How to become the world's #1 LSAT tutor - Ellen Cassidy, Founder & CEO at Elemental Prep

Ellen: As soon as I, you know, got into LSAT land.

I just fell in love with it. It was such a relief. It made me feel like just intellectually awake in a way I had never felt. It was like finally there was a thing that was hard enough that I could never just it. I could never half pay attention. I had to give it everything that I had and it was so perfect and rewarding.

Jennifer: Hey

Everyone. So happy to have with us today.

Ellen Cassidy. She's the CEO and founder of Elemental Prep. They are an online Hogwarts for LSAT. Love that description. Ellen's going to tell us all about it and how we can maybe even read a little better. Um, and she's also the author of loophole. It's an LSAT logical reasoning book. Number one selling guide on Amazon with 0 in marketing spend.

Super, super impressive. Uh, she's also the number one LSAT teacher in the world by revenue y'all. We're so lucky to have her here. How did Ellen get on this journey? So, sounds like she impulsively bought an LSAT prep book after she was at a party and talked to some lawyer who told her some fun, interesting stories, uh, loved prepping for the exam, felt like her brain ramped up to the 70, from 70 percent to 100 percent capacity and just wished she could do the LSAT forever.

Man, you are so, you're so special. I remember studying for the MCAT, Ellen, and I wish I had you back then. Um, so she got into Harvard Law, deferred three times and was helping students through the stress of studying for the exam, founded Elemental Prep to teach folks to read and critically analyze information and formalize her teaching curriculum and boom, found a way to do the LSAT forever.

Not only is she so cool professionally, but she's also got a very fascinating personal story, which we'll invite her to share. She's on a mission. To show everyone that ceilings are imaginary. And then on top of that, she's just such a cool girl. I love her. She lives in Austin. I love hanging out with her.

And so I'm glad for y'all to get to know her today. Welcome Ellen to the show.

Ellen: Thank you. Oh man, I should have you introduce me wherever I go.

Jennifer: I'm here. Just call me. I'm ready. so stoked to get to dive in with you. I know I just gave a bit of an intro, but I always want to give the opportunity for you to tell folks in your own words, who is Ellen?

Ellen: Yeah. Well, I'll, I'll start at, at the beginning. So I think I had a bit of an unlikely trajectory, um, or what folks might think is unlikely, but actually probably isn't as unlikely as one might think. Um, that my upbringing, I grew up in Northeast Philadelphia or originally Western Pennsylvania before. for that.

But then my four years in Northeast Philly and my upbringing was really characterized by like, uh, hard drugs and addiction and things like that in, in my household. Um, that I, I grew up being, you know, a seven year old and an N a meeting like, this is not, not, not great for that kind of kid. And, um, My mom had a, had a heroin addiction that eventually caused her to leave my household when I was 11 and then only show up really very intermittently or chaotically, um, throughout my teenage years.

Um, and then eventually overdosed, um, on heroin when I was in my early twenties. And like, I, I like, you know, bringing these stories up because it does relate to the whole ceilings are imaginary situation. You know, I, I have a half sister who has had, you know, a similar relationship with drugs and who has fallen into criminal situations and things like that.

And it's just, it's very important to me to be a living example that where you come from is not. Where you're going and that you have control of your own destiny. Even when people tell you you don't, um, that you get to make that decision. Um, so yeah, that's a little bit of the background.

Jennifer: that is really inspiring. How were you able to take that agency for yourself, for your own story growing up?

Ellen: I mean, I felt like I didn't really have like a choice. Um, I think when I was very, very little, I was. Like fascinated by academic learning. I think it's cause I probably got a lot of good feedback of like, you're good at this, you know, over and over. And I developed a positive relationship with testing from a very young age, because like when your life is very chaotic and, but you always see 99th percentile, 99th percentile, 99th percentile over and over again, I think it functions as like this kind of comfort.

That it's like, but I'm special. I can do it. And I will always remember when I was in third grade I went up to a librarian with a college book and said which one's the best and the farthest away and She said Stanford and I said, that's where I'm going and She was like, okay little girl Like I really did believe that, uh, like wholeheartedly.

That's like, that's what I'm going to do. And then, you know, I, I got expelled from high school at the end of my junior year of high school for starting a gay prom. Um, and so definitely upset the apple cart in terms of, you know, the, the laser sharp trajectory to Stanford undergrad.

Jennifer: so fascinating because to me that's like shows such original thinking. I'm like, how do we reward you for starting this?

Ellen: See, and when you aren't in the. Northeast Philly echo chamber, or I guess I didn't live in northeast Philadelphia, Philadelphia area echo chamber, then, you know, that becomes obvious. But at the time, everybody I knew it was like, wow, you really screwed up, you know, this is this is very bad. And it was only I had a friend's dad who I didn't even know who was like, oh, this is great for her.

