Pierre Huguet of H&C Education: I Am Living Proof Of The American Dream

An Interview With Vicky Colas

Chef Vicky Colas
Authority Magazine

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Don’t rely on your education or background to sell yourself, your product, or your services. People in the U.S. care more about your value proposition and proof of concept than your background, degree, education, or net worth.

Is the American Dream still alive? If you speak to many of the immigrants we spoke to, who came to this country with nothing but grit, resilience, and a dream, they will tell you that it certainly is still alive.

As a part of our series about immigrant success stories, I had the pleasure of interviewing Pierre Huguet.

Pierre Huguet is the founder and CEO of H&C Education, an education consulting company helping students achieve great things and get into elite colleges. He decided to create H&C after years of extensive experience in both education and entrepreneurship. He’s a leading college and graduate admissions expert whose advice has been featured on Forbes, U.S.News, CNN Business, the Washington Post, ABC News, Business Insider, and elsewhere. He has launched several successful for-profit and non-profit companies. He is also the founding president of the Yale Student Business Society, now the largest non-profit organization focusing on entrepreneurship and management in the Ivy League. He has served on the board of several business organizations in the Yale community. Pierre has also taught literature to undergraduate students at Yale, where he earned his Ph.D. degree, and has published articles in some of the most prestigious reviews in his field, such as Europe.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I grew up near Bordeaux, France, in middle-of-nowhere wine country. I decided at age six that I would get into Yale, which I later did.

As a kid, I spent most of my time playing outside with friends. I enjoyed playing soccer or rugby with friends more than anything else.

I grew up in a modest and very supportive family: my parents always made sure that my sister and I had proper academic support, and they encouraged us to pursue our passions to the fullest. For me, it was sports and music; for my sister, horse riding and reading.

My first entrepreneurial project was selling grape juice as a kid — think French version of the lemonade stand.

Was there a particular trigger point that made you emigrate to the US? Can you tell us the story?

I first emigrated from France to Canada, where I still spend a lot of time every year. At age nineteen I decided to move to Montreal to study Comparative Literature and Philosophy. I then pursued a master’s in French Literature at McGill University before deciding to apply to top PhD programs in my field. As I mentioned earlier, I always had an interest in Ivy League schools, and Yale specifically.

I had applied my entrepreneurial mindset to my academic research before submitting my PhD applications. I went beyond academic assignments and created opportunities to connect with the writers I liked and studied. One of them, Yves Bonnefoy, became a friend and wrote a letter of recommendation, which I believe carried a lot of weight in the admission process. These extracurricular pursuits helped me stand out in my applications.

My own path informed the approach I designed at H&C: we provide each of our clients a unique roadmap for success in high school and beyond and help our students harness their entrepreneurial spirit, develop coherent academic and extracurricular profiles in line with their passions.

Can you tell us the story of how you came to the USA? What was that experience like?

My transition from Canada to the U.S. was relatively smooth. I had already learned how to adjust to a new environment from my Canadian experience, and Yale did an excellent job at guiding me through the different immigration steps.

I had already been to the U.S. several times before my move to New Haven, and so I had a sense of what it’s like to live in an American city. New Haven, however, is unique. The campus feels somewhat isolated from the rest of the city, and early on, schools officials warn you not to travel too far from campus, for your safety. In a sense, Yale felt like a stereotypical and microcosmic representation of the U.S.: a divided nation where poverty and wealth live in two distinct yet intertwined realities. It was shocking to see that three hundred meters away from campus, people can barely pay their bills or get access to decent healthcare services. And at the heart of New Haven, a university with more endowment than some countries, students have access to elite education from some of the most accomplished scholars in the world.

Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped make the move more manageable? Can you share a story?

My buddy Ian Curtis, who co-founded H&C before transitioning full-time to academia, definitely helped me adjust quickly to my new environment. Ian is now a literature professor at Kenyon College.

We connected very quickly. Ian grew up in Massachusetts, but learned French when he was a kid and spoke French fluently. It was convenient for me to have someone to talk to in my native language initially. I remember the day I asked him if we could switch to English instead of French. Speaking French daily was an opportunity for him to continue learning and practicing, but he accepted — it was at that moment that I immersed myself entirely in my new environment.

So how are things going today?

H&C has grown every month since its launch two years ago. Our business has grown significantly over the past six months since I hired several marketing experts and a digital marketing agency to give my business a clear direction and help me explore untapped opportunities.

I’ve carved out a unique place in the college consulting industry, in large part thanks to my work as an entrepreneur; I managed a real estate investment fund during my PhD studies. The work we do is unique in the college consulting industry: we help students become entrepreneurs. Whether they are interested in art or astrophysics, we help them identify opportunities to harness their passions, pursue influential projects, and gain recognition to stand out in the admissions process. At H&C, we believe that entrepreneurship is not limited to founding and managing businesses and taking financial risks. Rather, to be an entrepreneur is to identify problems, solve them, see what’s lacking in the world around us, and fill those gaps in innovative ways.

Two years ago, I launched an incubator specifically designed for high school students, to help students launch effective projects in a short period of time. It’s been one of our most popular programs. We plan on offering workshops to public schools across the country to help kids learn about entrepreneurship, especially students who can’t afford our services.

