Author and CEO Amanda Nachman on helping young people reach their full potential
Describe your business in a few words?
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
My senior year of college I had the idea to create a magazine that would help students navigate campus life. I pitched the idea in a college entrepreneurship class and again to the entrepreneurship center on campus. After winning the class contest and hearing the supportive feedback from the experts, I knew I had something special. I felt fired up to create a mock up version of the magazine and try my hand at selling print advertisements. After raising enough money to print 5,000 copies of the first issue of College Magazine at my alma mater, The University of Maryland, I had fallen in love with the creative process and realized my passion for helping students through the magazine. A year later, in order to grow College Magazine I quit my full time government consulting job. Fast forward fourteen years, I’ve taken the leap again in launching the #Qualified brand, helping young professionals realize that they are qualified to go after their dreams.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
Before launching my own magazine I had written for my campus lifestyle magazine, called Unwind, and had held two editorial internships: Terp Magazine (through Maryland’s Alumni Association) and Washingtonian Magazine.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I hadn’t considered entrepreneurship as an option when I was growing up–even though my dad had his own business– but I was always inventing and brimming with business ideas, even as a kid. During the Trolls craze in third grade, I had amassed a collection of miniature trolls and realized these naked dolls could benefit from different outfits. Who couldn’t? I created multicolored designs using clay t-shirts, shorts, and bikinis and brought the trolls into school to sell them to my classmates for a dollar each. From there I even recruited a couple of my friends to accompany me in my project (which, from an outsider’s perspective, could have easily been considered a startup business). Growing up though I had been inundated with messages that I needed to choose a linear career path and that’s a message I debunk with my book #Qualified.
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
College Magazine is a free publication to readers, paid for by the advertising, so the physical print magazine (distributed directly on college campuses) was the marketing strategy. We would set up a table on campus to hand out the magazines, along with some fun giveaways. And it worked! I remember handing out copies and watching students read it and save their copy in their backpack. Then the proof was in the fact that students would redeem the coupons in the magazine at the nearby restaurants. This demonstrated to our advertisers that the magazine was getting in the hands of students.
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
Based on how I saw other publications growing, a mistake I made was in bootstrapping the business (creating a more risk averse attitude) versus seeking another round of investment. I believe it slowed our growth and our ability to pivot quickly online. I learned the importance of investing in future growth opportunities and taking risks in order to scale the business.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
I’m most proud of my writer training program at College Magazine that has helped hundreds of college students nationwide. It brings me so much joy to help my graduates achieve their dream careers. Many have gone on to NBC, USA Today, Vox, Washingtonian, Us Weekly, National Geographic, and more.
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
My go-to question is “Share a story about a time you demonstrated one of your strengths.” My hiring tip is to show up with intention for an interview. Before an interview, write down how the opportunity aligns with your interests, strengths and values. Be able to make a case for why you are passionate about the role. Then write down the value (your skills, experiences, talents, ideas) you have to offer the organization. That way you’re prepared to speak to why you’re the best fit for them.
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
COVID-19 has unfortunately affected our website traffic and our advertisers who are in the event space. But we’re persisting through the challenges. The silver lining is that #Qualified message feels more needed than ever, when life throws us these curveballs. My virtual event helps young professionals navigate their career journey even in the midst of a pandemic. And every action in the book–even courageous connections– can be done virtually.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
The next chapter for College Magazine and #Qualified is a full career strategy experience (online course, live event, and coaching) that young professionals, universities, parents and students can take advantage of in order to create a more passionate workforce. Imagine if we all did work that we loved. When we feel confident to go after our dreams, we’re more intentional on our daily work, we’re happier, and there’s a ripple effect–we make a greater impact in the world.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
Celebrate the wins. Writing, editing, and launching a book was a massive multi-year project and the moment of getting published, the BIG launch date, it all flies by so fast. It’s important to remember to slow down, share the good news, and celebrate–even if it means virtual launch parties, emails to family and friends, and Zoom toasts. Looking back over the past year, struggling with the day-to-day sludge of the pandemic, it’s these moments of celebration that bring me so much joy.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
I wish I knew that all those moments of doubt and fear were a distraction. If you keep consistently showing up with passion and intention, working toward your goals, then you will succeed.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
Zoom gatherings with my girlfriends from college have kept me grounded this year. The laughs remind me that everything’s going to be ok. We’re all in this together.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
100 percent. I initially worked 24/7 when I first launched my business, and that resulted in wrist pain from being on the computer all the time. Your body will reject work unless you achieve a balance. I’ve learned to stick to a stop time. In other words, work stops at 5:30, no excuses. And it helps to schedule an activity right after so you have to step away from your computer. For me it’s a pilates class or a plan to ride my bike at 5:30.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
I entered into an air guitar competition, live on stage at The Casbah in San Diego. I even made it to the second round!
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
1. Each day I kick off with a 10-15 minute modified morning routine, something small that starts my day off in a positive way–either writing, reading or meditating.
2. I handwrite a 4-6 bulleted list of what I’d like to work on, but then I begin with the activity that speaks to me. For example, if I’m excited to design a landing page, I’ll start working on that. Or if I am eager to get back to someone, I’ll focus on email and outreach for an hour. The key is to dive into one type of task at a time in order to achieve a deep work flow. But let’s say I’m not feeling creative, there’s no point in working on content strategy even if it’s on my list, because the result will be uninspired.
3. I take breaks for smoothies, coffee, and a walk with my dog Frankie. By making these intentional practices in my daily work, I progress and advance in achieving my goals every day. That’s the real tip, stay consistent. In my experience, achieving success–those big defining moments like a book launch, a TEDx talk, a big partnership deal–stems from gradual growth over time.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
Being an Entreprenista means helping other women realize that they are qualified to go after their dreams. I like to support other women on their career journey and help them succeed, especially fellow entrepreneurs. We’re in need of more Entreprenistas. When more women launch businesses, we’re able to solve more challenges specific to women and further lift up one another.