But it was like some rumor. I heard that a dad said this. And

Jennifer: Mm hmm.

Ellen: maybe a glimmer of hope and, you know, still applied and did get in and everything worked out. But I mean, I thought I had really. Really messed it up.

Jennifer: Yeah.

Ellen: So it was, uh, it felt like being, you know, rescued off the brink of defeat.

Jennifer: Yeah. So, but coming back to the time when you were growing up in this environment, I guess, paint a picture for me of maybe, so you felt like you had no choice and you really latched on to because school, cause you were good at school. Were there any other support systems or just systems people you had in place? No. Not at all.

Ellen: I mean, it's not like I was, you know, growing up on, you know, on the sidewalk in a cardboard box or something like, obviously like I, I raised, raised by a single father who, you know, was there for me and. But I would say in terms of like go getter ness and emotional support direction and all that, that was very much internally derived.

Um, that I, I always say that there's, you know, one person who ever found me and was like, I'm going to help her. And that's Dave Kalorian, who is my mentor, who owns a, um, a big LSAT test prep company, um, named PowerScore. And, When I found the LSAT, after I found the LSAT, I, we developed like a friendship and he's now been my mentor for over 10 years.

And that relationship, it means so much to me because it felt like the first time in my life. And I met Dave when I was, you know, in my early 20s or something like that or mid 20s. And when somebody actually was like, no, I'm going to help her. And I'm going to give to her and pour into her. And. It felt like that, like once in a lifetime chance that I felt like I always missed out on of like that, you know, interested older person who's going to like show you the ropes.

And I think finding that with Dave, when I was in my twenties really showed me how much I did not have it in other environments.

Jennifer: Yeah. Which, again, to your point, is so cool of you, your origins don't need to dictate your journey or your destination at all. How, what was it like then when you got to Stanford, the undergrad, the, the transition for you? How was

Ellen: was so funny because like, I

Jennifer: Because it's such an idyllic campus too,

Ellen: Oh,

Jennifer: It looks like paradise.

Ellen: I definitely thought, like, this is me winning the lottery and, like, me, you know, the beginning of my, like, victory lap around life, you know, very silly ideas, but I, I remember when I got there, that was when I was kind of introduced to the concept of imposter syndrome.

first day of orientation, they had, we were all like in some big speech environment and I'm sitting there and somebody was like, and you probably think that you didn't, you know, we made a mistake, you didn't deserve to be here, but we don't make mistakes. Look around. And I'm just there like, speak for yourself.

Like, I deserve to be here and like, it. It was this odd thing because I felt like everyone else was on like a very different page where they were like, Yeah, you know, how do I really deserve it? I was like,

Jennifer: Yeah. You know what

Ellen: cut off my right hand to be here? Like I, I was so like, I have to deserve, I fought for this so hard and, like, there was definitely a bit of a, a cultural divide and I think, like, I, I went to my, my freshman year roommate's house at one point over Thanksgiving and I saw that they had like a racquetball court and I had like never seen a racquetball court.

Jennifer: Oh my gosh, Ellen. I so relate. Let alone in their house.

Ellen: And I was like, what? It was like little things that just let me know that I was, you know,

Jennifer: Yeah.

Ellen: different, not typical. We did a game once called crossing the line and it was me and one girl who had been in foster care. They just kept on crossing the line of having all these experiences happen to us and everyone else not.

And then it was, you know, it's this game where it's supposed to show that everybody's together in the same and, you know, we're a community, but I actually thought it functioned to show the exact opposite, you know, that. Oh, no, Ellen and this other person have very, very different lives than everyone else here.

All right, now go back to your rooms. And I mean, ultimately, I don't think these things, I really let them bother me that much. It was just kind of confirming something I already knew and gave me like probably just a little bit more of a chip on my shoulder to prove myself more and more over and over again.

Jennifer: yeah. I, I saw really in the sunset. So I also, I grew up in Sierra Leone, which is bottom five poorest countries in the world. And I came to the U. S. at 16 for undergrad, but then I went to business school at Stanford. And so this was the most wealth I'd ever been exposed to is when I got there. And I also remember they had a session at the beginning.

Oh, darn it. I'm like forgetting, but something along the same lines of, oh yeah, um, like we are also, you are also privileged and, and for me, this line, I'd never heard this line before in my life that I was like, well, I, I'm, I'm not, like, I really don't come from much. Yes, I am now. It took a lot of internalization.

