Don’t take things personally. You never know what others might be going through. If you receive a bad comment, don’t automatically associate it with yourself. Follow your values, always be kind, and know your worth.
As a part of our series about entrepreneurs who transformed something they did for fun into a full-time career, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alexia Mezzini. Alexia is a tutor and the co-founder of My Tutor Lab, an innovative app-based platform that connects parents and students to qualified tutors in their area for face-to-face tutoring sessions. Alexia graduated from the University of Miami with degrees in psychology, education, and math. She discovered her passion for education when she began tutoring her younger brothers. What started as a hobby 12 years ago, has turned into a passionate career. To this day, she continues to tutor students daily in hopes of making an impact on their lives.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
What was the catalyst from transforming your hobby or something you love into a business? Can you share the story of your “ah-ha” moment with us?
I’ve always been indecisive. I changed career paths more times than I can count. There are just too many options! When I graduated from college, I was just as lost, or even more than when I started. I tried out the corporate world and let’s just say, that was no fun. The only “job” I enjoyed was the hobby I had picked up when I was 15–tutoring. Teaching others and having that connection was the part of my day that I looked forward to the most. Once I realized “this is what makes me happy,” I started spending more of my time and efforts on what I enjoyed and less on what I didn’t. Eventually, I became a full-time tutor. As I gained experience in the sector, I wanted to make an even more substantial impact, in education, but also for tutors themselves. Once I came up with the idea of My Tutor Lab, I had a new goal, to make it a reality. And here I am, two years later, running My Tutor Lab.
There are no shortage of good ideas out there, but people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?
First of all, by conducting a lot of research. You need to study every aspect of your idea to turn it into an “actual business.” Secondly, by not being afraid to make mistakes, because you are going to make them! If you are scared to move forward due to doubt, then your idea might never make it to become a business. You have to trust yourself, trust your instinct, and keep working. I have made many wrong turns throughout the build-out of My Tutor Lab (and will continue to make them), but I always learned a valuable lesson, and that has helped my business grow more than ever. Lastly, having a reliable support system that pushed me when I was doubtful was one of the main reasons I was able to get my business up and running. Without my partner, Mohamed, I can say with certainty that My Tutor Lab would not be here today.
What advice would you give someone who has a hobby or pastime that they absolutely love but is reluctant to do it for a living?
It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do it for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?
As a tutor, every student is unique, and that is exciting to me. Every single one proposes a different challenge and that definitely keeps me on my toes. Reminding myself why I love tutoring and why I started My Tutor Lab, always lifts my spirits on the days that I’m just not feeling it. Overall, the reward I get from teaching others is what mainly keeps me going.
What is it that you enjoy most about running your own business? What are the downsides of running your own business? Can you share what you did to overcome these drawbacks?
What I enjoy most is freedom. The freedom to make my own choices: set my protocols, determine my schedule, choose who I work with, be creative without any limits, the list goes on. But of course, there are downsides. As a business owner, you never fully disconnect, especially if you feel the need to micromanage every little aspect (like me). I had to learn how to give away specific tasks and trust that they will do a great job. As my own boss, the lack of accountability has also been a challenge. I am what people would call a “procrastinator,” a fault that I have been battling with my whole life. I am still working on it but learning to manage my time and having others depend on me has helped me overcome this part of my personality. You have to always be aware of your flaws and actively work on them!
Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
Honestly, I never thought it would be this tough! They tell you starting your own business is difficult, but there are no stories or examples that will explain just how hard it is until you do it. With tutoring, I have experience. I know exactly what to do when a student just isn’t getting it. But with running a business, it is all new to me! Mohamed has taught me a lot about the ways to run a business, but I have found that experience is key. I am young and still have a lot to learn, and that is extremely exciting for me.
Has there ever been a moment when you thought to yourself “I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to get a “real” job? If so how did you overcome it?
