Founder and CREATE-X Mentor Coaches on Business and Bold Moves

Stephanie Smith is a coach for GT Startup Launch and has mentored students in the program. She graduated from Georgia Tech in 2009 and is the founder of the company Social by Steph, which manages paid social ads for businesses and has been running for almost seven years.


Why did you choose entrepreneurship?

After graduating from Tech, I got an opportunity to work at a tech startup. The company's makeup was a bunch of entrepreneurs. I think I was employee number nine. They knew that this wasn't the end all, be all for any of their careers. It was just something they were doing at that time. In my mind it kind of was instilled in me, early in my career, that entrepreneurship was always an option. I knew at a certain point I wanted to have my own business. I just didn't know when it was going to be or what it was going to be.

I appreciate the flexibility that comes with entrepreneurship so that I can set my schedule. I'm not a super morning person. I may work late night. I take my laptop everywhere with me. It just comes with this level of flexibility that for me is priceless.

And this isn't always the case, but sometimes working at companies, your next step, your promotions can be at the subjectiveness of managers. It feels good to be in charge of your future and decide what's next for you.


What made you want to coach students in CREATE-X?

The last few years I've gotten into teaching people how to do paid social ads, as opposed to just me doing it for them or trying to find a way for people to be able to afford me to do it for them. So, because I work with a lot of entrepreneurs and startups and small business owners, I decided to start teaching. CREATE-X naturally went with what I was doing.

It's cool to see what types of ideas students come up with and why they even came to that idea in the first place. I know when I was in school, it wasn't about starting your own company. It was really about making the GPA so that you can get on with a company like Google. But now, it’s fostering that startup spirit.


What have you noticed about the students you mentor?

I've noticed that the teams that divvy up their tasks make the most progress. It’s eye-opening to me to see how far they can go from the beginning of the summer to the end, just by really being organized and trusting each other and dividing those tasks. I always like to see that.

What has surprised you about your mentees?

I have noticed there's been at least two that I recognized coming back for a second or third time with a new idea. It's like, “OK, my last idea didn't really go the way I wanted it to go, so I'm back again with something different.” It's nice to see that they have that opportunity to try again.


What has been something you've gotten out of coaching these students?

I am transitioning into building technology myself that teaches people how to run ads. So honestly, this has been very mutually beneficial because it's also customer discovery for me. Finding out what's confusing, what you know is the first line of information that they need to know, what seems very cumbersome versus complicated. I have been able to also learn in the process from them.


What advice would you give to someone without coaching experience but interest in it?

Just go for it. Whatever you have the experience in and the knowledge in can help these students because they're pretty much starting from ground zero. If you know you're in the spirit and you want to pay it forward because maybe some people have paid it forward for you and your career, then coaching and mentoring is always the best way to do that.


What advice would you give to students who are interested in entrepreneurship but are unsure?

Put yourself out there. I'm all about dabbling in interests. CREATE-X in general seems perfect for that because you can get the class credit as well as explore an idea that you have and get the guidance along the way to see if this is something that you want to do and put a lot of effort toward. I think it's all about exploration, and the best time to do it is when you're young, without a whole lot of responsibility.


What book, podcast, or resource would you recommend to students interested in entrepreneurship and why?

Start with Why by Simon Sinek. That book is really just about finding the reason or the purpose for what you're doing. Why am I starting this business? What does that mean for me? What does that look like in the future? Not just because you want to make money or because you want to work two hours a day, but really going behind the passion of things.

And then if I had to throw in a bonus book, it's called What Got You Here Won't Get You There, by Marshall Goldsmith. I like that one because it changed my perspective a little bit. There was a mindset change that I had to do because working at different agencies, I knew exactly how to not navigate through my career there. I'm working hard, and I'm putting in the hours. I'm doing all the politics that it takes to navigate an agency world, but then when I decided to shift to entrepreneurship, it wasn't the same. What got me to one level of my career is not going to continue to get me to the next level. It's about being ready for pivots, making necessary changes, educating yourself, and doing what it takes to get to the next level and realizing that everything you've done to be successful doesn't mean it's going to continue. This has worked so far, but now it's time to change it up so that you can continue on.


Receive mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs as a part of your GT Startup Launch experience. Applications for the 12-week summer accelerator are open now. Apply for GT Startup Launch by March 19 and join our rich entrepreneurial network! 

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