What It's About
A straight-A student applies his smarts to a customized tutoring program.
Words of Wisdom
Cihan puts his success down to his dedication to simplicity. He teaches complex ideas in really simple ways, avoiding the jargon and complicated language that his professors always seemed to use.
Being a peer, rather than a professor, definitely gives his teaching style an added edge—in particular, he has a knack for keeping his material light, funny and engaging.
Even though Cihan’s business is completely above board, when he first started out, he was worried about his college finding him out. He set up a new email address to use, with an alias name of ‘Ali Veli.’ These are the two most common male names in Turkey—equivalent to ‘Jack John’ in the States. The perfect disguise!
Notes from Chris
Back in 2015, Cihan Oklap was a student at Koc University in Istanbul. While he admits to not being the best student, he was a natural when it came to learning. His super-curious little brother, aged just 10 at the time, would hound Cihan with questions about everything from what makes the Earth turn, to how technology works. He was particularly interested in his big brother’s university classes, and Cihan enjoyed spending time breaking down the information to explain it more simply. In Spring 2015, Cihan heard that a few students were really struggling with the Information Systems class at his University. Having already taken this class, he knew he could simplify the information and help these students pass their exams. He decided to turn the classroom on its head and go from student to teacher. Here was his action plan. Step one was to email the 120 students taking the class, whose contact details he got from the school database. He sent them an email offering a 2-hour lecture on the key topics, as well as a 25-page set of thorough—but easy to understand—notes. The email outlined the specific topics he would be covering in his lecture and included a sample one-page preview of the full notes. The price he offered was based on what he felt would be fair compensation for his time. He wanted to get at least $150 for running the lecture and predicted that 3 people would sign up. Based on this, he set the price at $60. He was surprised to find that 21 people replied to his email—and, perhaps even more surprisingly, all 21 of them then turned up to his first lecture! The demand was clear—Cihan’s hustle idea had passed the first test with flying colors. Since this first class, Cihan has expanded into other subjects that he knows well. He chooses ones that students might be finding difficult and runs up to three at a time in subjects like Information Systems, E-commerce Management, and Marketing and Advertising. Depending on how difficult the class is, students pay between $60 and $90. Cihan’s numbers really add up. Running each class brings in an average of $3,600 every semester, and he has no outgoing costs whatsoever. He runs an average of two classes each semester, so with two semesters each year, his income is just over $14,000. Cihan has now left college and started working at an educational gaming startup. His job has taught him a few lessons of its own, particularly when it comes to email marketing. He’s been able to streamline the email marketing for his tutoring work by using some of the same systems and programs for sending bulk email. Later this year, Cihan will be starting a Master’s program at Duke University. He plans to bring his tried and tested technique from Turkey to the U.S., to expand into new classes on a new campus. We’ll watch for this new challenge and see if he passes the test.
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To infinity and beyond,