Young Change Makers: Why and How Adam Shlomi of SoFlo SAT Tutoring Is Helping To Change Our World
It’s all about doing. Successful ventures are not accomplished by the people with the best ideas, it’s about the people who actually apply them and make them reality. Life is about putting pen to paper and just getting started instead of daydreaming or asking “what if?”
As part of my series about young people who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Adam Shlomi
Adam Shlomi is the founder of SoFlo SAT Tutoring. He went to Georgetown University, scored a 1570/1600 on the SAT, and founded SoFlo. SoFlo offer online SAT/ACT Prep to students around the world and has 100 tutors on the team, but when Adam founded SoFlo a little more than two years ago he was bedridden recovering from ankle surgery with doctors saying he may never walk again.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?
I grew up in suburban South Florida with loving parents who knew how important it was to emphasize the value of education. They were focused, since day one, on helping me grow to be the best person I could be. Thanks to my parents, I knew the importance of going to a great school and working hard. When I was 15, I started my first job with College Experts, a Floridian test prep company, where I learned what it was like to work in a small business in the test preparation industry. I enjoyed my time there, but I always had ideas swirling around in my head about how I could make the company run more smoothly, but I had no idea at the time that I’d actually get the chance to put those innovations to the test.
Is there a particular book or organization that made a significant impact on you growing up? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
My background in general, especially in regard to education, is the entire reason why SoFlo even exists. I fully comprehended the power and value of education because my parents opened the door for me to find immensely rewarding experiences in school, and because of these reasons, I understood the importance of the SAT. After taking it myself and starting college, I was able to teach everything I knew to students who came to me for SAT guidance. My schooling and home environment worked together in more ways than one in order to create the perfect conditions for me to create SoFlo.
How do you define “Making A Difference”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
To me, making a tangible difference means giving back to society. I always strive to incorporate this idea into SoFlo, which is why we continually look towards opportunities to help people in need. SoFlo offers free SAT classes through Path to College, Yes Prep Public Schools, and the Mandel Library for those who need them but can’t afford to enroll in SAT prep classes. The charge is close to nothing, and we’re working to make SAT prep more accessible for everyone. Financial status shouldn’t dictate hardworking students’ ability to go to their dream schools.
Ok super. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. You are currently leading an organization that aims to make a social impact. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?
SoFlo is a virtual tutoring company, and because of this we’re able to work towards utilizing the Internet to democratize test prep. Personal, private SAT tutors can be a huge financial burden, and group SAT classes aren’t very engaging or personalized to each different student’s needs. SoFlo offers free SAT resources that don’t require signing up for a personal tutor — any resources that don’t have a variable cost, we are more than happy to give away for free.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?
I started SoFlo from my bedroom while I was recovering from a major injury. In between physical therapy sessions and those days of recovery, I knew I couldn’t just stay idle. I had some experience tutoring and working with test prep companies, but this opportunity allowed me to pursue it wholeheartedly. Suddenly, I had the chance to apply all of the different innovative ideas to run my own company with my own values. I had seen first-hand the impact that personal SAT tutoring could have for students looking to get into their dream schools, and I knew that my injury actually presented a unique opportunity to help a wider scope of students than I could personally tutor myself.
I started by building a website, and from there the company kept on growing. It was initially only meant to serve as a side hustle while my foot healed, but it started gaining traction that I couldn’t ignore.
Many young people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?
A big jump I had to take with SoFlo was declaring it a real business. We made a shift to stop paying everyone on Venmo, switching to QuickBooks instead. We stopped accepting more informal payment venues like Venmo or Zelle from parents, and these steps following SoFlo’s declaration was the moment that it felt the most real. After 5 months of operating SoFlo and creating the website, I declared it an official business and started paying taxes.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
Before I started SoFlo, I used to personally tutor students myself. One of my first students was an 8th grader who was extremely bright and interesting, but far too young to tutor for SAT or ACT test prep. I connected with his dad years later on LinkedIn and found out that the students attended UF and started SAT tutoring on his own. At this point, we had never hired tutors outside of the Ivy Leagues, but he absolutely crushed our interview process — now he’s one of the top 5 tutors at SoFlo. It’s serendipitous that someone I tutored when he was only 13 is now an integral part of the SoFlo operation.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?
The funniest mistake I’ve made since I started SoFlo was hiring a freelancer from Egypt to speed up our website. The day after I hired him, the entire website crashed and remained entirely unfunctional. I called him and we spoke for around two hours, during which he promised and swore that he’d be able to make the website work no problem. Even with all of his promises, the website still stayed broken for almost a week. When I asked why the website still wasn’t functional, he called me some names, so I hired someone else who was able to fix the site in a day with basically one click.
None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?
The first entrepreneur I ever met was my cousin Edan, who started his own business selling car parts. I met him when I was a freshman in college, and it was so cool to meet someone who was really out living life, hiking and surfing during the day, who was also widely successful and owned his own business. He inspired me to be an entrepreneur, and it’s amazing to see how he’s able to accomplish what he has without having to compromise living and having a good time. He’s getting married soon, and I couldn’t be happier for him.
Without saying specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
I met a mom who was working at a bank teller a while ago. She had seen three tutors before coming to us, and just wanted to find the best possible option for her kid. We worked with her for 6 months at a very flexible rate to accommodate her financial situation. After half a year of tutoring, her daughter was accepted to the University of Michigan, one of her top college choices. These two people, to SoFlo, encompass what we’re really all about: we want to work with parents who want the best for their kids. Money shouldn’t get in the way of working with someone who is just trying to help their child reach the height of their potential.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
- The government should invest more in K-12 education overall. As Robert Fulghum said, “It will be a great day when our schools have all the money they need, and our air force has to have a bake-sale to buy a bomber.”
- Our community should take advantage of the power of the Internet as an education tool. Especially since the coronavirus pandemic provided the unique opportunity to jump on this knowledge, we should understand and utilize the Internet to democratize not only test prep, but all education.
- On a family level, it’s immensely valuable to invest in education. For a lot of parents, the SAT is the first time education is really emphasized in the household — why don’t we start earlier?
Fantastic. Here is the main question of the interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each).
- I wish people told me how lonely it could get. My entrepreneurial classes at Georgetown always said how lonely it would be at the top, but it didn’t seem pressing or true, to a certain extent. But now, if I go to my parents with issues I’m facing they think I’m just working too hard, and it’s hard to talk with friends who might be jealous or think I’m trying to brag.
- It’s all about doing. Successful ventures are not accomplished by the people with the best ideas, it’s about the people who actually apply them and make them reality. Life is about putting pen to paper and just getting started instead of daydreaming or asking “what if?
- People are super important. Companies are entirely defined by the people who work there. For this reason, SoFlo emphasizes making sure everyone is happy and content with their work, and that they’re doing a good job. Especially since we’re in the service industry, it’s beyond important to hire the right people.
- Tell the truth. There’s really no reason to lie in most situations. If you let people know what the intentions or reasons are behind your actions, it’ll make more sense to them and will seem rational. It’s best in most cases to just be honest with everyone.
- Be nice to people. Pretty self-explanatory: it’s best to just be kind. Bringing someone a little bit more happiness is completely costless while having such a high payoff.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
It’s nice to have purpose in your life. If you believe in your work and what you’re contributing to the world, you will have a lot more motivation to continue pouring 100% into whatever it is you’re doing. A lot of people hate their jobs, so it’s important to do something that holds meaning and could help give you some purpose in life. Feeling like you’re making an impact is one of the most rewarding emotions possible.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)
How can our readers follow you online?
Find me and SoFlo on LinkedIn:
Max: 2500 words — start cutting out questions