We talked to Holly Lazzaro of GoToCollegeFairs about simplifying college fair during the pandemic.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Holly Lazzaro: Thankfully, well. We have been vigilant about observing the protocols and quarantines. So far, so good. We are looking forward to herd immunity and a return to more in-person connections.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded GoToCollegeFairs.
Holly Lazzaro: I started my career in sales and marketing with my husband in tech. Our paths converged when founding this company, GoToCollegeFairs, which provides technology solutions for the college search/college application process. I have always been passionate about the difference a college education can make, so this was an excellent move for us personally and professionally.
How does GoToCollegeFairs innovate?
Holly Lazzaro: As a software company, innovation is the normative expectation. There is no room in the software world for resting on laurels. We must always be thinking three steps beyond where we are. Even as we release a new product or update to an existing product, we are likely developing two to three phases ahead. In our market segment, higher education technology means listening to the stakeholders: colleges, high school counselors, and students. We work closely with national, regional, and state-based professional organizations who bring these audiences together in the college search/college application process. We learn a lot from those groups and support them in every way that we can.
In 2019 we released a completely updated app that expedites information exchange between students and colleges at college fairs. In 2020, like everyone else, we were tasked with innovating in the area of virtual. This year we built and released a virtual college fair platform that served over 6,000 college end-users and produced over 435,000 connections between those colleges and students in the college search process.
Like many others, we found this year was an opportunity to serve our community better. In May, we hosted a virtual college fair with all profits benefiting the GoToCollegeFairs Access and Inclusion Fund, which is distributed biannually to support access and inclusion programming specifically in the college area search/application process. Many underserved communities benefited from this year’s distribution of that grant, and we will host another round of funding in the spring. We at GoToCollegeFairs strongly believe that we should look to the greater good, especially in times like these.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Holly Lazzaro: Obviously, as an events-based business, we were significantly impacted by the onset of the pandemic. But looking for ways we could be selfless and genuinely serve led us to see that the idea of a virtual college fair was important for this year and beyond. We were blessed to shift some resources to support this development and launch it in time to benefit colleges and students this fall.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Holly Lazzaro: We, like others, had to make some dramatic changes to how we did business. The greatest lesson we learned is that collaboration is the best way to succeed. As the old proverb says, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and GoToCollegeFairs in the future?
Holly Lazzaro: This year, I felt glued to my desk in one virtual meeting after another. Getting a walking desk has helped a lot with my stress, and actually leaving the desk to walk outside helps my head stay clear. I am excited to think about the future in higher education technology because this year has produced so many close relationships that I know will allow us to work better together in years to come. If Go To College Fairs can continue to contribute meaningfully to the higher education community in technology and philanthropy, that’s a great goal upon which to stay focused.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Holly Lazzaro: Our list of competitors exponentially grew this year as so many software companies tried to dive into higher ed through virtual offerings. It’s easy for us to stay at the top of this game simply because of the relationships we have built over 15 years in the space. These are generous people who are comfortable telling us when we get it right and when we get it wrong! No one is perfect, but by listening to our communities, we learn and grow.
Your final thoughts?
Holly Lazzaro: This year has been challenging, don’t get me wrong. But one thing it has taught me is to stay positive. My faith and my family are constant reminders of the good that can exist even in a crazy year like this one.
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