An entrepreneur spent $30,000 on a master's degree before starting her own HR company. Here's why she's glad she went to grad school.
- Eropa Stein is the founder of Hyre Staff, an HR software company, and has a master’s in psychology.
- Winning a business competition while in school gave her the push she needed to leave academia.
- She said her investment in her degree was worth it and helped her succeed as an entrepreneur.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
In 2015, Toronto-based Eropa Stein was finishing up her three-year master’s program in forensic psychology on her way to a PhD, an endeavor she’d planned out for 10 years and sunk approximately $30,000 into.
But instead of staying in academia after getting her degree, the newly minted grad founded Hyre Staff, a human-resources software company that offers an employee scheduling platform targeted at the shift-based workforce.
Stein has no regrets about attending graduate school, even if she never became a psychologist.
“I wasn’t expecting to make a sharp turn toward entrepreneurship, but it was the best 180 I’ve ever made,” she told Insider. “I knew I had something big going with Hyre. So, overall, the $30,000 investment has been worth it.”
She added that her graduate degree has helped her in her current role in numerous ways, including improving the user experience of her product and grasping a better understanding of sales and marketing by channeling her studies on how and why people make decisions. She said in her first few months she brought in more than $100,000 in sales.
“I know how to incentivize people to take action, and that includes our secret recipe for getting temp staff to perform better,” she said.
Stein also maintained that her research background cultivated in grad school helped her avoid many early founder mistakes, such as building a product before validating an idea.
“I knew the importance of research and understanding the problems in the industry before building a solution,” she said. “Another mistake I avoided was overselling. I understood the negative outcomes of overpromising, so I was honest in my sales approach.”
“Don’t judge a degree by its letters – you can always find a way to apply your learnings,” she added.
While she admitted she’s always been interested in entrepreneurship, working on difficult problems, and coming up with innovative solutions, going all-in with her startup was a tough call to make – particularly with zero funding.
“It took a lot of meditation and soul-searching for me to make the decision to leave academia,” Stein said.
From the PhD track to starting a company
Stein encountered an interesting problem the year prior to starting her master’s degree while consulting for a large temp staffing agency.
“The agency had a ton of inefficiencies, and the majority of it stemmed from having outdated technology,” Stein said. “Clients and temp staff were often stressed over miscommunications around scheduling, with lots of last-minute changes.”
The then-consultant wanted to build technology that would automate the most time-consuming management tasks. While the agency appreciated Stein’s initiative, it lacked the resources to build a product, and so they ended up improving on a few manual processes but made no significant upgrades.
Stein thought that that would be the end of it until a year later, when she was halfway through her master’s program and stumbled upon a flier for a business competition.
“The thought of working on an entrepreneurial project that could start yielding results in a matter of weeks was exhilarating,” she said, adding it was a welcome relief from the lengthy and isolating research process involved in academia. “So I dedicated my evenings to preparing for the competition and building out a business plan for my online temp-staffing platform idea.”
To Stein’s surprise, she won the competition and even received a cash prize.
“The weeks I spent working on my business plan gave me a rush that I missed for so long,” she said.
Wanting to validate her idea further, Stein continued entering and winning business competitions. Better yet, she found her first client through one of these competitions, the general manager of a hotel.
“Even without an actual product, he gave me a chance,” she said.
Stein said this was one of the pivotal moments that made her realize her business idea’s potential. Fast forward five years to today, and Stein said she’s “extremely proud” of herself for starting Hyre and creating jobs during a pandemic.
“And to think, this all began with an idea, an experiment, and a leap of faith,” Stein said.