“Three Minutes Across the Counter” is a feature on Patch in which we chat with local business owners. If you would like to be featured, email firstname.lastname@example.org with the name of your business.
Meet Michael Graziosi, Brad Seidman, and Dennis Urban. They’re full-time social studies teachers at Bellmore-Merrick Central High who a created one-day intensive Regents and AP review courses at Farmingdale State College.
These educators help students prepare and learn material for tests that weigh heavily on their futures.
The owners of Long Island Regents Prep recently spoke to Patch so our readers can learn more about them. Check out what they had to say:
What is your name? Tell us about your business
Long Island Regents Prep was founded in 2009 by Michael Graziosi, Brad Seidman, and Dennis Urban, full-time social studies teachers in the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District. After preparing thousands of our own students for NY State Regents Exams and AP Exams, we realized that students sometimes needed Regents review and AP review beyond what was offered in the classroom. That’s when we created our one-day intensive Regents and AP review courses at Farmingdale State College. In each of our review courses, students learn the major course topics, practice test questions, and acquire test-taking strategies and tips from experienced, NY state-certified teachers. Our instructors prepare AP and Regents review material and provide practice problems for students to complete during the six-hour session.
In 2014 we launched our new SAT review program, a one-day SAT Crash Course that includes an original review book created by Joshua Fialkow, a longtime, accomplished SAT tutor and teacher. All instructors in our SAT prep program are both experienced SAT tutors and NYS-certified teachers.
Since 2009, we have served more than 3,100 students from Suffolk County, Nassau County, and New York City, and we continue to grow. Our success is largely due to word-of-mouth recommendations and the positive feedback we receive each year. As NYS-certified teachers, we aim not only to help students pass their tests, but to ensure they excel on their Regents, AP, and SAT exams. We pride ourselves in offering an affordable alternative to private tutoring without compromising the quality of instruction.
How did you get your first start in this business?
We had been tutoring students privately for years, and we recognized the need for affordable tutoring services run by certified teachers. In addition, we had worked for other test prep companies, and they were owned by business people or lawyers, not by actual teachers. So we decided to form our own company and offer classes at Farmingdale State College, a location that’s convenient for students in Nassau and Suffolk counties. Since none of us has formal business training or a business degree, we learned a lot along the way, including marketing, bookkeeping, human resources, customer service, and website development. We’ve worked very hard over the past 6 or 7 years to integrate our educational expertise in teaching and curriculum development with the business skills we’ve picked up along the way, and we’ve been pretty successful as a result.
Is this your first business venture? What other projects have you worked on?
Yes, this is our first business venture. We started out pretty small, serving a few hundred students our first year. We now have over 600 students taking our Regents, AP, and SAT review classes each spring, and we’ve started offering SAT review classes in the fall because of the high demand.
We have partnered with a few other companies to expand our services. For over a year, we have been working with renowned test-prep guru Gary Gruber and the folks over atGruber Prep to develop AP review materials for their online test prep services. In all, we developed 5 AP review courses for Gruber Prep, which are available online and in book form on Amazon as Gruber’s Essential AP.
We have also partnered with another Long Island company called LearnerPal to offer online supplements to our in-class Regents review sessions at Farmingdale.
What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?
During our first year in business, we met with a consultant who encouraged us to have a larger online presence by creating original content and sharing that content through Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. So, we developed a blog and began making connections online. As a result, we’ve connected with more students and parents, and we’ve fostered business partnerships on LinkedIn and Twitter. Of course, nothing is a substitute for the personal relationships we’ve forged with students, parents, teachers, and schools over the past 6 years, but our online presence has helped a lot.
How long have you lived or done business here?
We are all native Long Islanders, and we’ve been in business in Farmingdale since 2009.
What’s your favorite part about being a business in the area? What makes the area special?
Introducing students to the SUNY Farmingdale campus, which is in the process of developing a state-of-the-art campus, is a big plus. Also, Farmingdale is centrally located and easily accessible to all Long Islanders.
Did anyone influence you as a business owner? How?
Each of our fathers owned his own business, so I think that instilled in us a sense of entrepreneurship and hard work. There’s an enormous sense of pride in seeing hundreds of students show up to take your review classes on a Saturday or Sunday morning. You know they’re giving up a weekend to be there, and you know that they’ll be much better prepared for their exams because of it.
Did you ever make a business mistake and later on were glad you made it?
We can’t think of one specific mistake, but because none of us had business experience going into this project, we learned a lot along the way. Oh, and always get good promotional pens, because otherwise you’re stuck with thousands of bad pens for years. 🙂
Tell us something about yourself that people may not know.
We have each won the coveted “Teacher of the Year” award at John F. Kennedy High School in Bellmore, NY, where we teach full time.
What advice would you give to a business owner just starting out?
If you’re good at something, if you enjoy doing it, and if there’s market for it, get started now! Make a business plan and run with it.