Sporting an incredible melange of career choices spanning med school, online prep education, and turning author, South Asian entrepreneur Shaan Patel is all of 27. Shaan is the Co-founder of prep education provider, Prep Expert. In an interview with us, Shaan talks about the choices he made to kickstart his successful career while chronicling the growth of his business.
The young South Asian entrepreneur had never jostled the idea of starting a test prep company. Shaan, however, greatly attributes his decision to turn entrepreneur to a perfect SAT score that he achieved, securing admissions to some of the top universities across the globe.
“I won hundreds of thousands of dollars in college scholarships, and even got to meet the President of the United States! In college, I decided I wanted to help other students change their lives. I thought the best way to do that would be to write the first SAT prep book by a student who had raised his own score from average to perfect,” he says.
Shaan had clinched perfect scores by effecting numerous study strategies that helped him wade through his exam.
“However, when I pitched my book proposal to over 100 literary agents and publishers, I was rejected by every single one because I didn’t have a “platform” to write such a book. Therefore, I took my destiny into my own hands. I took the material that I had been working on and made it the basis of a 6-week SAT prep class: Prep Expert (formerly 2400 Expert),” Shaan tells us.
Here’s where the statistics showed positive results. “The students in my pilot class achieved a 376-point average score improvement – unheard of in the industry and equivalent to going from the 50th to the 90th percentile on the SAT,” he says.
Shaan’s entrepreneurial debut soon expanded to include SAT and ACT classes across online and offline platforms. “McGraw-Hill, the world’s largest educational publisher, who had originally rejected my book proposal ended up giving me a book deal after seeing my success with Prep Expert. The book ended up hitting #1 for test-prep on Amazon and sold over 50,000 copies! So my original dream became a reality,” says Shaan.
Prep Expert’s success has been phenomenal. “Prep Expert is so effective because it’s based on the strategies I used to raise my own SAT score 640 points. We teach them 100 strategies that will help them improve their SAT and ACT scores that are from the perspective of a student who raised his own score from average to perfect. When students follow this blueprint, they are guaranteed to increase their own score hundreds of points. I just had two students email me last week that they got perfect SAT and perfect ACT scores themselves – we have so many stories like this!” he says, elated.
The young entrepreneur’s success soon saw him approach the popular show Shark Tank. “I thought my company would be perfect for the show because, at the time, we were only teaching SAT prep classes in my hometown of Las Vegas. I wanted a strategic partner who would help me expand the company to more cities, add ACT prep, and increase the distribution of our online courses,” he says of his initial business plans.
And what’s more? That’s exactly what he did. He snagged a $250,000 investment from billionaire investor Mark Cuban, helping propel his business to clock sales multiple times from that of its initial days.
His confidence undeterred, Shaan held his nervousness at bay with millions watching the show. “However, once I got into the Shark Tank, adrenaline hit and I was firing away with answers to the tough questions they were throwing at me. I was actually in the Shark Tank for an hour and a half, but it gets edited down to 15 minutes for television. Nothing is scripted and the Sharks have no knowledge of any business prior to the pitch – all of it is real!“ Shaan says.
He deems his success incomparable to his parents. The family moved to the United States from India with just about $70 in their pockets and got into the hospitality business with budget motels. His upbringing taught him a lot about life and choices.
“The motel that my parents own is in one of the most dangerous areas of Las Vegas. I was lucky to grow up there because I have a better understanding and empathy for those that live in poverty. But it is far from the glamour and glitz of the strip that most people think of when they hear about Las Vegas. I think every generation wants to do a little better than their parents’ generation, and I am no different,” he tells us.
Shaan is upbeat about the opportunities that keep him going. “I think the opportunities with test-prep, healthcare, and marketing through internet entrepreneurship far exceeds the opportunity to running a hotel that is limited in revenue by geography and room capacity,” he says when reminiscing on the choice to not take up the family business.
Shaan’s ties to his South Asian roots, which still remain close to him. An ambassador to the Hindu American Foundation, Shaan attributes a large chunk of his success to values such as hard work, education and tolerance that his parents instilled in him.
To many out there looking to venture out with something atypical, he says that it would demand significant hard work. Signing off Shaan says, “Nothing great was ever achieved without incredible sacrifice. You must work hard for success – it is the only way!”