Leadership Coaching for Students: Founder Interview with 220 Youth Leadership

Just a few years out of college, brothers Matthew and Joseph Moheban have already discovered the secret ingredient to a successful career. Together, the brothers founded 220 Youth Leadership (220YL), a company that offers personalized leadership coaching for students through one-on-one, group, and online programming. Based in Chicago, the company helps students find the courage to take risks and put themselves in uncomfortable positions to develop Second-to-None leadership skills.

Combined HeadshotCompany Profile

Company: 220 Youth Leadership (220YL)

Date founded: August 2015

Founders’ names: Matthew and Joseph Moheban

Website: 220leadership.com

Company Twitter: @220leadership

Company market segment: Youth Leadership Development

Product stage: Introduction Stage (Late)

What does your company do? Who are your core customers?
220 Youth Leadership (220YL) offers personalized leadership coaching for students in middle school all the way through their senior year in college. Our one-on-one, group, and online programming helps students find the courage to take risks and put themselves in uncomfortable positions to develop Second-to-None leadership skills.

Through 220 programs, students set tangible near-term goals around leadership development, academic achievement, and improving communication skills. Our proprietary curriculum helps students define personal success for themselves and gives them the confidence to attack their most challenging goals.

How did you come across the problem you’re addressing? What was your process of arriving at a solution?
Joseph and I started a summer leadership camp for middle school students while we were attending Indiana University. We developed the curriculum for that camp based on the qualities that afforded us unique leadership opportunities among our peers in high school and college, including vision & goal achievement, teamwork, selflessness, work ethic, courage, and communication skills. This camp provided the foundation for our current youth leadership development programs. Joseph and I have acquired and developed (and continue to develop) these skills through our learning and experiences outside of school, including from our parents & family, sports teams & coaches, extracurricular organizations, philanthropic boards, and our 100-man live-in fraternity at Indiana University.

We realized that there are way too many students who #1, don’t have these experiences or #2, who get these experiences but don’t take advantage of the opportunities these experiences present. This results in these students settling for a school or internship or career that ultimately does not align with their strengths or with their passions. We focus on giving students the courage to (a) pursue their passions and (b) develop their leadership skills to give them unique opportunities at a happy and fulfilling life.

What are you doing differently than your competitors? Do you expect to develop other differentiators in the future?
Our current differentiators include:

Peer-to-peer advantage: In addition to running the business, Joseph and I do all of the coaching for our programs. At 25 and 24 years old, we have worked with over 450 students, and have a unique ability to connect with our students because we are seen more as peers than adult figures.
Our approach: We teach leadership through goal setting & emphasizing the importance of seeking out failure. This allows us to personalize all of our coaching to each student, and we encourage them to think “unrealistically” about their goals and pursuing their passions.

We are continuing to develop our future differentiators, one of which will be our comprehensive approach to youth leadership training with one-on-one, online and group programs, as well as camps, speaking engagements, schools and more—we feel the possibilities are endless.

What are you working on currently? What should we expect to see from your company in the next 12 months?
In the next 12 months we plan to:

  • Develop a variety of new leadership curricula for our online programming including communication, confidence, teamwork and more.
  • Continue partnering with schools and CBO’s in Chicago and Indianapolis to conduct impactful group programming.
  • Host summer camps around leadership, goal achievement, and the importance of failure for students in the Midwest.
  • Increase the number of students we are coaching through our one-on-one programs by partnering with more schools, community programs, and local businesses.

How are you changing the face of education?
Currently, we are providing the leadership and life skills training that schools are often unable to perform due to lack of time and/or resources. Declining funding, growing class sizes, and the strong emphasis on standardized testing makes this kind of training very difficult for many schools.

Eventually, we may look to have our curricula incorporated into schools. But for now, we want to work alongside schools as a resource to help their students maximize their potential.

Finally, we want to grow our 220YL team by enabling other entrepreneurs to start their own leadership franchises, as well as attract some of the best talent graduating college who otherwise would not go into education or work with students.

What other startups or product builds have you been a part of, and what was your role? How has your past career prepared you for your current role?
Before starting 220 Youth Leadership, we started the summer leadership camp (mentioned above) that was eventually picked up by our school township as the junior high transition program. Right after graduation from Indiana University, I worked in commercial banking for BMO Harris for three years and Joseph worked for Huron Consulting Group in their Healthcare practice.

While our corporate jobs did help prepare us for our role as co-founders, the most helpful experiences by far were the leadership positions we had during high school and college. These positions taught us invaluable lessons about leadership, courage, resiliency and failure.

Who do you look to as a role model or mentor for your company?
One of our primary goals at 220 Youth Leadership is to continuously learn from successful entrepreneurs, business leaders, athletes, authors, performers- anyone who is a leader in their industry. Some of our favorite role models right now include: Tim Ferriss, Simon Sinek, Tara Brach, Will Smith, Tony Robbins, Oprah Winfrey, Mark Cuban, Jeff Bezos, J.K. Rowling, Peyton Manning, and Paul George.

Our formal mentor, who has helped us tremendously throughout this process, is Bob Albano. Bob is a long-time school principal and administrator who recently began his entrepreneurship journey as a consultant for teachers and administrators. Bob has always had a deep passion for education and continues to assist schools by helping them focus on what is truly important to run a successful school: a student-centered culture.

Where do you think the education technology market is going in the next five years, especially in your market segment?
The ongoing innovation and development within the education technology market is very exciting. With the recent passing of the Every Student Succeeds Act from Congress, we hope that the states are able to take advantage of some new autonomy over their schools, which could result in faster adoption of new technology in the classroom.

Technology does not replace great teachers, but technology could help make teaching more efficient, which would allow for more time to be spent on soft skills and leadership development. We are hopeful that the advancements in education technology will allow for more of this training because we believe these skills are absolutely essential for students to become successful.

What advice, if any, do you have for someone launching a company in the education technology market?
Our advice would be to focus first on creating an outstanding product or service concept that solves a fundamental problem within education. You can leverage existing technology platforms or technology experts to build your unique technology, but the awesome idea should be there first.