Yes, I am now very privileged to be here. This is such a great opportunity. And, um, like giving back, like, like they, it's kind of a shit show, like who gets in and who doesn't, things like that. And that was a privilege. Um, but that was for me also kind of like a shock to hear that. Cause I hadn't really associated myself with privilege much before.

Um, a lot of luck in life, but yeah. Uh, and then truly, I think it took me years to. Become more comfortable and accustomed to the level of wealth and opportunity, which I think a lot of, you know, I, I really. Find a ton of appreciation in my background. Right? Like not coming from a lot of opportunity has built so much resilience and strength and perseverance in me that I wouldn't trade for anything.

Um, and then now having access to opportunities, I think. Um, and so, but it took, it definitely took me a moment to recalibrate, uh, this new way of being. Um, and then, and then on top of that, Stanford campus is just so gorgeous too. It was like, Whoa, it's like, what dream am I waking up in every morning?

What's happening here? Uh, but it was, uh, it was a beautiful time for me

Ellen: Yeah. It's like you're living in a postcard. But like, I, it's actually funny. I don't think I've ever really had a conversation with someone about this. Where all of a sudden, you're being told this word privilege that you don't really understand fully how it applies to you. And, of course, I'm not saying I'm not privileged and that I wasn't even privileged at the time.

There were a lot of people who were in a lot worse situations than I was. But, It when when you first enter that, like, hyper privileged environment, I feel like you don't really understand. And you're like, oh, gosh, is there something I'm missing? Like, what, who got the memo? Like, oh, and in a way, it's this, like, reinforcing of how different you are, because you don't understand.

Jennifer: Exactly. I so relate, like, because I feel like there are folks who came in knowing and had some sort of agenda, and I was just, I had no idea. I feel like I learned after graduation. I was like, oh, this was the agenda. I see.

Ellen: Oh wait, and I think definitely now I am, of course, much more mindful and aware and am much more privileged now than I was then. Um, but I, like I said, I felt like I just, you know, won the lottery, cheated fate. Like I get to be here and like, I'm with all these people who are, you know, best and smartest and most accomplished and all of this stuff.

And it's like that sense of feeling like I got to belong, like. It was like I was so high on that feeling that I got to be there. I got to be a part of this group of people that it was like I couldn't, I couldn't let myself fathom that I really didn't belong because it would have broken me.

Jennifer: Yeah.

Ellen: Do you know what I mean?

Jennifer: Totally, totally. And also I feel like you, you, your journey there was very different from the journey that most other folks had to walk to get there too. So I don't know, like selfishly, I'm defending this freshman version of Ellen and of course she belongs. Are you kidding me? Uh,

Ellen: I mean, I definitely would have had a very different experience if I had let that voice have a conversation

Jennifer: And it's so normal. It's so normal to have this voice. And I think a lot of the self management and self coaching is finding your inner ally to kind of. Talked nicely to that voice. Thank you very much, but we do belong. Um, we do deserve to be here and just building up that relationship with that ally.

Um, okay. So, so getting in Stanford, eventually finding your community, feeling the sense of belonging. I want to take that into how you eventually launched Elemental Prep. What happened in between anything formative, important before we talk about Elemental? Cause I have so many questions for you on your business.

Ellen: So I'll give the brief fast forward. So, and one caveat, I don't know that I actually did find a community at Stanford.

Jennifer: Okay.

Ellen: I think I, I very much wanted to tell myself the story that I belonged and I, I, like, I earned this and I'm here, but I think. Amongst peers, I don't really think I, I understood the things I didn't know.

I don't think I understood the social cues, the networking, like all of the soft skills I really didn't have

Jennifer: Which nobody was teaching you this

Ellen: no. And so I think I, in a way, wasted slash missed out on a lot of what I could have. Done in terms of community there. And so, you know, I graduated wonderful. I then did a year long dramaturgy internship at the American Conservatory Theater because I thought I was gonna be a playwright.

Um, I was very into like performing arts and things like that at the time. I'd had like an improv and acting background and So then I started an MFA program in playwriting in New Jersey. Um, after that year at Rutgers, or at the American Conservatory Theater. And at Rutgers, I dropped out after one semester, um, after being bullied out of the program.


Jennifer: What?

Ellen: I don't know who's bullied out of an MFA program, this girl. Um, but I mean,

Jennifer: happened?

Ellen: what did happen? I mean, I think I. It's really funny because I think they stereotyped me as a very different from them, privileged, smart person, and they saw themselves as much more, you know, And that I was, you know, an ego, egomaniac or something, and they had to bring me down a peg to the point where, you know, people would refuse to comment on my work because they didn't like me at one point, um, my roommates, like, called the police on me and the police kind of like harassed me.

