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The 20 Coffees Project: Larissa Hildebrandt

For the third installation of the 20 Coffees Project, I caught up with Larissa Hildebrandt, Marketing Strategist at Skooli.

Created by the team behind Teach Away, with tons of experience hiring top teaching talent all over the world, Skooli is designed to be a student-focused learning environment that meets the demands of students in a digital age. Skooli’s platform caters to many learning styles.


EB: Can you describe the path to your current role and a little bit about what you do?

LH: For sure. So my path to my current role is pretty unique because we built this startup out of another company. So we’re all still working at the same office, I have the same desk, but I’ve pretty much transitioned into a similar role with an entirely new company. I’m responsible for most of our digital. I don’t do social, but I do email and automation – landing pages, search marketing, and a lot of other things. Most recently I’ve been working to start up a referral program. I work with our developers on the product side to integrate marketing into some of that work, and aside from that, a lot of hands on work in the community putting out fires whenever needed (we’re super brand new). I started with our parent company doing marketing automation , AdWords, landing pages), email…then we started building Skooli in about August/September and I’m a really big fan of startups so I jumped right on that. I thought “alright, I’m going to get myself involved with this”. I started by focussing on the signup process, trying to cut it down and make it more user friendly, and then of course the initial marketing plan is something I was really involved with. It was an exciting thing to be a part of; being able to transition into something brand new and help build it was really exciting for me.

EB: What kinds of changes do you hope to see within the next 6 months?

LH: We’re super small, so getting lots of user sign ups is absolutely our main priority right now. In 6 months I’d love to be able to tell you that we’ve signed up hundreds of users – of course that’s a main goal. So yes…users!

EB: How do you balance creativity and structure in your role?

LH: This is a funny one for me. I think we are about 90% creativity and 10% structure in our company right now because we’re so small. We’re trying to move quickly, and entering a market where we already have some competitors. So to establish ourselves we need to be generating ideas all the time, and acting on those ideas right away. I’m a huge fan of structure so I’ve had to adapt a lot. What I try to do instead of thinking about the entire marketing plan is focus on a smaller timeline. I narrow my focus to one goal, and then think about what needs to happen to achieve that goal. It’s helpful to have things on paper – not to spend too much time thinking about it, but just to lay it out and go for it!

EB: In that sense, do things tend to feel more iterative? Like “the best plan is the plan you have”?

LH: Pretty much! There’s definitely a lot of adaptation and thinking and reevaluating every day. You can run with one idea, and two days later you need to restrategize and find a better way to approach it. Sometimes you can salvage the initial idea and take just a slightly different approach, other times you have to go with something completely different.

EB: A lot of people that I’ve interviewed so far have mentioned that their natural tendency is toward open ended, more creative environments – but like you, I’d describe myself as much more structured. Somehow we’ve both found our place in the startup world! Is there more that you can share about how you fit in in that sense? As a person who likes structure, what do you feel you can grab on to?

LH: I really need to structure work for myself. Being part of a more fluid team, I can’t always create order for my teammates, but I can really focus on organizing my own parts the way that I need. I can create my own mini plans and get the team on board as much as possible. For the most part I’m structuring things on a small level, but in the grander scheme things are still unstructured. For someone who likes order, the environment definitely pushes you outside of your comfort zone.

EB: What are the three biggest accomplishments that your team has had?

LH: I sort of crowd sourced this one…it doesn’t seem right away like a big accomplishment, but getting our website up! That was a big deal. We thought it was going to take a certain amount of time, but once we got some work out there there were a lot of factors we hadn’t thought of before. For the first time we had feedback on our signup process and input about improvements we could make. So by the time we had it up and running the way we wanted…that was a huge accomplishment. Also, acquiring our first  3000 users! There was a big countdown to that target. I’ve worked for companies that would count down to one million customers, and this had all the same excitement. We were all so passionate about every single new customer. It was really fun. It’s satisfying when you’ve put so much time and energy into something to see it connect to so many people (that aren’t just your friends!).

EB: How do you deal with challenges and failures?

LH: We are pretty encouraged to fail. Not in a bad way, but in a way that let’s us learn and experiment. For me failure is a great opportunity to regroup as a team and evaluate the things that went wrong, and learn more about your market as a result. It’s about taking a calculated risk. If you truly think that something is going to work and you believe in it, it’s worth testing it out. A lot of the time we don’t get the exact results we expect, but then there’s always a new direction you can take.

EB: How do you celebrate success?

LH: Probably the same way as any other startup…shots! Other than that, we do have a bell in the office that we ring so everyone knows that something great is going on. That and high fives. :)

EB: What is your favourite thing that doesn’t bounce?

LH: I was going to say my pet rabbit…but I guess she does bounce! So my second choice would be tacos.

Erin Brown
Customer Education Program Manager @ Unbounce