Interview with Learnpower Client - Tessa Alexander
Tessa is the founder and owner of Elise Esthetics Institute and Spa. Tessa founded the school in 2011 and without ever taking an online class became the first school in the state of Florida to be approved for an online Esthetics program.
Tell us about yourself, and how you started the journey towards opening your school.
I am an esthetician by trade. I took the “typical” four-year route in college. Even then, I always knew I wanted to start my own business, I just didn’t know what kind. After working for a few years, I didn’t feel a sense of fulfillment.. I realized that I had a knack and interest in make-up, and the industry as a whole. I decided to go back to school to study to be an esthetician. I fell in love with make-up and skincare, and realized that there were so many opportunities. I realized through this process that I had a creative side! This feeling fostered a desire to learn as much as I could about the industry. I free lanced with MAC and Maybelline. I started to dive into product knowledge and ingredients; the whole cosmetic chemistry aspect. I went from being on the retail side of it, to being on the education side. I decided to teach people how to become estheticians. I loved to teach, it gave me such a sense of fulfillment. Soon after, I became the director of education. It was a lot of pressure, but I feel that I needed to learn the ins and outs of the business to prepare me for school ownership. I wanted to incorporate entrepreneur endeavors with education, and what better way to do that, than to start my own school. And that’s what I did! The key component for me was that I wasn’t feeling a sense of purpose. And everything that I was going through was pointing me in the direction of school ownership. I felt like I had the ability to be a good leader, and wanted to be accountable for myself. I started to think about what attributes I wanted my school to have, and I began the process of becoming an owner of my own school.
What was the biggest obstacle you encountered during the process of starting your school?
By far the biggest obstacle for me was knowing how to get a school approved. It is a very arduous task. I knew how to do all of the curriculum writing, that part was easy. Knowing how to build my school according to what the State Education Department requires was difficult. There is a lot of preparation involved in the process. There are deadlines that have to be met, and in order for it to work, I had to be sensitive to those deadlines. It required having a lot of flexibility, and being on point with my time management.
How did you come to the decision to go online with your school?
As school owners and entrepreneurs, we need to think outside the box for what people want, and how to solve a problem before we encounter it. For most schools that problem is attrition or retention and we wanted to find a way to address this from the beginning. Having our courses online gives students the flexibility they need to be able to stay school and complete the course.
How did your students receive it?
Initially we had a lot of “traditional” students, and a few of them were used to having an actual lecture in a classroom. At first it was a challenge, because we had many students who were missing that individual attention. It was a whole new mindset but I really tried to listen to my students concerns that were being voiced, and did my best to help them transition which made a big difference. I really had so much support and it was the right move for us and our students.
Where do you see online education in the future for career schools?
I feel that there will always be a percentage of schools offering traditional classroom education. I feel the direction that most larger schools will be going is a type of hybrid environment. Even if it is not all online, it will be a combination of the two. We are seeing this in elementary schools already, and as these students progress in their education, they will become acclimated to online education, and it will almost be second nature to them.
What advice would you give someone looking to start a school today?
I would say to them don’t be afraid of change. Mix the old with the new, because a lot is changing. What was amazing for me, is that I have never taken an online class. My first experience was with my own school. It was a risk, but I find that my students are very smart, and they have adjusted to this new way of learning.