I mean, it was just like a whole. Bad situation. I mean, the head of the directing program was like, well, it seems like no one likes you here. I mean, it was just things that don't seem realistic were happening and I was so, so unhappy and I look back now at all those experiences that happen at Rutgers. And I always think failures a trampoline that.

As bad as Rutgers was, I am glad that it was as bad as it was because it got me out of there real quick and got me off the theater path real quick. And to the point where, you know, I don't Have any worries about the road less traveled at all. And so I left pretty quickly and, but the other silver lining is at the time I managed to finagle my way into a part time lecturing position in the English department during that one semester.

And I really liked teaching the freshman comp class that I was teaching. And so then when I came back to Palo Alto and I was living with my boyfriend at the time, it's like, Oh God, quarter life crisis. What am I going to do? And this is when, you know. The hot tub party comes into

Jennifer: happened. This is when you found out about the

Ellen: exactly. And so, you have to, you know, reach that total nadir to

Jennifer: almost like,

Ellen: super desperate.

Jennifer: this feeling of rock bottom. Yes. And I remember I had a quarter life crisis as well, so, like, 25.

Ellen: Like, what am I gonna

Jennifer: to do with my life?

Ellen: This is bad. And, you know, I was really happy because I got like a contractor gig writing job descriptions for Palantir. I was like my big break. And so I was, you know, sitting around feeling sorry for myself. And my best friend, who's now the, um, the associate dean at Northwestern law school was like, Ellen, you got to get out of here.

You got to come to this party. Like Michael's having this hot tub party. And I was like. I, Michael's the last person I would ever want to go to a party with hot tub in the name. Like, I'm not going to do this. I'm not, I'm not someone who like goes to parties and he's like, come on, please. You know, you've got to get out, please.

And I look back at like how consequential that decision was of like, Oh, fine. All right, I'll go. And so I did not go near any kind of hot tub related activity, but I just sat in the guy's living room and there was a public defender who was there and she was telling me all these funny stories about her clients.

And I was laughing and laughing. And I was like. Do you know what I should take the LSAT

Jennifer: Yeah, I don't know what else I'm going to do. I should just do it.

Ellen: I should just say, you know, I've always liked tests. I can do that. Yeah. Yeah. I can do it. And I literally bought some LSAT prep books on my phone at the party. I was like, this is going to be my new trajectory. So then it was like, I so desperately wanted a project to like go toward that. As soon as I, you know, got into LSAT land.

I just fell in love with it. It was such a relief. It made me feel like just intellectually awake in a way I had never felt. It was like finally there was a thing that was hard enough that I could never just it. I could never half pay attention. I had to give it everything that I had and it was so perfect and rewarding.

in how it would engage back. And I was just like, well, this is great. And that was a great two and a half months. And then, you know, got a, got a great score and was like, all right, I guess I have to apply to law school.

Jennifer: I did this very hard test

Ellen: Cause I, you know, I got a good score and there was that funny story. So I guess this is a career for me.


Jennifer: just a great way to just find out your next career in general.

Ellen: Listen to a funny story at a party. Um, and so I, the best school I got into was Harvard and I deferred three times before finally saying no, but that first deferral was definitely the most impactful. And I look back at, I had a friend who was a 3L at Harvard at the time. He was a third year law student.

And he was like, Ellen, just make me one promise. If there's any other thing you could ever see yourself doing, just try and do that. Before you come here

Jennifer: Oh wow,

Ellen: and I was like, well, why is it? Cause I know you and I know this is not the place for you. And

Jennifer: what a good friend,

Ellen: I know, I know. And I

Jennifer: I think a lot of people would hesitate to share that.

Ellen: Really?


Jennifer: Yeah. Just like not wanting to, um, be the person responsible for influencing your trajectory in case you, you, um, regret it or it's not the right call. Also, a lot of folks may not be the best people to be making suggested advice like that.

But in this case, it sounds like it was spot on. This

Ellen: I need to thank him. I've never thanked him. I really need to do that. Um, but no, wonderful, wonderful friend. And so then after, after that first deferral, I was like, yeah, I can just wait a year. Who cares? And I taught my first LSAT class and then I really got hooked on the bug. Because as much as I liked the LSAT as like Ellen In theater doing it, I found a much, much greater challenge, which is, you know, the black box of how someone else is thinking through any of these operations and how, how much more difficult that is.

To refine, debug, systematize of like controlling the way someone else thinks and refining their thinking, training their thinking to be able to emulate the thing that I was doing so naturally. Um, and so

Jennifer: And they say you really do know how to do something if you can teach it.

Ellen: yeah, I mean, it took me six years to write the loophole, um, which is the, the book that kind of gave me this LSAT company. And for those six years between say 2012 and 2018. I was just working with students, refining the methodology, testing things, learning from students, seeing what they could and couldn't do and remaking a system just from the ground up.

