An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
Don’t be afraid to ask others for help. One of the smartest things I did was hire an assistant! I was starting to get burnt our trying to manage the day to day of the business all myself.
As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jessi Clayton.
Jessi Clayton is the co- founder and co- owner of Professional Performance Prep. Jessi began her career as an actor and musical theatre performer for several years before falling in love with coaching and mentoring young, aspiring performers. Jessi and her business partner and Prep co-owner, Theresa Pittius, recognized that performing arts studios for professional actors and singers was almost non existent in central New Jersey and students would have to travel all the way to NYC for professional training and services. Jessi and Theresa capitalized on the opportunity and have been thriving in New Jersey with almost 1000 students all over the country and even a handful internationally.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
Growing up, my absolute favorite thing in the world was singing. I grew up on a farm in an incredibly small town in North Carolina where performing opportunities were minimal, but I did enjoy yearly recitals with my voice studio as well as singing weekly with my church choir. I knew music was my passion and calling so when it was time for college, I earned a Bachelor’s in music with a focus in voice at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. I graduated with honors in 2010 and moved to NYC right after to continue my education in musical theatre at the New York Film Academy.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“When I thought about why I was sometimes reluctant to push myself, I realized it was because I was afraid of failure — but in order to have more success, I needed to be willing to accept more failure.” — Gretchen Rubin
I believe as a business owner and mentor one of the greatest things you can pursue is education and willingness to learn from others. You’re only going to be as successful as what you are willing to change so humble yourself enough to fail and dream even bigger.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
One of my favorite books is Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin. I learned a lot about myself in that book and how to sustainably build habits based on personal tendencies. This has been a game changer! Highly recommend. I’m constantly looking for ways to better myself as a business owner, mentor, and wife and absolutely believe Better Than Before had a significant impact as I was able to learn so much about myself. Things I had never even realized!
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. Can you share a few ideas from your experience about how to overcome this challenge?
In my experience through co- founding Professional Performance Prep, if the idea and need are there, a business will follow after execution. We saw a real need in Monmouth County, NJ for a performing arts studio that services aspiring, professional performers. We were surprised to learn there were not any performing arts studios in the area created to help young professionals navigate this insanely difficult industry. Our passion to mentor young performers was the driving force behind founding The Prep. We worked really hard and were able to get a studio running very quickly!
I believe one of the biggest challenges for new entrepreneurs is fulfilling dreams while being scared. Having a new idea is exciting but also terrifying! If it’s your passion, push past the fear of failure and see what happens! I think the moment we feel fear over something close to us, is when the doubt creeps in which extinguishes our passion.
Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?
Don’t be afraid to ask others for their opinion. Meet with other professionals you trust and see what they think. Maybe your idea isn’t brand new, but a better way or different spin on something that already exists. Ask other people! Gather information and data.
For the benefit of our readers, can you outline the steps one has to go through, from when they think of the idea, until it finally lands in a customer’s hands? In particular, we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer to distribute it.
The Prep’s journey was a bit different than filing a patent and finding a manufacturer, but once we realized the need for a professional performing arts studio in NJ, we first began marketing to the local community who would typically travel to NYC for training and audition prep. We hosted several open houses in the beginning and teamed up with other small businesses to get our name out there. For example, we hosted a talent show at a local beach club and gave their kid members mini lessons to get them ready. We made sure all of our students felt like a part of the Prep family and did camps, cabarets, and even a few family outings!
We quickly began to expand not only in the local community, but across the country using Facetime. Online sessions really are quite effective and have been important for The Prep in growing the number of students we can impact. It has been a joy seeing students from across the country continue to thrive in their craft when several of them we have not even met in person!
We have grown to almost 1000 students with a staff of 28 instructors all over the country in just three years!
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started Leading My Company” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Being your own boss is not as easy as it seems. Sometimes it’s almost harder to set my own hours as I have to remain super motivated a disciplined to get tasks done on time.
- Even after you have established your business and product, never stop learning. This was a HUGE lesson I have learned along the way being a mentor and business owner. Just because you start to become successful doesn’t mean you know everything there is to know about your industry.
- Don’t be afraid to ask others for help. One of the smartest things I did was hire an assistant! I was starting to get burnt our trying to manage the day to day of the business all myself.
- Don’t underestimate the power of a morning routine. Setting yourself up for success by starting your day on your terms is invaluable. Setting aside that small chunk of time for myself before answering to other people has been crucial in productivity.
- Safe guard your time more than ever. As a business owner, you’re always needed, but creating a work/life balance is a necessity. Being busy and working hard doesn’t mean no time for yourself and family.
Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?
I would say research research research as your very first step. Talk to other professionals in addition to friends and family and gather opinions and data. Look into similar businesses and see how they did it. Next create a plan. Planning is everything. You won’t have success by just hoping everything magically comes together. Envision, plan, and will it into existence.
There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?
I believe it depends on the business and how advanced the plans are. I believe hiring a development consultant can be a valuable move once the proper groundwork is laid. Having a consultant can provide incredibly useful insight, but also add cost to a new business which can be more harmful than helpful if you aren’t ready with a plan.
What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?
I personally believe in remaining debt free with a solid business plan before expanding or investing. When we started The Prep, we bootstrapped as we had no investors and little capital. We have been able to remain a debt free business through bootstrapping first and expanding second. I recommend bootstrapping as a new business, but also know when to ask for help. Burning out in the beginning won’t be useful for you or your new company.
Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
Like I mentioned earlier, the entertainment industry is an insanely difficult one to navigate especially for kids and families just starting out. I grew up in a small, country town in North Carolina where performing arts mentors were non — existent. I wish I had what my students have. A mentor and guide through the whole process. I feel as a mentor to children, I have been able to impact so many kids over the years as they have grown and progressed through the industry.
You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
My passion is helping children of all different backgrounds achieve their dreams. If I were to start a movement, it would be to set up a mentorship program for lower income families and underprivileged communities. Talent and passion exist everywhere and I would love to see the performing arts be more accessible to families with financial needs.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Amy Landino is one of my business heroes. I have learned so much from her YouTube channel and books about organization, running a small business, starting your day on your terms, and so much more. She has realty inspired me personally as well as business owners everywhere. I think it would be incredible to meet her and thank her personally.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.
Making Something From Nothing: Jessi Clayton Of The Prep On How To Go From Idea To Launch was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.