Update: How We Grew Our Test Prep Biz To $20K/Month (& Keeps Growing)

Published: November 26th, 2022
Tyler York
Founder, Achievable
from San Francisco
started April 2016
market size
starting costs
gross margin
time to build
210 days
average product price
growth channels
business model
best tools
Instagram, Twitter, Ahrefs
time investment
Full time
pros & cons
35 Pros & Cons
2 Tips
Discover what tools Tyler recommends to grow your business!
Discover what books Tyler recommends to grow your business!

Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.

Achievable exam preparation guides learners through a personalized learning experience, reinforcing what they’ve learned as they study and giving people certain that they’re ready to ace their exams. The platform uses advanced learning science methodologies and an advanced personalization engine to automatically optimize the learning experience for optimal results. Achievable currently offers a GRE prep course, SIE exam prep, Series 6 exam prep, Series 7 exam prep, Series 63 exam prep, Series 65 exam prep, Series 66 exam prep , ACT prep course, USMLE Step 1 exam prep, and AMC exam courses. We are most prominent in the finance industry, where employees need to pass FINRA licensing exams like the FINRA SIE exam to get jobs and expand the scope of their role.

We have been on Starter Story a couple of times now, check out our first post and second post to get a full sense of our journey to date.

Our goal is to take the guesswork out of test prep. We think of ourselves a personal trainers for learning, and what does a personal trainer do? They make the plan, so you just have to show up. They motivate you and keep you engaged. They make sure you’re working on the right things. And most importantly, they make sure you reach your goals. With Achievable, you study, you follow our program, you know where you stand, and when you’re ready - you ace your exam. That’s our promise.

Tell us about what you’ve been up to. Has the business been growing?

We're proud to announce that our business has grown substantially since we last checked in. We've hit major milestones, especially with our FINRA SIE exam prep course and GRE prep course. Our test preparation offerings are now more comprehensive and user-friendly than ever, and we're confident that they'll continue to help our students achieve their academic and professional goals. We're grateful for our customers trusting us - they have played a crucial role in our success, and we're excited to see what the future holds.

Achieving success on any major exam, whether it be the ACT, FINRA, or GRE, requires a significant amount of time and effort. A well-designed study plan is essential for making the most of your time and ensuring that you are adequately prepared for the exam. Our new study planner is designed to make it easy for you to create a personalized study plan that fits your schedule and learning style. Plus, you can easily monitor your progress and adjust your plan as needed. In addition to our study planner, we've also added tons of new videos to our courses. These videos provide an overview of key concepts and an opportunity to see how they are applied in practice. Finally, our new exam readiness indicator gives you an estimate of your likelihood of passing the FINRA exam based on your course progress. With these new features, we're seeing even more success stories and positive feedback from our customers.

Facebook Ads and Google Search Ads have been two of our most successful marketing tools. Facebook Ads allow us to target a specific audience with our message, and the results have been very positive. Google Search Ads help us to reach potential customers who are already searching for products or services like ours. The combination of these two tools has helped us to reach more people than ever before and to increase our sales significantly. We are very pleased with the results and plan to continue using both Facebook Ads and Google Search Ads in the future.

We've made great strides in expanding our content footprint over the last year. Youtube allows us to share information in a format that is convenient and engaging for our audience, and also gives them a taste of what our teaching style is like. Our blog allows us to share longer pieces of writing and answer questions posed by people searching Google. Our podcasts have also been extremely popular, with our GRE Snacks podcast becoming the #1 GRE podcast in the world with 70,000 downloads in the last year. We’ve spent a lot of time increasing the quality of our content on all of these channels and in our courses, and the results have been well worth it. We're extremely proud of these accomplishments and we continue to work hard to create valuable content for our audience.

A few months ago we launched our new ACT prep course into open beta. The ACT is a major exam for high school students looking to get into their dream college, and we're excited to help this new younger audience reach their goals. The course is designed to be achievable for any student who puts in the effort, and we're already seeing great results from early users. We can't wait to see how our new ACT course helps students achieve their dreams.

And lastly, we announced our $650k fundraise with participation by Goodwater Capital, Acquired Wisdom Fund, and many notable education technology investors. We’re honored to be backed by such esteemed investors and entrepreneurs and are excited about what the future holds.

What have been your biggest challenges in the last year?

Achieving growth is always a challenge, but it can be especially difficult as a company starts to scale. As a business expands, it must find ways to maintain the momentum that led to its initial success. In some cases, the channels that have worked well for you start to get saturated or capped, and you need to find new avenues to grow. In other cases, you are capped not by the channel’s potential but by the quality of your efforts in that channel to date. The tough part is figuring out which is which, and determining how to invest your resources going forward. That was something that we had to work on a couple of times this year, though we’re pleased to say that the results of those challenges have been improved performance and thoughtfulness about resource allocation across the board.