And it was like, I was in like a laboratory, getting my own little LSAT PhD ready to put out my dissertation. Um, which I look back at those like good old days. Now it's like, oh, you know, I have a lot of nostalgia for those days of the loophole.

Jennifer: So then, um, in those days were you thinking, oh, I'm going to convert this into a book, I'm gonna convert this into a company, or were you just like.

Ellen: No, I.

Jennifer: about what we're doing.

Ellen: It was, I always wanted to make a book and like that, that was kind of the, the goal that, but I had to have like methodologies to be able to do that. And so the loophole took a lot of, you know. Try something, see if it works. Okay. It doesn't. Okay. Change this little thing. Okay. Now try it. I know this worked.

All right. Now port it to 5 people. Okay. Now for port it to 20 people. Okay. Now it didn't work. And, you know, and all of that process. Um, and so once those processes were actually set in stone, which now is, you know, something called translation, something called the clear is what. Came into the loophole, um, then getting it into a refined paper form in a form that, you know, could be sold was another, another big journey.

Um, especially when like, I was here with some random girl in Palo Alto who had no freaking idea how to start a business or anything like that. Like I, I often feel like, you know, I, the redheaded stepchild of Hampton in a way that, you know, I. I was not like, and I'm going to make it in entrepreneurship.

I'm a business

Jennifer: I can see the future.

Ellen: It's like, no, I'm just very, very into this exact problem. And I believe that I am uniquely suited and uniquely passionate to solve this problem for real people. And I will find a way to do that.

Jennifer: And in so many ways, that is the best entrepreneur. The one that's just focused on, no, but truly focused on the problem. What is the problem? Solving the problem, obsessed about the problem, and has a unique take on approaching that problem. So, so, so wanted to build the loophole. How are you sustaining yourself in those six years?

Just from the income from teaching? Did you have other jobs? Yeah. Teaching.

Ellen: yeah, all, all teaching. And so I, I have always been, uh, put in a lot of free hours type of person. I, my, I mentioned my mentor, Dave, I did work for his company for a couple of years in, in that time period. Um, and. Taught students through that, but then I would also source my own students, um, through just referrals and stuff of people I knew outside and, but I, you know, every two hour session was really like a three or four hour session that, you know, people would come over to my house and I, I always said I never traveled.

Everyone had to come to me because I had to be able to put people back to back to back and like. It was like these people were just my, you know, my muses, my best friends, and they are what the loophole is built on. Like, when I look at any of the methodologies in the loophole, you know, I think of Mira, I think of Brittany, I think of Jessica, I think of, oh, Sina, of all of those people who were so trusting of me, even though I was some random girl in Palo Alto with a picnic table in her living room, um, that they, They believed in me before anybody else did.

And they were willing to do whatever thing I came up with to just see. And like, I know now that that kind of trust is very, very difficult to find.

Jennifer: Mm hmm. Mm

Ellen: very grateful to them.

Jennifer: And I'm sure they're grateful to you too, Ellen, because I'm sure you got to help them tons. So how

Ellen: went to good law schools.

Jennifer: Exactly. How did then elemental prep, how did you get it started and, and just for the context of other wannabe entrepreneurs or entrepreneurs and just getting a sense of your experience share, what was that initial period like, and then, and then I want to talk about how you scaled to a hundred K MRR, which is fascinating and

Ellen: Yeah. So I, um, I've always been a kind of like, you know, get on the road before the car even has wheels sort of person, um, which is good and bad, but. I, I was very focused on writing the loophole and making this kind of genre defining work and I think at my heart, I am, you know, a creative and an empathetic person.

I very much was like focused on. I need the loophole to be better than every single thing on the market in any way. Every possible way in as objective of a sense as possibly can be and I've always said like I prostrate at the altar of the book. The book doesn't work for me. I work for the book. And so in terms of like how elemental was started, it really was just a company to wrap around the loophole.

Um, and so when the loophole took also a year to get designed and laid out and in design, that's a whole other

Jennifer: That's a whole, we have to do a whole other podcast on writing a book

Ellen: the designing of the loophole.

Jennifer: design. Right.

Ellen: is going to come out, it's like, okay, now I need an entity when really, you know, you could say Elementum started in 2012, like that wouldn't be super wrong, but the actual business entity that started was in 2018 and it accompanied the release of the loophole because, okay, now all of a sudden, you know, I'm going to have to have an entity to take in money from Amazon and from Shopify and all this stuff and like the big launch plan.

