On October 24th 2018, we hosted a Meet & Eat at which Chuck Cohn (Finance and Entrepreneurship ’08) shared all about his experience of starting his company, Varsity Tutors, whilst pursuing his undergraduate degree at Washington University.
Chuck Cohn is the founder and CEO of Varsity Tutors a live learning platform that connects learners with over 40,000 experts in more than 1,000 subjects across 65 U.S. cities. Since its conception, Varsity Tutors has raised over $107M in venture capital funding and has provided more than 3 million hours of live instruction. Though headquartered here in St. Louis, they also have offices in Seattle, WA, Tempe, AZ, and Victoria, BC.
Starting Varsity Tutors was not a straight and narrow path. It began as a self-funded project during his junior year at WashU. Cohn continued it as a side hustle as he worked two very demanding, 100-hours-per-week finance jobs at Wachovia and Ascension Ventures. Though he would get home around midnight from his daytime job, he would focus a couple hours every night on growing Varsity Tutors before going to sleep.
Cohn’s biggest advice was to believe in your business if you want to succeed. He admits he had a fear of the unknown that he allowed to psych himself out. “I had this theory that we were this little inferior St. Louis startup, and we were successful in the Midwest but would look like a little kid’s tutoring service in places like New York.” It is when he began to fully dedicate himself to his business and believe in its strength that things began to flourish.
Cohn also emphasized the importance of loving what you do, saying, “If you aren’t passionate about your project, don’t do it… I wake up dreaming about this business, so it isn’t work.” Now, Varsity Tutors is hugely successful, even growing to operate internationally.
One student attendee, Aidan Kelley a Computer Science Major who will be graduating in 2022 commented that, “It was interesting to see a person with such experience give such thoughtful responses to our questions.”