GE 192: How Toot Founder Sophia Parsa (Forbes 30 Under 30) Built a Vibrant Community & Leveraged IG Gifs to Build Her Startup (podcast) With Sophia Parsa

Sophia Parsa

Hey everyone, in today’s episode, I share the mic with Sophia Parsa, co-founder of Toot, a marketplace that instantly connects students with tutors and academic assistance via mobile app, founder of Mountaingate, which connects leading entrepreneurs and artists, and is on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 List for 2017.

Listen as Sophia discusses how the idea for Toot came about because she had urgently needed a tutor one night in college, how a $25 GIF ad on Instagram skyrocketed their success, how investing in key relationships (including 100 student ambassadors) brought her where she is today, and why her next goal is to create access to education for everyone around the world.

Download podcast transcript [PDF] here: How Toot Founder Sophia Parsa (Forbes 30 Under 30) Built a Vibrant Community & Leveraged IG Gifs to Build Her Startup TRANSCRIPT

Time-Stamped Show Notes:

  • 00:50 – Review and subscribe to the Growth Everywhere Podcast
  • 01:00 – Eric introduces Sophia to the podcast
    • 01:02 – She is the founder of Toot, part of the Forbes 30 under 30 in the education spectrum, and also part of Mountaingate
  • 01:28 – Sophia has two passions: education and community building
  • 01:33 – Born and raised in Los Angeles, Sophia met a co-founder that helped her start her ed tech company
  • 01:48 – She also started a community that meets for supper
  • 02:21 – Sophia was raised in an entrepreneurial family and assumed that everyone should have a company
  • 02:30 – Never had the level of fear that people usually have with starting a company
  • 02:44 – The ah-ha moment for Toot was when Sophia was strapped for a tutor and her professor connected her to a student on campus to help her out; ended up passing her final
  • 03:13 – It took her meeting her next co-founder to help her get the ed tech startup going
  • 03:33 – Sophia shares her co-founder’s story and why he was essential in taking her to that next step
  • 03:53 – “Toot is a marketplace that connects students to tutors in their area via mobile app”
  • 04:04 – We’re also launching a text messaging service to connect people to academic assistance and tutor support
  • 04:22 – We’re giving schools direct feedback as to what students are struggling with
  • 04:52 – How Toot is being marketed:
    • 04:55 – Word of mouth is getting our message across
    • 05:00 – Had a team of 100 ambassadors
    • 05:09 – Instagram is also spreading our need
    • 05:18 – By students texting each other
  • 05:45 – How Instagram helped their marketing campaign
  • 06:45 – Facebooks is doing gifts as ads
  • 07:11 – How Sophia is so connected with Mountaingate:
    • 07:36 – She hosted a dinner for entrepreneurs and artists
    • 08:01 – Sophia had a theme/topic for the dinner regarding space and had entrepreneurs in that area join and share
    • 08:24 – It grew to 60 people/dinner
    • 08:32 – The results of this dinner: friendships, jobs, connections, investments, partnerships, roommates even
    • 08:49 – Sophia wants to join the L.A. community together
    • 09:06 – You need a hybrid of technical people and creative people to make great things happen
  • 09:50 – Search on Mastermind Dinners if you’d like to connect with one of these groups
  • 10:20 – When you bring a large group of people together, what are somethings to be mindful of or mistakes to avoid?
    • 10:33 – Have a cap
    • 11:00 – Make sure everyone feels welcome and included
    • 11:25 – Thing about how you can be helpful to these people
    • 11:37 – Connect the right people, but at the same time, keep it organic
  • 11:55 – What’s the typical price?
    • 12:08 – Sophia lists the expenses
    • 12:33 – We donate the remainder of the profit to a cause
    • 12:45 – It’s not to make money, but to connect people
  • 12:58 – It’s about the relationships and that’s more than worth it
  • 13:44 – What’s next for Toot?
    • 13:50 – Sophia is working on the B2B model
    • 13:58 – They want to focus on connecting with schools and raise funds
    • 14:41 – Create access to education
  • 14:59 – What’s one piece of advice you’d give to your 20-year old self?
    • 15:05 – “Not to believe everything you hear”
    • 15:10 – Sophia explains how she came about this conclusion
    • 15:32 – Before getting excited, find out if the the person you meet with is who you actually want to work with and whether or not they’ll actually deliver
  • 15:56 – What’s one new tool you’ve added in the last year that’s added a lot of value?
    • 16:17 – We’ve built our own tools
    • 16:33 – Facebook messenger: it’s where we communicate as a team and with our clients
  • 17:23 – What’s one big change you’ve made in the past year that has impacted you or your business in a big way? – “Learning how to say no”
  • 18:18 – Sophia explains her connection to Forbes’ 30 under 30
    • 18:52 – Before her father passed, she told him that she made the list because it was a joint goal
    • 19:16 – How Sophia ended up on the list
    • 19:42 – Sophia and her co-founder were BOTH finalists
    • 20:13 – This is the result of being connected and having persistence
    • 20:26 – How being on the list has affected her career
  • 21:10 – What’s one must-read book do you recommend? Hooked
  • 22:08 – Connect with Sophia on Instagram and email

3 Key Points:

  1. It’s all about making those connections—attend an event with both technical and creative people to move forward in your career.
  2. Do your due diligence with who you choose to work with and see what they actually bring to the table.
  3. You need a combination of persistence and connection to take that next step towards success.

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