I'm like, you know, go from nobody to somebody in this industry was literally I made myself a promise. It was like, okay, until the manuscript is submitted, you're not allowed to have a public presence because that would be like, rewarding for yourself for something you haven't done and have improved. And so.

Then after I submitted the loophole, I made my elemental Ellen Reddit handle. And it was like, all right, the future begins today. And I would go on Reddit and look at people's like four help posts and RL sat. And I always, always really careful. I didn't want to look. Like I was marketing because I didn't want to market.

Like I didn't want to help these people genuinely. And so I, but people never give you enough information in those public posts to actually help them. And so I would be like, Oh, Hey, you know, I want to help you, but I'm going to chat you now so you can give me more information. And so I would stay up until like 3 AM every night between like October and December, just chatting these strangers on Reddit about their LSAT problem.

And giving them advice and trying to solve it. And I was very like gentle about like ever mentioning anything about the loophole or anything I did. People would have to ask me. And then on Christmas Eve 2018, this guy wrote this very long post that actually gave a lot of information. That you, you really could engage with it and actually fix the guy's problems.

And so I was like, you know what, I'll actually write a long public post this time and go through and actually tell him stuff that could work. And it was like, I'm going to take a chance. I'll mention a few things from the loophole just because, you know, it's in the middle of a big help post. Like people will see, I'm not just like being a scammer.

Like I'm hoping I don't get attacked. And. I actually met with him and gave him free tutoring on Christmas Eve night and it was this great thing and wonderful for us. A girl in Florida saw this comment on Christmas Eve and was like, what's the clear? Googled it, found out what the loophole was. Bought the loophole, read it in the days between Christmas Eve and New Year's Day.

And then on New Year's Day 2019, made this big Reddit post about how great the loophole is. And how it, you know, gave her, I don't know, six points or something in a week. And That post then blew up. And from then on Elemental Prep has self propelled and it was just a word of mouth, like explosion. And of course, you know, Reddit is a cruel mistress, but you have to treat it gingerly.

Um, but from then on, it really just, the Reddit community got ahold of it. And I was accused of, you know, AstroTurf marketing all the stuff that was not true at all, but it was that it got too popular too fast that people like, couldn't. Believe it in a

Jennifer: Well, that's an attestation to how useful it was. With Reddit, it's such a delicate organism to be with. Um, and I love hearing you staying up most nights, October through December. Um, and then having this one, it's like you're spreading your, your luck surface area there because then you had this one person who had, did have a public post that you could post about, and then this woman who bought it and it's wild.

Uh, crazy. Okay. So then how is, or, so that then brought attention to loophole, which brought attention to elemental prep. And then you kind of started having a wait list and needed, needed to build more systems around that.

Ellen: Yes. Yes. So, as you can imagine, you know, the girl who stays up really late on Reddit responding to posts and things is not exactly the person with like an Ops team, like,

that was when like all of a sudden I think I got thrown into the deep end of the pool. Of business and no fricking clue, you know what to do at all. I was like, Oh gosh, do I need to like have an assistant? I probably need an assistant. How do you get an assistant? You know,

Jennifer: do you do all this stuff in 24 hours? Oh shoot, I probably need another person to help me

Ellen: exactly, exactly. Thanks. And so, you know, I, I definitely learned by fire made a million, million mistakes and have spent. Since January 2019 until now, essentially learning how and building the structures around the demand. Um, because I have always in the history of elemental since that day in January 2019 had more demand than I.


Jennifer: Could.

Ellen: and it's always been a very fraught emotional situation for me because I love the students so much. I really, you know, I genuinely care about them a lot and I don't like that. I don't have all of the structures to serve them in the ways that I want to serve them. But of course, you know, getting all the structures in place, it takes man hours or woman hours and.

It's hard. There isn't a manual on how to, you know, do payment processing with people in China or how to like set up a calendar that like, you know, it was my calendar, which was super complicated and. So I, I made, you know, some good decisions throughout that time that definitely did get me to where I am today.

But I always think Elemental is a living organism that's always growing, always changing, always getting better. And that's one of the things I love the most about it.

Jennifer: yeah. And this is interesting what you're bringing up, Ellen, and I just want to call it out because I see this often with founders, maybe who are not from non traditional backgrounds. So like not coming from having seen a ton of entrepreneurs or a ton of like wealth management, financial management, things like that, is that I see that And I would put myself in this category, um, that we tend to hesitate longer than necessary to make these investments in the business.

So to maybe hire an executive assistant or someone in biz ops, which we were talking about last night, um, and kind of taking advantage of that. To leverage, to, to be a source of leverage for the business and growth of the business. Um, and I just want to call that out for listeners and to say that that's also normal psychology.

