Back in 1977, my parents launched their now 42-year-old tutoring and test prep business. Over the years, the company grew from one to now 300+ locations across the country. I was born shortly after they opened their 16th center, and I often joke that I was “center #17”. Being born to entrepreneurial parents who were hyper-focused on building a successful business meant that I grew up in and around the company. I often tagged along to the office with my parents, I spent after-school hours in our Learning Center program getting tutored on various school subjects or prepping for the SAT. My parents discussed business topics at breakfast, over dinner and while shuttling my brother and me to and from school events and friends’ houses. I was also featured in several marketing campaigns as a child. The business was part of my life from the beginning.
Even though I grew up in and around the business, when it came time to start my own career, I knew that I wanted to do something outside of my family’s company and outside of education, so I focused on on art and philanthropy. I never do anything half-way, so when I graduated college with a Liberal Arts degree, I did everything I could to jump into the art world with both feet. My first job was at an international art auction house, where I began to develop an eye for great pieces and an understanding of how to properly curate a show. I joined every arts group I could, including the young collectors groups at both the Whitney Museum and the Guggenheim. After a few years gaining knowledge and business acumen, I launched my own art curatorial and production company, AMH Industries. I worked with artists and philanthropic organizations to curate art shows with a purpose. To date I’ve curated over 30 exhibits and helped raise over $30M for causes I believe in. I learned how to develop high-level vision, build strategic partnerships that advance missions and budgets, and how to employ my passions and interests to make positive change.
Several years later, my parents and I began talking about the family business and whether or not I was interested in it, since the plan was to stay family owned and operated. At this point, we were going through a rebranding project and the timing was right to try it out. What began as a conversation, quickly turned into me diving deep and fully immersing myself in the brand from working with our Marketing team, consultants and then going through our training program. Once I was invested in the vision, I couldn’t help but want to see it through! And so began my first official project working alongside mom and dad (a.k.a. CEO and Chairman of the Board).
Part of the reasoning that I’d chosen to pursue a career outside the family business was that I never wanted to think “what if” I had tried something else, and I also wasn’t sure if I could marry my love for art and creativity with a corporate position. On some level, I didn’t want my first boss to have the same last name for potential nepotism issues. After having a successful career outside of my family’s business, when I began working alongside my parents, I realized that I didn’t have to give anything up in terms of any of that, which took time to fully understand this. Through the family business, I’ve been able to enhance all aspects of my life and it’s helped fuel more creativity and passion. I was able to make a lasting difference through the family business by helping students, this country’s next generation, get the best education possible. “Doing good” is my ethos, and now I get to do that everyday. I built partnerships and relationships in art and now that’s part of my job in the family business. I identify partnerships, like our annual fundraiser for the Coalition for the Homeless and look for new opportunities to share our message and vision. Though my time is limited, I am still active in museums and causes I believe in; I produce, collect and curate. I’ve been able to blend my passions and I get to do what I love and I love what I do.
Venturing out on my own also gave me the experience and know-how to be able to enter the business with confidence in my abilities. I truly believe that if I hadn’t gone out there and built something of my own from the ground up that I would not have been ready for the leadership roles that I’ve taken on to date, and that I will be taking on in the future. Contrary as it may seem, walking away from the family business, at least temporarily, was the best thing I could have done for myself, and my family’s company, in the long term.