for a few seconds and said:

“I’m glad you’re motivated to start a company, but I really recommend you don’t.”

I was thinking in my head, “Okay, I must be lacking some key skills which means I just have to learn harder than others.

He continued,

“You are a mom and you now have a family. This is not the risk you should take.”

For a few weeks after that meeting, I was on an emotional submarine, from feeling disappointed to feeling confused to feeling lost. I definitely had questioned myself whether I was capable of starting a company based on my experience and skill sets. But I never once questioned whether I was capable because I’m a mom. Just because I was a new mom, I was unfit to create a company?

I started researching the type of founders that investors were looking for. All of a sudden, I realized that the chance of me getting any investment was really slim. Not only did I not fit into the typical profile, I pretty much fitted into every single profile that many investors wanted to stay away from:

  1. I am a woman (Only 8% of the bay area startups that received series A funding in 2015 were led by women)
  2. I am a mom with young kid(s) (“How can you work 16 hours a day when you have kids to take care of?”)
  3. I have a full-time job and am doing this on the side (“Okay, you don’t sound very committed”)
  4. My husband is my technical co-founder (“How can you mix love and business together?”)

Our Journey of Side-Hustling

I took a step back and looked at the list.

#1 and #2 — simply the hard facts that are unchangeable

#3—as much as I want to just quit my job and do this full time, it is simply impossible when I have a mortgage and bills to pay. I need that financial security to support my family

#4 — my husband is one of the smartest people I know and we share the same vision for the company. And we’ve made a great team together in life

I decided that side hustling was the best option for us.

I’ve learned over the years that it’s okay to take risk, as long as the risk is calculated. So we evaluated the pros and cons of this option:

Disadvantages:

  • It will take us longer to get to a minimum viable product (MVP)
  • It will require a lot of physical and mental strengths to work full-time, take care of the family, and work on the product, all the same time

Advantages:

  • We can really focus on building the product without worrying about money for now
  • That gives us more time to test until we find the right product market fit
  • This is a great way for my husband and I to try out this business relationship

Once we made the decision to side hustle, my husband recruited his friend since high school who is an expert in UI and UX to join our team. Edmission was founded in January 2016.

Every night after putting the kids to bed, we put all of our energy into the product. Sure, we encountered a lot of challenges along the way. We had to learn many things from scratch. We were sleeping less than five hours a night on a regular basis. However, the journey has been amazing. The feeling of being able to go after what you believe in and see the progress every day is really awesome. And this experience has made our team stronger than ever.

What Does It Mean To Me?

Fast forward to eight months later, I am thankful for having that coffee meet with our friend/investor. The conversation made me realize how much I would do to go after my dream. And I am extremely grateful to have my two cofounders, Oliver and Ben, who are the best teammates I could ever ask for.

To me, Edmission is not just a startup that tries to make this world a better place, it is also a symbol to remind myself to make the best of what I have and don’t let other people tell you that you can’t do it. It really has shaped who I am.

Finally, I’m excited and proud to say that we are launching our preview today after eight months of side hustling. And watch for our official launch in 2 weeks!

Happy Side-Hustling!

Angela Choy is the Co-Founder and CEO of Edmission — a college planning site that empowers students and parents to get affordable, high quality, and personalized college admission advice. Angela spent her career helping organizations improve processes and drive efficiencies. She is a learner and reader. She loves entrepreneurship, startups, and women leadership. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and is a mother of two. Follow her on twitter @angelahchoy.

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