Constance Borro is a veteran educator and educational support services, provider. She earned a B.A. from Yale University in 2008 and her Masters in the Science of Education in Secondary Mathematics from City University of New York, Lehman College in 2010. Constance began her full-time teaching career in New York City as a Teach for America Corps Member and then served for five years as a Master Teaching Fellow with the prestigious professional organization Math for America. She most recently served as Mathematics Department Chair and Instructional Coach at Columbus School for Girls, her alma mater, before leaving her school-based work to build out her educational services businesses.
Constance founded Ivy Tutor Connection, LLC., in 2015, a successful tutoring and educational support services company that specializes in serving students with unique academic profiles through a holistic whole-child approach. In this role, she consults with school-based interventionists to help craft IEP goals and articulate accommodations and modifications to support the students her tutors work within Columbus, OH but also as far as Princeton, NJ.
She currently works as a co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Mastery Portfolio, LLC, Mastery Portfolio, and EdTech and Educational Consulting company on a mission to inspire creativity and innovation by reimagining the assessment and feedback loop. Constance has presented on innovations in grading and assessment and other workshops at the National Coalition for Girls Schools, The Summit for Transformational Learning, and Math for America.
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Table of Contents
Thank you for joining us today. Please introduce yourself to our readers. They want to know you, some of the background story to bring some context to your interview.
Constance Borro: I am a veteran educator, instructional leader, and intervention specialist turned entrepreneur. I lead a team of former educators who are looking to make systems-level changes to the way we do grading and assessment in schools in order to elevate students’ experience to better match what the future workforce of the 21st-century demands. We are on a mission to inspire creativity, autonomy, and innovation by reimagining the feedback and assessment loop in schools and beyond. We’ve done this work on the ground in schools in four states and are expanding our team and offerings actively right now as we scale. We also build software solutions for generating new, empowering report cards, online grade books, and other strategic data modules.
You are a successful entrepreneur, so we’d like your viewpoint, do you believe entrepreneurs are born or made? Explain.
Constance Borro: Entrepreneurs invent themselves. Oftentimes over and over again. As a classroom teacher, I can say firsthand that 99% of characteristics in any human being developed over time, and so can be redeveloped. I can also say that many entrepreneurs don’t go into their career thinking they will build a company or work for themselves- we find ourselves there when we realize there’s a better way or a competitive advantage that we are uniquely poised to deliver. Sometimes our market begs us to start a company (my first company, Ivy Tutor Connection, was born that way), and other times we anticipate a need and find the market validates it (my second company, Mastery Portfolio).
If you were asked to describe yourself as an entrepreneur in a few words, what would you say?
Constance Borro: As soon as one of the many hats I wear starts to really get broken in and fit well, it’s time for me to hire someone else to wear that hat and for me to don a new one. Being a CEO especially is an ever-evolving job description as the demands on my company and my company’s stage change. It’s great for me, as I tend to need new challenges to stay engaged, but it is just that- a huge, never-ending challenge!
Tell us about what your company does and how did it change over the years?
Constance Borro: Our company works with schools and teacher teams to update their grading practices to ensure that student learning, progress, motivation, and dignity are intact. If you’ve ever received a grade that felt unfair, you know what I’m talking about. This is complex work that intersects with a school’s bottom line- achievement measures- as well as policy, practice, emotions, and teacher independence. We design custom workshops and software solutions for bringing innovative, skill-based feedback and grading practices to life.
Thank you for all that. Now for the main focus of this interview. With close to 11.000 new businesses registered daily in the US, what must an entrepreneur assume when starting a business?
Constance Borro: Don’t assume anything. Validate everything. Assume your assumptions will be incorrect, and find ways to validate your assumptions with real users in the real market. Simulations or ‘free’ users or your friends won’t be enough.
Did you make any wrong assumptions before starting a business that you ended up paying dearly for?
Constance Borro: I wouldn’t say we paid dearly because we’ve always lived lean like a start-up, but I would say that not checking references, which is easy to do when you hire a friend or associate, is an easy mistake you can avoid when hiring, and that building in practices to validate your features and assumptions will help you avoid costly development that your market may not actually care for at the end of the day.
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what advice would you give yourself and why? Explain.
Constance Borro: I would advise myself to realize that there are lots of different ways to skin a cat- I wish I have done more research on various marketing philosophies, shopped around for legal counsel, and otherwise done my research. My thinking was that there are experts out there that handle these areas for me- why do I need to be well-versed in them? But in the end, I’ve realized that I’m responsible at the end of the day and so I need to be as informed as possible, even if it takes time to learn the tools of the trade. (At this point, I could be in marketing or a lawyer in my next life- that’s how much I’ve learned! Wish I’d known it all two years ago.)
What is the worst advice you received regarding running a business and what lesson would you like others to learn from your experience?
Constance Borro: I wouldn’t say I received bad advice, but I did get the impression that if the advice came from the right person, I should take it unquestioningly. That is false. Always question advice and get a second opinion. You may end up taking the advice, but at least do your due diligence first. Just because a fancy VC says it doesn’t mean it’s the best thing for your company.
In your opinion, how has COVID-19 changed what entrepreneurs should assume before starting a business? What hasn’t changed?
Constance Borro: I will tell you that people with skills and expertise want flexibility. Consider being a remote company, or getting rid of the 40-hour workweek and just letting people who when and as much as they want until the job is done. In this way, you will be able to call upon them in an emergency to work a longer week or weekend because they know you will respect their autonomy during the typical weeks. (However, make sure that you screen for the ability to function well with a high level of autonomy as part of your hiring process. Some people need the structure and to ‘report’ to work to be successful.)
What is a common myth about entrepreneurship that aspiring entrepreneurs and would-be business owners believe in? What advice would you give them?
Constance Borro: Read Michael Gerber’s The E-Myth, as it will clue you into your own myths. Read it before you start a business. Gerber’s claim is that just because you like a field and are good at it doesn’t mean you should start a business for it. Running a business often means you can’t do the actual work you love because you are busy building the enterprise that hires the people to do the work you love. This is a profound distinction.
What traits, qualities, and assumptions do you believe are most important to have before starting a business?
Constance Borro: Be comfortable being uncomfortable. If you are doing a good job, you will constantly be growing and pushing yourself and you will almost never be comfortable.
How can aspiring leaders prepare themselves for the future challenges of entrepreneurship? Are there any books, websites, or even movies to learn from?
Constance Borro: Gerber’s ‘The E-Myth’, Collins’ ‘Built to Last’, and Lencioni’s ‘The Advantage’.
You have shared quite a bit of your wisdom and our readers thank you for your generosity but would also love to know: If you could choose any job other than being an entrepreneur, what would it be?
Constance Borro: Ha! I chose this for myself, didn’t I? I would love to be a doula and/or a midwife. I find pregnancy, childbirth, labor, delivery, and nursing to be fascinating and inspirational. Our society is also riddled with misinformation about these topics, and many families lack accessible education and advocacy for safe ad healthy pregnancies and births. Finally, family leave (or lack thereof) is a real issue that we need to address in order to encourage positive attachment and heal many of the wounds in our society.
Thank you so much for your time, I believe I speak for all of our readers when I say that this has been incredibly insightful. We do have one more question: If you could add anyone to Mount Rushmore, but not a politician, who would it be; why?
Constance Borro: I wouldn’t add anyone- I give it back to its native peoples.
Larry Yatch, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Constance Borro for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Constance Borro or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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