Before anything else, preparation is the key to success. This applies to all facets of life, and is particularly important as you navigate the stresses and anxiety associated with the transition from high school, to college, or to the real world.

Built out of her frustration with current college test prep providers, and armed with expert knowledge of the industry and hundreds of stories of success, IVY Member Nicole Porcaro founded No Anxiety Prep — a dynamic, experienced, and caring one-stop shop for college, graduate school, and occupational needs.

IVY Magazine caught up with Nicole to hear about her journey from working as a broadcast journalist and part-time tutor to becoming the founder, entrepreneur, and test-prep rock star she is today.

No Anxiety Prep's Nicole Porcaro

No Anxiety Prep’s Nicole Porcaro (right)

How did you start No Anxiety Prep?

NP: Out of college, I was a broadcast journalist working part-time at a big test-prep company. I rose through the ranks and realized that while I had learned a lot and improved my skill set, clients had started calling specifically for me and telling me that the big-box formula wasn’t working for their children. I wanted to create a company that specialized in the personalization aspect of education, whether it be in test prep, academics, or college apps. In 2012, I went off on my own and haven’t looked back. In April, we will celebrate five years as a successful company and pillar in the DC-area.

“I wanted to create a company that specialized in the personalization aspect of education, whether it be in test prep, academics, or college apps.”

What does No Anxiety Prep specialize in?

NP: Test preparation (SAT, ACT, GRE, all standardized tests for high school, college, and grad school), academic tutoring in all subjects, college and graduate school apps, resumes, and scholarship portfolios.

We work with students in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia area, as well as across the country and around the world via FaceTime and Skype. We’ve worked with students as far away as Florida, Texas, Italy, and Turkey! Technology has really allowed us to specialize in helping students across the world.

“Technology has really allowed us to specialize in helping students across the world.”

What differentiates No Anxiety Prep from big box companies?

NP: We pride ourselves on what we call PREP: Preparedness, Reliability, Enthusiasm, and Positivity. We offer more options and fewer restrictions to suit client needs. For instance, we don’t have set packages — we want to assist people in putting together programs that work for them, whether that’s two sessions or as many as a hundred! We also make sure to keep up-to-date on all aspects of the industry, whereas many big box companies focus solely on test prep. We are a one-stop shop for anything in the educational process: tutoring, testing, applications, and job searching. Personalization is the key to reducing anxiety, for both our students and their parents!

“Personalization is the key to reducing anxiety, for both our students and their parents!”

Are the services No Anxiety Prep provides exclusively for students? If not, who can benefit from the services?

NP: While most of our clients are indeed students (high school, college, or graduate), we also work with job seekers to perfect resumes and LinkedIn profiles. It’s always great to freshen up a resume in a changing job market, and we find that most people have good skeletons, but are missing specific details or keywords to attract employers. We also offer interview coaching, since once your foot is in the door with a solid resume, it’s imperative to take that next step and impress your potential employer in person. I have a background in broadcast journalism, and use the skills I learned in journalism school and on-camera to help people perfect their public speaking and interview skills (without the 4 am wakeup call and 100 pound camera bag!).

What does No Anxiety Prep offer to its students that they have difficulty gaining from their school?

NP: We work with so many amazing schools: I want to say that first and foremost. Many guidance counselors and resource teachers we partner with are so valuable to both their students and us. We are in constant contact with many students’ teachers or counselors. We are big on the collaborative, rather than competitive, aspect in this process. However some schools do not have the resources available to provide the attention and care each and every student needs. That’s where we come in; we offer specialized time with each student, personalizing their experience. At the end of the day, we have the same goal and want to see everyone of our students succeed!

“We are big on the collaborative, rather than competitive, aspect in this process.”

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced when starting No Anxiety Prep?

NP: I hadn’t always planned on starting a business. A friend had suggested the idea and I was vehemently against it. I didn’t know the first thing about how to register a business, pay taxes, or hire people.

But slowly, I started to see the benefits of becoming a #girlboss, I started researching and seeking out as much help as I could. I’m the first in my family to graduate from college, both undergraduate and graduate, and did the entire college application process myself. That independence and drive combined with business counseling from my father (who worked in the car industry for 40 years), the SCORE! Organization, and countless friends helped me get off the ground. I bootstrapped the business with my experience and $4,500 I had saved up. Last year, we surpassed $1 million in revenue.

What are your best general leadership tips for all IVY Members out there?

NP: Respect whom you’re leading: people can tell an attitude of condescension, unpreparedness, or disinterest. All three are immediate signs of disrespect. If you respect your employees/coworkers/followers, they will learn the basic tenet: Give Respect, Get Respect.

Learn to say no…but only sometimes. Growing a business (or succeeding in a career) sometimes means you have to grit your teeth and say yes to ridiculous requests. It also means that you need to learn to set boundaries you are comfortable with. Sometimes, no amount of money is worth compromising your personal principles or mental health.

Be a little irreverent! This one has sometimes been a little controversial, but especially in my business working with teenagers, being a little edgy and approachable has helped me. Know your industry, obviously, but sometimes being a bit more casual and getting on the level of my teenager students has helped a lot. I’m not advocating going up to your boss and doing a George Carlin skit, but sometimes, letting a client or coworker know you’re on their level can work wonders to opening up trust and rapport, which is really essential in most business, but especially in a tutor-student relationship.

What can the IVY community do to support you?

The IVY community has been wonderful! As a member, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with IVY community organizers, and have felt supported with their welcoming attitudes and variety of events. I’d love to learn from more experienced entrepreneurial professionals as I still have a lot to learn! Check out our site www.noanxietyprep.com/ and contact me if you or you know someone who may be interested in our services!

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