While working as a primary school teacher in Sheffield, Scott Woodley found himself being bombarded with requests from parents as to where to find a good tutor for their kids.
Having always felt the itch to set up his own business, and inspired by his love of teaching, he turned to his childhood friend, Mark Hughes, to kick start Tutora.
Tutora is a platform which helps students and parents find the best local tutors for private tuition sessions in the students’ own homes.
At the time, Mark was working as a technology analyst for a large investment firm, and was able to provide a wealth of tech knowledge that would set Tutora apart from existing directories.
“Having only launched in August last year, we already have over 4,000 tutors covering the whole of the UK and are growing rapidly because our users love the site,” said Scott.
“Unlike pure directories, there are no up-front fees as we use a commission-based system. This allows us to gain data on who are truly the best tutors and remove anyone who doesn’t provide a great level or service.”
The website gives every listed tutor a score based on the things that make up a great one-to-one teacher using data on interactions and the feedback provides by students.
Initially, the entrepreneurial duo set out to self-fund the project, relying on their own personal savings.
“We budgeted out the initial build and felt that at the least we could gain a return as a more agency-style business - if the model didn’t work as we’d hoped,” said Scott.
“Once we had gained significant traction, crowdfunding seemed an obvious choice.”
The pair launched a campaign on Crowd Cube and were overwhelmed with the response. In April 2016, the company raised £150,000 for a 10% equity share of the business, in just four days.
“Since raising our seed round of investment, we have been delighted with the scale and speed of growth we have achieved.
“We have hit all of the targets we set out in April and, with new and improved features continually being pushed live, there is every chance we can become the largest company within the growing tuition industry,” said co-founder Mark Hughes.
Like investors, judges at the recent Northern Stars competition were also impressed with Tutora's vision for the industry and the firm won the Sheffield regional final.
“The Northern Stars competition is a fantastic celebration of the businesses which are thriving in the North.
“For us, it was a sign of how far we’ve come in such a short time,” explained Scott.
“This year, the judges selected us as the winning business in the Sheffield regional event and we’ve now been invited to the final in November.
“We’re going to be seeking a second round of investment in the coming months, so the event is perfectly timed for us to make the connections which will help us in this endeavour.”
While Tutora has received a major boost in support for investors and The University of Sheffield, which has supported the firm via its Enterprise Zone, it is still up to Scott and Mark to lead the business to success.
The responsibility of being in charge is something which Scott describes as both “great, and awful”.
“We absolutely love finding solutions to real problems and overcoming the challenges of growing a business,” he said.
“It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come. On the other hand, it’s incredibly stressful and hard work. Everything rests on the decisions we make, which is liberating and encumbering at the same time.”
For any budding entrepreneurs out there, Scott emphasises the importance of executing, improving and then repeating the process.
“For us, executing is about getting out there and doing it - whether that’s rolling out a landing page, putting a new feature up, or testing an initial product,” he explains.
“Once you’ve done that, test it: get feedback and improve it. You can’t do this until you’ve got something out there, so just go for it!”
And that is exactly what Tutora plans to continue doing, with big plans ahead for the future: “We see Tutora as being the largest tuition company in the UK, having expanded internationally to numerous countries and offering families the choice of online or in-person tuition. Simple.”