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Secrets of Success: Jodi Okun
secrets of success

We’ve launched Secrets of Success, a new weekly interview series here at’s Small Business Forum. I’ve asked some of the smartest, most innovative, most successful people I know to share their insights and success secrets.

Meet: Jodi Okun, the founder of College Financial Aid Advisors. Jodi helps families navigate the financial aid process. On Thursdays Jodi hosts #CollegeCash, a Twitter chat devoted to connecting college-bound families with higher education professionals. Jodi is also the brand ambassador for Discover Student Loans.

As an entrepreneur, Jodi recently introduced the Training Institute, an online certification program designed to help other entrepreneurs open a new small business or add to their existing businesses.

Rieva Lesonsky: What did you want to be when you grew up?

Jodi Okun: I wanted to be a teacher. I always made practice tests and assignments and created bulletin boards for my room. Writing and rewriting things were my favorite things to do—thank goodness the computer was invented!

Lesonsky: Why did you start your own business?

Okun: I started my own business when my most important role, being a mother, came to a fork in the road. It was time for my kids to go on their own journeys and time for me to find my own path. I took an inventory of all my strengths and weaknesses and my passions and evaluated them with my number-one mentor. We both agreed this would be the next step—opening my own business—being a woman entrepreneur.

Lesonsky: Did you experience a pivotal moment on your way to success?

Okun: The most significant, pivotal moment in my career thus far has been a lunch date in my hometown with a woman I met through a mutual friend. We connected on Twitter and had the most amazing lunch. I learned her history and explained my history, my business plan, my past, my future and I will never forget what she said. In 2008, this woman had predicted the “hottest businesses.” The industry that I was opening my own business in was on this list. I thought she was joking and asked her to please send me proof she wrote that. Rieva validated for me that my niche company had a future.

Lesonsky: Thanks, Jodi. I am honored to have helped. So, what’s the best small business advice you ever gave and/or received?

Okun: Stepping out of your comfort zone and trying new things is so important. And always keep evaluating!

Lesonsky: What’s one “best practice” more entrepreneurs should be embracing?

Okun: Stay current and evaluate and re-evaluate all systems on a yearly basis at minimum.

Lesonsky: Do you have a 2014 small business prediction?

Okun: What we think of as “the norm” in career/job objectives will look different to our children and students in the future—anything is possible.

Lesonsky: Do you have a favorite book?

Okun: The Red Tent by Anita Diamant.

Lesonsky: Is there a quote you find particularly inspiring?

Okun: “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” – Eleanor Roosevelt 

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Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at, follow her on Google+ and, and visit her website,, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.
Rieva Lesonsky

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