Mike divulged that the idea for the platform came about in a statistics class during his junior year of college at Kent State, in which many of his classmates struggled to understand the professor’s complicated lectures. “I excelled in the course,” Mike shared, “which prompted my classmates to request my study guides and homework help. I decided to start selling my study guides for $10 a piece – and quickly made over $1,000. After I realized there was a real need for peer-to-peer learning, I began gathering other students’ study materials from more classes and soon after launched Flashnotes.com.”
We took some time to chat with Mike about how he got to where is he today and what has been the driving force behind his success in this second installment of “So, You Want to Be…”
Describe Flashnotes and what your role is there.
I am the CEO & founder of Boston-based Flashnotes.com, the student-to-student study materials marketplace. On the site, students can sell and buy affordable, student-created course-specific study materials — study guides, notes, flashcards, video tutorials, and live video help. Student sellers can earn money without having to disrupt their busy schedules – or even leave campus – with the average seller making $31/hour on Flashnotes.com. Some top sellers are even cashing in at more than $5,000 a semester as note-selling has become a big business on campus.
Were you always interested in starting your own company, or did you have other career plans at first?
I actually had no idea I would become an entrepreneur or start my own business. When I started college, I thought I wanted to go into medicine. Then, I changed my major to Finance – and finally, added Entrepreneurship. It found me as much as I found it.
Describe a typical work day for you.
Busy! However, I love what I’m doing and wouldn’t have it any other way. As the company has grown, my role has really transitioned from “doing” to “managing”. A typical workday is from 8am-8pm. I work with the team and have a lot of meetings during the day – then, I work on things I need to get done at night. I also do a lot of traveling. In just the last two weeks, I was in Arizona, California, and Orlando – and it’s always for different things, like conferences — or to meet with students & professors.
What is your favorite part of the job?
Working with people that are equally as passionate about the idea & Flashnotes.com’s mission – and figuring out problems together along the way.
Is there anyone whose career that you admire? Why?
My Mom’s career. She is an inner city teacher in Ohio – and has been doing it for 37 years. She absolutely loves what she does, and that is something she always instilled in me. Her career has a lot to do with why I started this company & where I am now.
I also really admire Mark Cuban. He’s always been honest & true to himself. He isn’t afraid to speak his mind – whether or not it’s what the public wants to hear.
As you know, at Barnes & Noble College our main focus is our students and their success both in school and outside of school. What advice do you have for any students hoping to, one day, start their own business or organization?
Just do it! This is the best time in your life to take a risk. You can always move back home, or choose another path if it doesn’t work out. It’s what our generation is supposed to be doing – looking at how we can change things to make them better – and solving problems.
Did you have a favorite class or project you worked on while in school? Describe it.
My favorite class was definitely a current events class. We looked at what was really happening around the world & addressed real world problems – not theoretical problems. You spend a lot of time in school hypothesizing and theorizing, but this was the real deal.
Were there any student organizations or clubs you belonged to that you think were important to your success?
Yes. I was President of the Financial Management Association on campus and also treasurer of the Kent Entrepreneurship Association. Both were extremely important as they taught me how to be a leader and how to work with a team in an organization with clear goals. While in school, working for student organizations and clubs can be one of the closest things to real business work experience.
Was there anyone in particular who helped mentor you? How has their guidance helped shape you?
Carl Rosendorf has really been a helpful mentor to me. I’ve been working with him for three and a half years, since I first moved to Boston. He has helped me build my business, while sticking to my vision – even through tough times. He really helped me stay on track with my vision for Flashnotes.com – while not sacrificing it to get to the next phase of the business.
What jobs did you have before you got to where you are now? Any that stand out?
I have worked for Ruby Tuesday’s, UPS, 21st Financial, and I also worked at CVS for four years. While these were part-time jobs for me, many of the people at these companies had been there for 15-20 years – or more. These people were clearly very passionate about their work, and it really says a lot about these brands and employee happiness. Like my Mom, it helped me realize that you really have to love what you do.
Now that you’ve reached a successful point in your life, think back to when you started this journey. Where did you think it would lead you? Do you have tips or advice for students who want to stay focused and motivated?
I had no idea where the idea for Flashnotes.com would take me. However, I believed in the idea, so – at the very least – I knew I’d be happy with what I was doing.
I often use the saying, “Life is 10% what happens and 90% how you react to it.” You can make what you want out of it and, even after, you might make mistakes as an entrepreneur. It’s all in how you react to it and move forward from there. Just stay focused and surround yourself with the right people who make you a better person and better at what you do.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Yes. College grads are so hungry to find mentors & advisors. So, while you’re still on campus, seek out your professors and the resources you have in school to find these influential people in your life. They are there to help you and to make a difference. Take advantage while you’re in school and surrounded by this type of support.
Which career should our next installment of So, You Want to Be… focus on? Tweet us using #TheCollegeJuice with your suggestions!