The changes to ad platforms with Apple's App Tracking Transparency framework have choked the data that platforms like Facebook use for advertising to mobile customers, making those platforms notably less effective. This is especially true for smaller advertisers with fewer data to feed Facebook about user behavior and preferences. Before these changes, growth was driven by the ability to track users across apps and devices and target them with ads based on their interests. However, under the new framework, this is much less effective on average. As a result, advertising on mobile is now substantially more difficult. While some advertisers have been able to adapt by focusing on other platforms or using different strategies, the overall negative impact of these changes has meant that we wonder “what if” that wasn’t the case.

What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?

Trying new things is essential for any business, but it is especially important for startups. The biggest advantage that startups have is that they can move quickly. This means that they can try new things and experiment with different approaches much more easily than established businesses. However, if startups don't take advantage of this opportunity to try new things, they are wasting their greatest asset. Often, the most successful new businesses are those that come up with innovative ideas that their competitors haven't thought of. This could be anything from a new marketing tactic to a completely new product or service. By taking risks and trying new things, startups can gain a significant competitive advantage.

As any startup founder knows, the key to success is to move fast and learn from your mistakes. However, in the haste to get new products and features out the door, startups often forget to pause and reflect on their past successes. This is a mistake. Past successes can provide valuable insights into what works and what doesn't. They can also help you identify patterns that you can replicate in the future. By taking the time to revisit your past successes, you can give yourself a major competitive advantage. After all, who knows your business better than you do?

For startups, finding the right customer is essential. Oftentimes, startups will spend a lot of time and resources chasing product-market fit with the wrong customer. This customer might be valuable or easy to acquire, but if they aren't going to drive repeat business, it becomes very difficult to stack revenue. The key is to find the repeat customer - the one that will come back again and again. This customer is essential for driving growth and sustaining a successful startup.

What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?

We are excited to announce that we will be launching an Achievable ACT course next year. This course will be designed to help students who are struggling to meet their full potential on the ACT. The course will focus on providing tips and strategies for taking the ACT, as well as helping students to identify their strengths and weaknesses. We believe that this course will be an invaluable resource for students who are looking to improve their ACT scores. We are committed to providing quality education resources, and we are confident that this course will help our students achieve their goals.

A key element of our strategy is to continue to add high-quality content and course features to our existing courses to win those markets. Our product development team is constantly working on new features and improvements, and we have a rigorous process for incorporating feedback from users. In addition, we are constantly expanding the reach of our courses by adding new translations and making sure that they are accessible on all devices. By continuing to invest in our existing courses, we acanmaintain our position as the best course provider in each market that we are in.

We are always looking for new opportunities to help students reach their academic goals. Our recent expansion into online test prep has been very successful, and we are now looking to expand into new markets. We are particularly interested in other high-stakes exams that are underserved by current offerings or that don’t have approachable, easy-to-use platforms. We believe that we can make a difference in these new markets and help even more students achieve success. We'll be working hard to ensure that our programs are of the highest quality and that they meet the needs of our students. We're confident that our expansion will help us reach even more students and help them realize their full potential.

What’s the best thing you read in the last year?

Tim Ferriss' book Tools of Titans features interviews with some of the world's most successful people, from athletes to business moguls to scientists. In each interview, Ferriss asks his guests about their routines, their thought processes, and their secrets to success. The result is a fascinating look at the minds of some of the most high-achievers on the planet. While many self-help books offer general advice that can be difficult to apply to real life, Tools of Titans provides concrete tips that readers can use to improve their own lives. Whether it's learning to meditate like billionaire investor Ray Dalio or adopting a "no complaints" policy like opera singer Renee Fleming, there is something in this book for everyone. I highly recommend Tools of Titans to anyone looking for insights on how to achieve their goals.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?

As a business owner, it's important to keep in mind that your customers are the lifeblood of your company. They are the ones who keep you in business, so it only makes sense to listen to them and take their needs and wants into account. Too often, businesses get so caught up in day-to-day operations that they forget to stop and listen to their customers. But if you want your business to thrive, it's essential to have regular conversations with your customers and find out what they think about your products or services. Only by actively listening to your customers can you make the changes necessary to keep them happy and coming back for more. So next time you're feeling run down, take a break and have a chat with your customers. You may be surprised at what you learn.

Be sure to revisit the structure, process, and content you have in place for your key growth channels at least once per year, if not once per quarter. It’s normal to get so caught up in trying new things or the many tasks you have on your plate that you don’t go back and check on what’s working. However, just because something is still a key growth driver for your business doesn’t mean that it’s “done”. Sometimes, you could be losing ground to competitors, whether that be in SEO or ads, or affiliate relationships. Other times, you could be leaving money on the table by not optimizing your campaigns frequently enough or in the right way. Plus, you’re always learning something new, including new messaging that could be applied to your existing channels. Make sure you keep your eye on your old reliable channels, as they can often be improved.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

We are looking for unpaid social media marketing interns. If you're looking to learn marketing skills quickly in a fast-paced startup environment, work flexible hours, build out your resume, and be responsible for far more than your typical internship, this role could be a great fit. We have several different areas where we need additional support. This is an opportunity to completely own your marketing projects for a real, venture-backed company with thousands of paying customers per year. You'll report directly to me, the CEO.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

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