Like you're trying to save money and sometimes it is worthwhile to make the investment to grow your business further, which sounds like what you were learning there. I know you have some systems, right? Like you're building AI, Ellen. Um, you

Ellen: hoping to build. If there's anyone listening to this podcast, Talk to me because I, I want to partner with, um, Another another company who can do the actual building. But my, my dream is to do a tiered, um, subscription platform that lowest level is feeding the loophole into an AI. Ellen and a I. L. N.

walks you through. It answers questions can, you know, make novel drills with you and all of that sort of thing. Just based on loophole content. Then next here using all my online content. I have, you know, The thing I mentioned called the clear something I made up now there's an answer key with 4, 500 something answers in it for every question, you know, using that as like the next year and some of my other online content and then on top of that, I have over 4, 000 sessions of structured data tutoring notes that I take an air table that I'm imagining the highest tier will use, um, use that data to really provide tutoring in a box as much as possible.

Um. And so that's the hope for the future. I've been scoping out partners of who I might want to work with to make this a real thing. Um, but you know, in terms of how to scale tutoring, that sounds pretty good.

Jennifer: Yeah, absolutely. Specifics of partners that you want to reach out to you are.

Ellen: Oh, I mean, anyone who has, you know, an AI subscription platform that can do what I just said, um, that can house this sort of content, how's, you know, a, um, PDF version of the loophole that, you know, can't be scraped and taken down. pirate and all that, um, and can provide that AI version of Ellen, um, and can do a lot of the leg work

Jennifer: Yeah.

Ellen: for, of course, you know, the fee of some kind, but that I, I want someone who's going to be a very active, uh, active partner because I know there would be demand for this.

It's just a matter of with my schedule and all of the help that I provide finding the bandwidth to really make that happen.

Jennifer: Of course, of course. And then tell us, Ellen, how you got to a hundred K MRR as a solo founder with so much bandwidth stretching. Have you been divvying up your product? Are there like different techniques, tactics, strategies that worked for you? Or is it plain brute force hours and getting them in and any advice for folks?

Ellen: Yeah, so, I mean, how I did it, you, you heard the first part of the story and so, you know, that, that is how I was discovered and how the demand has swelled. Um, but in terms of maybe some, some strategies that I used that I wasn't aware I was using, but I think were very good strategies now is I invented a lot of methodologies.

In the loophole that had specific names. So, like I said, like, translation is just me. I'm the only one who teaches translation. I'm the only one who teaches the clear. I invented the clear. And, you know, if you want help with the clear, because you read the loophole, well, you've got one choice. There isn't really anyone else who can teach that.

Um, that I will, you know, always have. Primacy over that. And, you know, there may be like random people who just got a one 72 or like, and I can teach the clear, but like, I don't think anybody really thinks there's a major competition there. And so if you're somebody who wants that, well, it's a market of one.

And I think everyone should strive to create markets of one. And especially in crowded industries where it's like, okay, I'm a coach. And what I do is provide coaching and it's like, okay, well. That's nice, and I'm sure you're a very good coach, just like I'm a good LSAT tutor, but it doesn't really provide a strong differentiation.

And so I think that all of my demand That, you know, I'm very, very lucky to have is based on, first off, I think the authenticity that people can see, I approach this problem with, like, I am, I think known as the most passionate person in the world about the LSAT and, you know, it's like being the nicest guy in poker.

It's not that hard to be the most passionate person in the world about the LSAT, but, um, that authenticity, but then also the market of one effect that. The loophole is at a very accessible price point and it lays out all of these methodologies and it's also a complete solution for someone who wants to self study.

So it's not like some kind of, you know, quick and easy ebook. That's like 8 pages and people call it a book. Like, it's a, it's an actual product with a system in it that someone could use on their own. And so. That introductory product, like I call the loophole just profitable marketing. Um, I'm never really very concerned with how much money the loophole makes.

Like the loophole is, you know, in the black, but I don't think it's that in the black. I keep the price very purposefully low. Um, it's maybe close to half the price of a lot of the other top LSAT prep books. And it's because. I'm not trying to make money off the loophole. Um, I more just want to help people.

I want it to be an accessible solution, because I know how expensive my tutoring and my other stuff is. And so if somebody can, you know, get the loophole, that's, that can be enough. Um, but.

Jennifer: to everyone else who can't afford your

Ellen: else. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And so in terms of how, how that revenue comes in, though, I think another smart thing was I, I have very strictly defined structures on how I will do tutoring, um, that everyone has to have a two hour recurring slot every week at the exact same time.

