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Her College Side Hustle Led to an Immediately Profitable Product That Sells for Up to $450 — and She Didn't Even Consider Herself 'a Business Person' Dr. Amareen Dhaliwal's STEM tutoring gig in undergrad set her on the path to entrepreneurship.

By Amanda Breen Edited by Jessica Thomas

Key Takeaways

  • Dhaliwal's interest in curriculum development grew after a friend encouraged her to start a pre-med club.
  • She went on to found CCRPS INC, a provider of accredited and innovative certification courses, with the goal of addressing the underemployment of foreign medical graduates.
  • Today, Dhaliwal continues to serve as CEO of CCRPS INC as she completes her medical residency in psychiatry.

This Side Hustle Spotlight Q&A features Dr. Amareen Dhaliwal, founder and CEO of CCRPS INC, a leading provider of accredited and innovative certification courses. Course costs range from $50 to $450. Responses have been edited and condensed for clarity.

Image Credit: Courtesy of CCRSP INC. Dr. Amareen Dhaliwal.

How were you introduced to EdTech, and what inspired you to start your side hustle in that space?
When I had the opportunity to tutor STEM classes in college, I quickly realized teaching was my passion. I excelled on the newly formatted MCAT and decided I wanted to help students achieve higher scores (one of my students even reached the 99th percentile!). A college friend suggested I create a pre-med club focused on innovative learning experiences, which sparked my interest in curriculum development and the use of learning management systems supported by professionals in medical and scientific fields. The idea to build a website and offer tutoring services emerged after I hosted a successful MCAT seminar, and my commitment to tutoring in college laid the foundation for my future endeavors.

My tutoring venture expanded into a holistic coaching experience, which focused on the psychology of studying, anxiety management and wellness, including the utilization of 24-hour planners, exercise and nutrition. This comprehensive approach led me to pursue a psychiatry residency. Despite not initially seeing myself as a business person, the need for innovation in MCAT preparation drove me to entrepreneurship.

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After collaborating with peers in clinical trials, we launched online clinical research courses, aiming for excellence and continuous improvement. This endeavor was more than a business; it was about making a meaningful impact and addressing broader needs. CCRPS INC was founded to address the underemployment of foreign medical graduates and healthcare professionals in the U.S. despite their impressive credentials. Together with colleagues in clinical trials, we aimed to provide educational courses to help these individuals secure entry-level positions that offer both competitive salaries and a sense of purpose. We established a strong online presence, developed expert-led courses and focused on education and career preparation. Our commitment to quality content quickly earned us recognition and trust, positioning CCRPS as a leader in the field.

What were some of the first steps you took to get CCRPS off the ground?
First, we identified our niche by recognizing a gap for non-clinical medical professionals seeking valuable career paths. We built a user-friendly website and formed partnerships with providers, building trust by seeking out video and audio reviews from graduate students to help other students have a better idea of our comprehensive and in-depth educational approach. We collaborated with experts to create high-quality course materials and secured the necessary accreditations to establish credibility. We also offered comprehensive career support and focused on quality education, which spurred organic growth through referrals and a robust online presence.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced while building the side hustle, and how did you navigate them?
Building and growing a startup requires constant "figuring out" of challenges. The biggest challenge was meeting and surpassing our clients' needs so they could continue to grow. Additionally, delegating to the right people requires trial and error; you can't expect to get it right from day one! The key to overcoming these challenges is learning to be okay with the ups and downs, being the rock when changes don't go as planned and consistently providing excellent services.

Related: This Insurance Agent Started a Side Hustle Inspired By Nostalgia for His Home State — Now It Earns Nearly $40,000 a Month

How long did it take you to see consistent revenue from your work within EdTech?
From the outset, our business achieved net profitability, a testament to our compelling curriculum. Starting with one in-person student whose enrollment funded our initial website and SEO efforts, we adopted a strategy that allowed us to reinvest early profits into expanding our operations. This approach was essential in both our foundational stages and as we scaled, particularly with the MCAT company.

Despite promising early enrollments, our focus has always been on student success and quality education rather than merely generating revenue. This commitment enabled us to reduce prices over time, making education more accessible and aligning with our belief in the importance of affordable education. Engaging students meaningfully requires commitment, evidenced by our successful partnerships with contract research organizations and our lean yet effective operational model.

How do you balance your entrepreneurial pursuits with a demanding career in medicine?
Following a year-long hiatus to launch CCRPS, I transitioned back into my residency. Today, brilliant clinical research professionals and a solid team manage the day-to-day operations and business aspects, ensuring student success remains a priority at CCRPS while I fully immerse myself and focus on my residency.

Related: I've Had a Secret Side Hustle for Decades. It Keeps Tens of Thousands of Dollars in My Pocket — and Gets Me Into Places I Wouldn't Go Otherwise.

What do you enjoy most about running your own business?
I appreciate the profound influence I can have on students' success and career advancement. Witnessing their growth, seeing their achievements and knowing that we play a pivotal role in shaping their futures is incredibly rewarding and reaffirms my passion for education entrepreneurship every day. With over 22,000 student members from more than 1,200 organizations, including six government agencies and 308 universities, the reach and influence of CCRPS are evident. A 2024 LinkedIn review of graduates highlighted remarkable outcomes, with placements in over 1,600 companies and 23% achieving managerial roles or higher. Furthermore, the initiative has significantly contributed to developing the clinical research workforce for various contract research organizations. This progress, driven by a team of exceptional clinical research educators, underscores the collective effort and dedication to advancing clinical trials and healthcare.

What's your advice for others hoping to start successful businesses?
Learning how to harness and delegate our strengths effectively is crucial. Sometimes, guidance from those who've walked the path before us can be a game-changer; seeking expert mentorship in areas we find challenging can make all the difference.

Start small and focus on what matters: In a world brimming with startups, it's vital to remember that at the heart of every idea and venture are the people we aim to help. They are our priority, always. Let's embrace our unique talents, lean into learning and always put people first.

This WOMEN ENTREPRENEUR® article is part of our ongoing series highlighting the stories, challenges and triumphs of running a business as a woman.

Amanda Breen

Entrepreneur Staff

Senior Features Writer

Amanda Breen is a senior features writer at Entrepreneur.com. She is a graduate of Barnard College and received an MFA in writing at Columbia University, where she was a news fellow for the School of the Arts.

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