Kyle Hollis: From College Dropout To a Successful Business Owner & Educator
While traveling on the road to success, many of us will come across land mines and road blocks that force a detour and the road less traveled. Kyle Hollis, a successful business owner and educator, is a prime example of someone who never gave up on his dreams and made a lane even if he had to pave it himself. After attending four different colleges and universities, Hollis came to the conclusion that completing traditional education wasn’t in the cards, but that wouldn’t stop him from pursuing his passions. The P40 Network had the pleasure of sitting down with Kyle to find out how he became a trailblazer in STEM education and what led to the creation of his company Tech Titans.
Where did your journey begin?
“I grew up in Virginia Beach my whole life. In fact, I didn’t even really travel much until college. I came up to Washington, DC in 2008, and it was a complete culture shock. People are not laid back, and they are rude at times to say the least. It was rough learning how to adapt, but the trade-off for the opportunities up here was well worth it. I was on the grind for a couple of years working hourly jobs and barely making enough money to stay afloat. I stayed in school and worked full time along the way. I kept meeting new people and applying to better jobs. When I feel like I learned everything I could in the IT field, I began pursuing an IT career.”
Why did you decide to leave school and take the road less traveled?
“Personally, I didn’t see much value in finishing school. Don’t get me wrong – there are a lot of great classes that I’ve taken and life-long friendships I’ve made. The degree itself was pointless. This doesn’t apply to all majors, but I believe it’s true for business and economics majors who have a solid work history. I worked full time jobs during college so I already had the edge over other students. My grades may not have been ideal due to the fact that I couldn’t focus as much as others, but I had the real word experience. You can’t learn that in a textbook. Why should I stay at school another semester and compete against someone with little to no real world experience? I knew I could do that without dropping another $10K. Also, the tech field is amazing. You don’t need a piece of paper for IT; just get a company to pay for your certification and you’re solid. I’ve had 5 or 6 certifications paid for me so far. But, remember this. Not every career path is like business or IT. If you want to become a doctor or lawyer, you better put in that work."
What is Tech Titans?
“Tech Titans is a company that provides enrichment classes for school-aged children. We focus on classes that can incorporate STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) into our lesson plans. Our most popular classes are Lego robotics and video game design."
What inspired you to create Tech Titans?
“Originally, I was working for a company with a similar mission statement. After about three years, I realized I could no longer stay in that environment. It was toxic, and the owner didn’t treat people well. I wanted to create a better environment for the staff, which in turn would be better for the kids.”
When did you decide that you wanted to be an educator?
“I realized that in high school. I went to a lot of workshops and then started to lead workshops too. It was a fun experience. I enjoy passing knowledge on to other people. When you’re teaching, you have the opportunity to learn from the ones you teach.”
What was the “aha” moment that made you want to start your own company and become an entrepreneur?
“I’d absorb all of the information I could learn at each job I held. I was building a foundation of knowledge even though I didn’t know it at the time. Also, living paycheck to paycheck makes you start thinking outside the box. I didn’t want to work an hourly job and just get by forever. So, I put two and two together and that’s when Tech Titans came to mind.”
What is the most rewarding part of your business?
“Seeing kids grasp new concepts is such a great feeling. I could never put that into words. For example, parents would come in the following week and tell me how their kids talked about robotics all day long and described the parts we went over in class.”
What is the future of STEM education?
“I’m not sure exactly how it’ll be incorporated in the classroom, but pointless standardized tests are holding back progress. Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are the cornerstone of the future. Without those core subjects, we can’t continue to grow. Hopefully, more engineering concepts will make their way into grade school.”
What are some of your biggest challenges of being a business owner?
“Growing your network and making connections. Expanding your business comes from meeting others, and that can happen at any time! You have to always be prepared to make a good first impression.”
How important is networking in your industry?
“Honestly, I think networking is important in every industry. I can’t get into a school or community center to deliver a high-quality class by simply showing up. That’d be nice, but it doesn’t work that way. You must meet people and build your brand while creating and building connections.”
What led you to community outreach?
“I always want to give back to people who don’t have certain opportunities that I do nowadays. Teaching children has such a huge impact because you’re helping to shape their entire lives.”
What advice would you give to anyone who is afraid or unsure if he/she should pursue his/her passion?
“If you’re afraid or unsure, then you just need to do it. You’ll never know unless you try. If you’re passionate about something, you’ll make it work. There’s a negative connotation attached to failure, and it needs to be dismissed. If I don’t fail at something at one point or another, then I’m not learning and growing. I’ve gotten my butt kicked numerous times, but it’s made me stronger in the long run. Yeah, it sucks for a small amount of time, but when you’re passionate, you’ll brush off the mistakes and learn what to do better in the future. We’re all out here trying to level up in the real world. We’ll take some Ls every now and then, but you’ll be more prepared in the long run. Don’t make excuses for yourself. Get up and have fun with your passion!”
To learn more about Tech Titans and class availability visit their website.