And I think not giving, um, students a lot of flexibility, you know, it's, it's good and it's bad, but I think that flexibility often can, you know. Sabotage both parties, because sure, it's great for me in that I have a predictable stream of my work, but also I think it serves the student much better to have that rigid structure of checking in, even just the other day, because now I've, you know, a 25 person wait list again, um, and 24 people on the calendar.

What are you going to do, Ellen? Um, but just the other day, like two days ago, someone said, Oh, Ellen, but don't you think we could go to every other week? Yeah. Yeah. And you can two people could share a slot. And this is someone, um, who was talking to me about working on my calendar. It was someone within elemental.

And I was like, no, even though it would benefit me, because, you know, I would get to, I would get through the waitlist faster. People will be less mad at me. People with higher rates would get on the calendar faster. All of those things that like, I have every incentive to do that, to allow people to switch, like, uh, switch off weeks.

I won't do it because I know the results will be worse. And I'm not going to sabotage our students. Success all so that I can deal with my weightless problem, you know,

Jennifer: right. Because again, the measure of your business is the quality of the tutoring and those results. And so sacrificing that just shoots you in the foot down the line. Super smart. I also like the same time slot too, because then once you. Once one person's done, you know, you have this time slot.

You can offer that to people on the wait list and see who's available. I think that's really interesting. Ellen, how, speaking of all your tutoring, as we're going to wrap up soon, how do you have a brief version on how we can teach folks to be a top 1 percent reader? Any top things to think about?

We're having a kid at the end of March. Is there anything I can start doing with that kiddo sooner? Mm

Ellen: So brief tips, um, I think speaking in for a little, little one, speaking in complete sentences as much as possible and using adult words. Don't speak to them like a kid, like speak to them like an adult. Um, because like little minds are just, they're mimic machines. And so if they have things to mimic that use, you know, more advanced words, more advanced sentence structures.

That's only going to serve them well in the future. Um, I also, I mean, I have like radical beliefs about like children's media.

Jennifer: Mm hm.

Ellen: that I think, you know, giving kids classic literature, like, you know, Jane Eyre, Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, stuff like that, when they're too young to really, Get it just acclimates them to complex structures.

Complex words creates a curiosity much earlier. That's what I personally had in my life is like, I didn't watch any commercial TV, um, until I was like, way, way older at all. Um, and I. I would like, memorize The Wizard of Oz, watching The Wizard of Oz over and over again. I didn't have access to a lot of contemporary anything.

It was almost like I was raised in kind of a, like a time warp a little bit. That I was reading classic books and Watching classic TV, that sort of thing, and I, I do think that that did make me much, much more acclimated to, um, complex sentences and complex vocabulary from a young age and created a sense of like less fear surrounding those sorts of words.

Um, and so that's 1 thing is just a basis, but then also ingraining the habit of translation, um, and quipping from a young age, which is very, very easy, um, that essentially all you have to do is. When a kid reads something, have them read it out loud and have them intone it. Like I, I always say I'm 20 percent cartoon character in how I talk, you know, that it's very exaggerated that you want to like experiencing challenges or mental blocks you've faced and overcome.

Like I just read a line of the email that having that go up and down because that song. Is hardwired to be retained, of like, when they read out loud, making them like, feel it, like, because emotions are the thing most linked to memory. And then, after they've read it like that, have them close their eyes, and they have to tell you what it said in their own words, not the exact words. Then they have to say something about it. And it could be a little joke, a reaction, something from their life, or asking you a question, what you think about that. And when that happens, and they get used to doing that on every chunk of text they interact with, they'll be active, critical thinkers in no time.

And it starts to become very fast, very ingrained, happens in your head without you even realizing it.

Jennifer: That makes so much sense, it becomes like System 1 as opposed to System 2 where, for me at least, that sounds like it's not System 1 for me. What you just described, the full engagement, like the quipping on it, and then the, okay, what would you think about this for everything I read? Um, and what a great tip.

So I feel like I could also just start practicing that myself.

Ellen: no, I, I want to do it and I'm, you know, experiencing now more interest of, uh, people who want to learn this outside the LSAT and it's like such a gift. It's so exciting and so it's something I definitely want to get more into in the future is teaching this process to like business leaders. And so, hey, if you're listening and you're a business leader and you want to learn.

Jennifer: Yeah. Find Ellen. I'm excited for your, your session on this in a few months as well. My goodness, Ellen, this was so fun. We didn't get to cover everything we wanted to, but I'm not surprised at all. We'll have to have you on again.

Ellen: Of course. I'm a chatty one. I, I, I know I go on too long.

Jennifer: That was awesome. All right, y'all. Uh, we're going to wrap up the pod here today.

Thank you so much for listening.

How to become the world's #1 LSAT tutor - Ellen Cassidy, Founder & CEO at Elemental Prep
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