Yes, and yes. I have doubted myself and my path countless times! Again, reminding myself why I tutor and why I started My Tutor Lab, helps me push those negative thoughts away. Also, just thinking of a regular 9–5 job gives me a bit of a headache, so that helps too!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I’d say the funniest mistake (but also most embarrassing) was while managing My Tutor Lab’s social media. I was reposting WeGrow’s first podcast on our Instagram story when I accidentally wrote “insiring” instead of “inspiring.” If you know me and know my need for perfect grammar, you would understand the dilemma. I realized quickly afterward, but when I went to delete it, WeGrow had already shared My Tutor Lab’s post. Let’s just say; I was mortified. I couldn’t remove it because then it would be deleted from their page, so I decided to swallow my pride and keep it as is. It gave me minor anxiety for a week, but I eventually got over it. My Tutor Lab received various messages due to the repost, teaching me that exposure is great, but also that you have to re-read everything!
Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?
I have had several inspiring people throughout my life. First of all, my mom. She taught me the importance of doing what you like and letting go of others’ expectations. For a while, I was deeply influenced by what was the norm, what was expected of me, and what others thought I was capable of. Through her, I learned to let those things go and create my own path, leading me to be a successful leader.
Secondly, Mohamed, who is the other co-founder of My Tutor Lab, has been a massive inspiration for me. He is the most stubborn and hands-on person I have ever met. Once Mohamed has his mindset on something, it is 100% happening. He has taught me how to be decisive and not doubt myself. I partly owe that to his father, who is someone I have always looked up to. He is one of the most hard-working and smartest people I have ever met. His drive to succeed stems from wanting the best for his family and for everyone he employs. He is selfless in every form of the word. Those leadership aspects have been passed down to Mohamed, whom I learn more and more from every day.
Lastly, there are my students. They are the ones who inspire me daily to be the best I can be. The reason I am able to be a leader is that they have given me the chance to be one.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
As a tutor, I think I am making the world a better place every day through my students. Every little bit counts. If I affect one person positively, he or she will similarly go on to influence others, creating a ripple effect. With My Tutor Lab, we have already started using our vast resources to help others in need. We recently partnered with FAM (Fighting All Monsters) to provide complimentary tutoring lessons for children with cancer. My goal is to eventually be able to accommodate students from low-income communities, supporting them with education and mentoring services.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Set realistic goals. This was a big one for me when I started. Entrepreneurs usually have some personality traits of a dreamer. This helps push us to believe in our ideas and take the leap, but can also hinder us when it comes to setting goals. The issue with having unrealistic goals comes when you fail to reach them. It shatters your self-esteem and brings out the doubtful voice in your head. Learn how to set realistic goals, and it will be easier to keep going!
- Take breaks. As a business owner, work never ends. I learned that breaks are stressful but necessary! Why do you think employees get vacation days? It is an essential time to rewind and clear your mind. Eventually, I learned that breaks actually help me be more proactive and efficient when I get back to work.
- Ask for help. This took me a long time to learn, too long, I would say. I always wanted to do everything myself, and that led to countless mistakes. When more eyes are looking at a problem, you come up with a better solution in less time. Once I learned to say, “I don’t know how to do this,” I was able to better focus on the things I do know how to do.
- Don’t be afraid of failure. This is something I am still working on today. As the eldest sibling, I always felt the pressure to be perfect. When I was younger, I sometimes opted out of doing something just because I was scared of failing. When I started My Tutor Lab, I was scared at first. I would take days to make a simple decision because I worried whether it would lead to failure. I realized that it was doing more harm than good. Eventually, I began to welcome failure, and now, I embrace it!
- Don’t take things personally. You never know what others might be going through. If you receive a bad comment, don’t automatically associate it with yourself. Follow your values, always be kind, and know your worth.
What person wouldn’t want to work doing something they absolutely love. You are an incredible inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I would invest in education. At My Tutor Lab, we believe that education is the core of any well-established society, and without education, there is no growth. Again, I think providing an excellent education to a child creates a ripple effect. Education makes it more likely for a child to be successful and have the ability to affect others positively. However, my idea of an exceptional education involves more than an increase in knowledge and critical thinking. It also consists of the implementation of curiosity, kindness, and happiness.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Do what you like. Like what you do.” Funny enough, this quote was the one I chose for my high school yearbook, and I continue to live by it! I think it describes exactly how people should live their life to be happy and bring the most they can to this world.
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 with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Yes! I would love to have a private breakfast with Rebekah Neumann, the founder, and CEO of WeGrow. The innovative school she has begun is very inspiring to me, and I love everything it stands for. The values they are teaching our future generations are one of love, and I think that is amazing. She is someone that I continue to look up to and admire.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.