By Libby Kane
Before Selena Soo started her own business in the summer of 2012, she was earning $42,000 a year living in New York City and working for a nonprofit.
Tired of the demanding schedule and low pay, she headed to business school in 2010 in order to change tracks.
At first, she dipped her toe into public relations, but found the format wasn’t for her. It didn’t provide the opportunity to do her favorite thing: connect people, genuinely and without an agenda.
“That’s just kind of who I am,” she says. “It’s creating to me, it’s effortless. If I see someone and there’s an opportunity I know would be perfect for them, whether it’s a job or a media opportunity or someone who they should know, it’s very easy for me to just make that introduction.”
In October of 2012, she decided to change course, and explore the idea of becoming a publicity and business coach — a service that she had paid for herself more than 20 times over the last few years, ultimately shelling out $20,000 to learn professional skills like how to create an information product and how to grow her email list.
However, the traditional model — so many dollars for so many hours — didn’t appeal to her. She realized that she needed to create income streams that didn’t depend on her presence, and coaching formats that were more beneficial to both her and her clients. As she points out in her own account of how she built her business, it’s extremely difficult to make meaningful progress in an hour.
Instead, she started offering packages and products, such as a two-month coaching program, including a 2-day workshop and phone calls, for $1,200, and a six-month private coaching program for $800 a month.
Then, she launched a six-month mastermind program — intensive coaching both remotely and in-person — for $9,500, and 10 clients signed up. It has since become a year-long offering for $24,000, in addition to her online courses and products. By the end of 2013, her first year in business, Soo brought in $157,000 in revenue. In 2014, her business, S2 Groupe, earned over $300,000 — and over $100,000 in February 2015 alone.
Selena SooSoo speaks at one of the dinner parties she uses to connect clients with magazine editors, online business industry leaders, and other influencers.
She credits that growth to one thing in particular: the connections she built.
Even before she had settled on coaching, Soo had made a point of helping and connecting with online thought leaders like Adam Grant, Danielle LaPorte, Ramit Sethi, Derek Halpern, and Marie Forleo.
By reaching out and offering to help with everything from promoting their products to analyzing their plans, she built a reputable base that was able to eventually offer help in return.
“I think that rather than waiting for opportunities, we can actually create our own opportunities by being proactive, by identifying who are the people that we really care about and admire,” she says. “It’s not just about the people who can always do the most for you. Who do you feel just drawn to, passionate about, maybe you see a piece of yourself in them and they inspire you? The opportunity to help them is the reward. You don’t need anything in return, but to be a part of their world and support them. When you’re clear about who those people are, then give generously to them.”
Soo also says that her willingness to learn and ask for feedback has been critical to her success. “I’m not afraid to invest in myself. I’m not afraid to sign up for a premium course, to work with top mentors, to invest in a team to support me in my growth,” she says.
Soo estimates her team of six part-time consultants puts a minimum of 50 hours of work into each hour of content for her courses and programs. “I work really hard,” she says. “I’m not living the four-hour workweek. And in fact, I don’t even want to. I really love helping people and really being involved in the things that I’ve created. Whenever I produce a course, there is so much time and energy that goes into it — people wouldn’t even believe — and I don’t release anything unless I think that it’s excellent and the very best it can be.”