Building a Six-Figure ARR Startup in 12 Months

How many times did you visit your college’s career office or use one of its services? I thought so…

In 2016, I had the opportunity to do something about that! While VP of Marketing for a pre-hire testing company, I convinced our CEO and PE firm to give me 6 months of development resources to build Am I Job Ready. AIJR is a 16-module employability skills curriculum that high school and college students can go through on their computer or tablet in 8-12 hours or as part of a student or career success class. Lots of universities are offering these classes but a surprising number don’t have great content ready for students. This was our sales slick:

Job Ready platform

To kick-start sales, I commandeered one of our best salespeople to be my Sales Director while I worked with our Research & Development and Engineering teams to finish the MVP product. Over our first 90 days with a working platform, we gained significant traction. The catalyst was attending a regional association’s conference for college career counseling professionals where we surveyed 60 schools. 15% immediately said they would try a solution that combined a career aptitude test with skill development modules. There were many “tests” that predicted if you were “wired” to be an attorney, salesperson, or nurse, but there weren’t many that combined eLearning to bring those preferences and strengths to life in a job interview. We were on our way!

The next step was getting our first paying customers. I scheduled meetings with the closest 4-5 major universities including Purdue, Butler, and U of Michigan and within a month, Purdue was ready to sign a contract. They had been wrestling with getting a leadership skills badging initiative off the ground and saw our platform as the answer. My final selling point was “we’ll get you 80% there by next week and you can stew over the other 20% while giving your students something now.” Within another 90 days, we signed up a half-dozen schools, including landing our biggest deal with the Ivy Tech system. Ivy Tech wanted to scale a career engagement and reward program to all of their 80,000 students who were ambitious enough to go through our learning modules. They even tied their own workplace skills learning rubric to our modules. Even if only a third of students signed up, it would still be one of the largest employability projects of its kind.

Within a year of the product launch, over 30 schools and campuses (mostly community colleges) were responding to our emails and phone calls and had purchased a partial or full campus license. This was an amazing time in my professional life and I’m proud we helped over ten thousand students identify their strengths and career aptitudes while learning soft skills such as strategic thinking, communication, reliability, and innovation.

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