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4 Questions for Andrew Cogen of Stepping Stone Tutors

May 24, 2012

Q1. How did you get into your line of work?  Rightrail_AndrewCogen
My dad was a small business owner and even though I left for college with the mind set that I would return to my hometown of Albuquerque, NM to teach high school history, I believe it was always in my blood to follow in my dad’s footsteps and become a small business owner too.  I always loved how my dad was in charge of his own schedule and didn’t have to answer to anyone other than himself.

After I graduated from the University of Colorado, Boulder with a B.A. in European History, I worked a series of odd jobs that taught me new skillsets but weren’t very fulfilling. During the time I was learning new skills from my odd jobs, my wife presented me with an idea to start a new business called Stepping Stone Tutors. She was working as a tutor herself, but found it difficult to find customers and never felt too comfortable bringing up the subject of payment especially when people were past due. A few days later, I had a basic six page website and was setting up interviews with tutors at a local coffee shop in San Diego. I ran the company solo for about five years from our one bedroom apartment in Pacific Beach.

Q2. What have you learned through the school of hard knocks?
Try everything once, but don’t make the same mistake twice. When you are just starting your business there are people out there that want to “make your life easier” and spend your hard earned money towards that goal, whether or not it is in your best interest. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is, especially when it comes to advertising. I threw a lot of cash into small print publications in the early years (high school newspapers for example) and rarely, if ever, saw a return on my investment. Online advertising (for most things) is the way to go.

Q3. What keeps you up at night?
Everything! Will I have a good month or a bad month? Will that really good customer we have had for four years finally decide to move on? And if so we need to find another customer like him/her as a replacement? After sending out a bunch of invoices to our customers, will people be happy with us or not so much?  Social media — we better get move on.

Q4. How has helped your business grow?
We used to spend a lot of time dealing with payroll issues, especially mysterious missing checks in the mail. Many of the people that work for us move a lot and they don’t always let their employers know, so now with, vendors can easily update this information on their own or I can do myself in about 30 seconds. Better yet, if I update a vendor in QuickBooks, it automatically updates in the next time I perform sync.

In the old days, I used to manually write out checks, sign them, stick them in an envelope, address them, put a stamp on, and then drive to the post office. has made all of this a thing of the past. Once I run the payroll I can set it and forget it. If someone has an issue, I just log into my account and can take a screen shot of the payment (when they should receive it and how much to expect) and email it to my vendor. The ACH transfers are great and if vendors don’t want to set that up, will send them a paper check.

 If a check gets “lost” now, I don’t need to call the bank, track down the check, put a stop/hold on it for $35 then go through the whole process of issuing a new check all over again. I swear my mailman had it out for me when I was getting Stepping Stone Tutors up and running, but I’ll never really know…

Join Stepping Stone Tutors on Facebook and Twitter.

Note: 4 Questions is a regular feature on the blog where we ask the same 4 questions of a different customer. Given the tremendous passion and can-do attitude of small and mid-sized businesses, we believe these same 4 Questions will result not in repeat answers, but in interesting insight into many different journeys. Want to be profiled? Tweet @billcom or email us and let us know!


  1. “Try everything once, but don’t make the same mistake twice.” And yes, social media is the way to go on advertising. ROI can be unbelievable in this kind of platform.

  2. Smiling Dave permalink

    Interesting article. These are really good tips, especially about ROI on advertising and Quickbooks / Good read, thanks.

  3. Wow! Nice Blog! Keep it up!
    Dentist Albuquerque NM

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