TRUE LIFE - ALISA'S INTEGRATED HUSTLE

Alisa Geller, 39, Founder and Bar Exam Tutor at The High Bar

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Alisa Geller is a bar exam tutor and attorney, who two years ago left her work as a litigation associate and founded her company, The High Bar. At The High Bar, Alisa provides her clients with personalized tutoring for the bar exam, drawing on her affinity for teaching, ability to stay calm, cool and collected through one of the most stressful testing experiences around and the practical skills she honed while grading countless practice essays for a leading bar review company. 

Alisa aligns her success with that of her students, and she is is committed to providing comprehensive support to help them not only build their substantive skills and knowledge but manage their stress so that they sit for the bar exam with confidence. She has tutored 134 students (and counting!) through the daunting process of preparing for the bar exam, and her students enjoy a 93% passing rate.

Getting Started

  • What is your primary source of income and what other revenue streams do you have? Tutoring for the bar exam was once only an informal side hustle, but now my business The High Bar, which focuses on just that, is my sole source of income.

  • What preparations, if any, did you take before you launched your first passion project/business/entrepreneurial pursuit(s)? (i.e., Trainings, Fundraising, Research, etc.) When I decided to pursue a career in law, my primary objective was to help others in a positive manner through my work. I was able to achieve this in a unique way by blending my aptitude for teaching with my knowledge of the law. While working as an Associate and then as a Litigation Project Manager, I started pursuing this combination slowly. I was grading practice essays, and tutoring for the bar exam on nights, weekends, and free moments where time permitted. Eventually, I found myself fittingly working at a national bar prep company where I was grading essays, drafting curriculum and writing model answers, thinking about best teaching practices and pedagogy, and of course, tutoring. This experience and perspective made launching The High Bar a natural next step. 

While my law school education and practice did give me some business know how, I realized that as an entrepreneur it would be wise to find guidance through a mentor. Through my local SCORE chapter in NYC, which is an organization that provides free business advice to small business owners, I recently connected with an amazing mentor who helps me vet ideas and provides methodical and strategic guidance on taking my business to the next level.    

Generating Revenue

  • Has it become a business that generates steady revenue? Thanks to a strong referral network my business generates revenue. However, since the exam is only offered twice a year, my work and income stream ebbs and flows. I manage this by hustling and saving during my “busy seasons.” My “down time” is then spent growing my business. In year one, I launched a brand-new website and social media campaign. Now in year two, I am using this time to make professional connections and am creating a new bar-related product which, with lots of hard work and dedication will launch in 2019!

  • How long did it take you make your first $1,000.00? Timing my launch strategically before the February bar exam, I was able to make my first $1,000 within the first month.

  • What was the biggest surprise about what it takes to generate revenue? As I mentioned, I am fortunate to have a strong referral network so finding my clients or students has been surprisingly easy. However, as I have generated more revenue through increased demand, my expenses have also increased. Instead of meeting students at a library, at their law office, or online, I now have an office space. This has allowed me to see more one-on-one students and expand to have group offerings like a group practical and boot camp.  This has been my biggest and most unexpected surprise.

Work, Life, and Spirit Balance

  • Have you achieved your version of work/life balance? If yes - what does that look like? If not - what do you need to do to get there? I am definitely still striving to find the perfect work/life balance. During my "busy seasons," I am hustling and working very hard. For me, I am grateful that I love what I do, so I am energized by being booked with eager students. However, I have a tendency to be a workaholic and let my work become all-consuming. Therefore, I realize that setting healthy boundaries in terms of "work" hours versus "personal" hours is important. I am also learning how to selectively delegate tasks which as an entrepreneur and a solo businesswoman is essential but at times a challenge. 

  • What do you do to reduce stress, take care of your body and clear your mind? Taking time, even one minute a day, to quiet my mind and focus on my breathe through meditation, has been an essential way that I reduce stress and work on my mind / body connection. I love using the guided meditation app called 10% Happier, and credit this to helping me make meditation a consistent practice and daily ritual.   

Additionally, I have always been active and really enjoy exercise, whether it be running, riding a bike, lifting weights or yoga. Not only do I feel strong, but exercise also allows me to clear my mind. Those extra happiness endorphins, don't hurt either! 

Lastly, I love gardening and try to get outside and connect with nature. Whether I am tending to my garden of NYC houseplants or walking around my neighborhood, I really try to appreciate the outdoors and find this brings me a sense of balance and peace. Oh and when it's summer and time permits, you will find me at the beach or "down the shore."  

Final Wisdom

  • If you could go back in time, what 3 pieces of advice would you give to yourself when you first began? (1) Before formally launching The High Bar, I always thought about having my own business but fear and some normal self-doubt was in my way. Maybe you are familiar with this sort of self-talk?: "what if I fail?" Then after lots of contemplation and conversations with my family, I asked myself "what if I never try?" This is where my first piece of advice comes from: "Believe in Yourself! Jump! The Net will Appear." Once I did that, within two days of launching my business, I had a student and I have not looked back. (2) Next, I would note that hard work and dedication are key. While my business has steadily grown, I have also worked very hard to make this happen. I consider my students' success (passing the bar exam) to be my success. I do everything in my power to help get them there, and I think my passion, ability to work hard, and be dedicated to the cause really empowers my students to do the same. (3) Lastly, I would tell myself, work can be fun! I think many people feel that work is a drag, but it does not have to be this way. Yes, there will be challenges along the way. Perhaps, even different ones than you expect, but turning tutoring from a side hustle to my full-time profession has been not only rewarding but also fun. My only regret is not doing it sooner, but again, I am not looking back! 

To learn more about Alisa and The High Bar, visit her website, www.hitthehighbar.com.

Ami Watkin