We’re also officially launching in Singapore in a few weeks. That’s one of our most exciting moves so far.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

We’ve been providing pro bono services to families since the launch of H&C. Giving back to students who wouldn’t otherwise have access to our services is central to our work, and one of the most gratifying parts. One of our former pro bono students, Ahmad Alsheikh, who got into Harvard, recently joined H&C as our first Student Ambassador. Ahmad and his family immigrated to the U.S. from Syria, seeking asylum from the civil war. He became the first person in his family to go to college in the U.S., and he was also the first person in that high school to attend Harvard in nearly three decades.

Ahmad has been focusing on expanding our operations to the Middle East and has helped us unveil great opportunities for the growth of H&C. He’s the one bringing great benefit to international students now.

You have first hand experience with the US immigration system. If you had the power, which three things would you suggest to improve the system?

As I mentioned, my immigration journey was smooth. There are many visa opportunities for entrepreneurs interested in starting their own business in the U.S., and the requirements are usually reasonable. However, there isn’t a visa per se that would allow entrepreneurs to go to the U.S. with minimal investment. This obviously needs to change. Some countries in Europe and elsewhere are attracting entrepreneurs by setting very minimal requirements and financial incentives. I’m not very familiar with the immigration process for non-business applicants, so I can’t share more about the immigration system at large.

Can you share “5 keys to achieving the American dream” that others can learn from you? Please share a story or example for each.

1. Don’t glorify the American dream. There are plenty of business opportunities in the U.S. It’s a huge market, and it’s relatively easy to form your business. As in any other country, however, starting a company isn’t an easy path. Just because you move to the U.S. doesn’t mean you will necessarily make it. Grit, hard work, and good luck are still the most important variables in anyone’s success.

2. Don’t rely on your education or background to sell yourself, your product, or your services. People in the U.S. care more about your value proposition and proof of concept than your background, degree, education, or net worth.

3. Make friends who aren’t the same nationality as you. I’ve noticed that French people, for instance, tend to stick together wherever they go. My advice is to try to mingle and meet new people.

4. Expect to make friends and enemies. Business in the U.S. isn’t glamorous. If you’re a business owner and plan to move to the U.S., don’t expect competitors to love you for your innovative approach.

5. Surround yourself with experts. Be sure you surround yourself with top lawyers, marketers, and experts in your field who can help you navigate the U.S. system and scale up quickly and efficiently.

We know that the US needs improvement. But are there 3 things that make you optimistic about the US’s future?

1. Basic healthcare coverage for more people. I grew up in Europe, where healthcare is usually accessible to all, so I’m somewhat biased, but I believe that everyone should have access to healthcare services.

2. I’m hopeful that our new president will be able to speak to everyone in the U.S., regardless of skin color or political view. The U.S. has been highly divided over the past four years. It always has been, though. Remembering that segregation was de jure outlawed in the U.S. just a couple of decades ago, that the Supreme Court struck down all state bans on same-sex marriage just a few years ago, just to name a few “recent” major policies, makes you realize how much work still needs to be done in this country to give everyone access to the same opportunities.

3. I’m hoping this government will foster healthier and cordial discussions around some of the most pressing and antagonistic issues in this country.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, especially if we tag them. :-)

I’d love to meet Russell Westbrook. First, I’m a big NBA fan, and I love Russell’s game and energy. He recently launched the Russell Westbrook Why Not? Academy to provide educational support opportunities to underserved youth in South LA. I’d love to partner with him on other related projects to help kids in underprivileged neighborhoods learn about college and entrepreneurship.

What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?

People can follow my work on our website. We have a newsletter and a blog that cover the college admission process, and we provide a ton of free resources to students and families. Our H&C website is the best way to follow my work and our expansion. I’m not a social media person, so don’t expect me to post on Instagram unless my marketing managers advise me to do so in the future. For now, I’m focusing on providing the best, most innovative college consulting and entrepreneurial services on the market to our domestic and international families.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

About The Interviewer: Vicky Colas, Chef Vicky, is an award-winning chef in the Caribbean food arena. In 2012, Chef Vicky was awarded a silver medal for Caribbean Chef of The Year at the Taste of the Islands completion hosted by the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association. She was called to represent her country and be a part of the Culinary Team Haiti as a Culinary Chef Ambassador competing with 10 other Caribbean nations. The team was also awarded a silver medal for the Caribbean Team of the Year and received an Award for “Best Team for Taste of the Islands”. A published nutrition researcher, her study was selected in 2013 in the International Journal of Child Nutrition. Her recipe and interview have been featured in Essence Magazine online, Island Origin, and most recently the cookbook Toques in Black: A Celebration of 101 Black Chefs in America. In 2019, she was nominated in the “40 under 40” class of Legacy Magazine as one of South Florida’s “Black Leaders of Today and Tomorrow”.

Most recently, Chef Vicky was selected as one of twenty women candidates awarded for the 2019 James Beard Foundation Women Entrepreneurial Leadership (WEL) fellowship and is also part of a selective group of talented Chefs in the James Beard Foundation local food advocacy training programs. She is a wife, a proud mother of 3 boys, a business, and a food influencer in her community. Chef Vicky has been featured in her local news stations such as WSVN CH 7, Deco Drive, WPLG Local 10 News, 6 on the mix CH 6 and Good Morning Miramar.

Vicky is also a subject matter expert in the Hospitality, Culinary Arts, Restaurant Management, and Public Health (Dietetics and Nutrition) arena. She is a graduate of Florida International University (FIU) and Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts.

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