“I believe that people who are one way on the inside and believe that they need to be another way outside to please others become conflicted and often lose touch with what they really think and feel. It’s difficult for them to be happy and almost impossible for them to be at their best.” – Ray Dalio
It's a story which could very well be made into a movie. David Kim was a student at Harvard University when he began a tutoring service for students out of his Ivy League dorm room. Fueled by the influence of his major area of study, Economics, David became fascinated by the juxtaposition of the two fields-education and economics.
It was from this fascination that David founded and is the CEO of C2 Education, a company dedicated to bringing the very best in tutoring to students nationwide. With 110 centers, C2 Education assists more than 12,000 students each week. Their areas of specialty include:
- SAT/ACT test preparation
- Customization of curricula to meet the student's specific needs
- Personal attention to each student
- A variety of enrichment services to students of all ages
David, will you please tell us about your history growing up? Did you have any mentors?
Due to my father’s business, I grew up in a Taekwondo studio and was thus surrounded by a myriad of colorful people. While they all hailed from an impressive variety of backgrounds, these individuals were all honest, hardworking, and driven. Several of them became early mentors to me and I can still recall their impact on my life to this day. For instance, there was Richard, a medical student from Harvard, who would take time to talk to me about science and how things worked. Then there was Rudy, a foreman at a prominent steel company, who was a history buff and would discuss military history while also learning self-defense. Bunky was head of a local biker gang but he taught me the importance of attending college by giving me a savings bond strictly to pay for my future education. Finally, there was Carol, a financial analyst, who would take me to the library and read books to me. I feel blessed that at such a young age, I was able to witness this disparate group of people come to our martial arts studio with a common goal: to aspire to be better people. This idea of being “better” went beyond mere physical health or an increase in confidence; it changed the way these people lived. Although they were from different backgrounds and walks of life, they were knit together into a community that cared for each other, supported each other and trusted each other. I saw that there was true goodness in people.
Why did you choose a career in education?
Being in the business of education is the fulfillment of my passion and potential. The most common denominator of all my mentors growing up was the exhibition of curiosity. I believe that if you wish to teach and to learn you must be constantly curious.
Please tell us about your educational journey to where you are today.
Another thing I learned from the people at my parent’s martial arts studio was the importance of education. I was able to notice the difference between those who had gone to school and those who had not…and even those who had not continued their education were adamant about the importance of it. Thus, I worked hard at school and was accepted to Harvard. While there, I focused on Economics, especially the policy and economics of education. I am sure that it was no surprise when I began to tutor fellow students out of my dorm room and then to follow that path after graduation.
What gets you excited about your job and why?
My excitement about my job can best be summed up in the Mission Statement for C2 Education. “At C2, we believe in our students and in their potential for greatness. We take students towards their dreams. C2 helps our students and their families benefit from a better education, now and always.” Here at C2 Education, we have been instrumental in not only increasing SAT/test scores and helping students getting into their preferred college, but we have also helped lead countless students to better fulfill their potential. Plus, the growth of our company leads to creation of jobs and to being able to touch even more lives.
On a scale from 1-10 how hard was it to get where you are now?
9—Success requires a balance of discipline, flexibility and luck which, I believe, I was able to fulfill. As Seneca once stated, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” After reconciling what I believed in along with feedback about my chosen profession, it was then important to gauge the marketplace for receptivity of my idea. New ventures are always fraught with immense risk but at various points in history, the public’s needs and the inventor’s/entrepreneur’s available services coincide. C2 began at just such a moment—college admissions had become increasingly more difficult while the concept of “tutoring” began to lose its stigma of being strictly for remedial help and more for advancement. However, though the process began under auspicious circumstances, it was still an uphill battle and took hard work, dedication to my ultimate goal, and surrounding myself with key individuals to realize my dream.
Please give us your definition of success.
Success is the courage to do the right thing and to set a good example for others.
What personality traits or skills help someone to be effective in your specialty area?
To be effective in my specialty area, I believe that one of the most important things is the need to be disciplined. It is vitally important to have the right habits, stick to the process, and nail the basics if you really wish to succeed. I know that it is not “sexy,” but if the fundamentals are taken care of then the rest will come naturally.
In your opinion, what have been the 4 most exciting breakthroughs in your career/educational field/business within the last 5 years?
- The growth of the company in general—we have over 100 centers with over a thousand employees.
- A few years ago, we brought in an outside partner and this helped increase our growth and our impact in our chosen field.
- New SAT—we were the first company in our field to have New SAT curriculum. We are also excited about the impact the new SAT will have on student learning and college admissions.
- Common Core—again this is a huge change in our field and we look forward to providing the necessary help to our customers.
What one thing would you like to see changed in your field?
Ideally, I would like to see the current obsession of having to measure everything changed. Albert Einstein said it best when he stated that “Many of the things you can count, don’t count. Many of things you can’t count really count.” Basically, some things can’t merely be boiled down to a number.
What do you hope to have accomplished by the end of your career?
I would like to change the way society thinks about competition and the winner-takes-all attitude. I would like to contribute to a more sustainable world.
What advice would you give someone who wanted to follow in your footsteps?
Be disciplined. Be curious. Be courageous.
Thank you David Kim!