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  • "Being extremely responsive alowed us to improve our services and features based on our clients’ experiences and requests."
    PHOTO BY (LEFT TO RIGHT) Pexels/Pixabay, Courtesy of Tutor Lab Manila: Keena, Pau, and Sam

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    Before the pandemic, Francesca (Keena), worked a 9-5 hour job as an English teacher for an ESL Company. On the other hand, both Samantha (Sam) and Paulina (Pau), were early childhood educators in separate preschools. 

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    For Sam and Pau, the lockdown significantly decreased the amount of enrollees in our respective preschools, hence, affecting their employment. The schools they work for shifted to no work, no pay scheme at the start of the pandemic, or emplpoing them part-time, which means reduced pay from their salaries and reduced working hours, too.

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    Keena's situation was a bit different. She resigned from her previous job despite the risk of not finding another one during the pandemic. "I was getting too stressed, and it was affecting my health, too. And so, I decided to leave that job and create something that I would be happy and fulfilled with, and that’s when I thought of building Tutor Lab," she shared. 

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    Keena was also the first to formulate the idea of an online tutoring center, after receiving support from her friends and family. The pandemic gave her time to build her own company. Sam and Pau, being her batchmates in college, were perfect workmates and co-founders. They all shared a passion for the business.

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    Below, the foudners of Tutor Lab share their story of conceptualizing and growing their teaching business:

    The idea behind Tutor Lab Manila

    The idea behind Tutor Lab is very simple: we want to help children and parents adjust to the new normal. Lots of children, especially preschoolers, decided not to enroll to actual online classes. Some parents opted to have one-on-ones instead, and that’s what we built this for— as an alternate and supplementary learning scheme for families, at the comfort of their own homes.

    Some parents opted to have one-on-ones instead, and that’s what we built this for— as an alternate and supplementary learning scheme for families, at the comfort of their own homes.

    We were also inspired by Sam and Pau’s current situation in school, where teachers get laid off and paid a lot less. We thought of teachers and tutors who might be in the same situation, and those who might be struggling even more so. We wanted to give side hustle opportunities to them, while also providing quality service to our clients.

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    We provide services that are client-oriented, keeping in mind what tutees need most and what their families would deem most convenient. We strive to keep our processes as hassle-free as possible, given that parents/guardians are also preoccupied with their own work.

    Management-wise, we invest in our tutoring staff, and treat them just as important as our clients. We provide them with competitive pay, and support them in every way possible.

    A huge capital is not always a requirement...

    If famous businesses and franchises begin in garages, dorm rooms, and basements, then in a world of social distancing, our equivalent would be in Google Documents! We started collaborating on our vision for the company, our goals, and why we wish to build Tutor Lab.

    "We make fun activities for early learners." Tutor Lab offers appropriate activities for every age. 
    PHOTO BY Courtesy of Tutor Lab Manila
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    As building this business was something new to all three of us, we really weren’t certain as to how much we should have as our capital. If we’re talking numbers, our initial spending is actually just Php3,000! Our first expenses included business registration, and the consultation, drafting, and notarization of legal documents. We exhausted our efforts into using our connections and networks in finding what we needed. 

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    After our launch, we also received donations and sponsorships for social media boosts and promotion anf it helped us in getting the word out there. As we started earning, we were able to provide company uniforms for our tutors. The rest goes to our company savings, and instructional materials like purchasing online applications. We still constantly think of ways to improve our business, and predict future expenses.

    ...but time, effort, innovation, and resiliency are. 

    We built everything from scratch. It was weeks of research, surveys, and reaching out to friends and acquaintances who tirelessly helped us with financial matters, spreading awareness of our brand through Facebook likes and Instagram follows, and many others who shared digital marketing tips.

    Teacher Sam guiding a student through a quick exercise break. Recalibration is starting over with a fresh set of ideas in mind. 
    PHOTO BY Courtesy of Tutor Lab
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    It also took days and nights of writing policies, services, operation manuals, tutor handbooks, and session routines. When we launched and we started getting a glimpse of the process—from inquiring, enrolling, to actually tutoring clients—it became a lot more manageable. As we become more prepared due to experiences, we also learned to remain calm and cool under stressful situations.

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    The first few lessons gave us a lot of promise and motivation to continue. We were elated to receive such positive feedbacks from parents and guardians, saying that their children enjoyed the sessions, and are excited for the next ones. Our first client was from the US, and they immediately enrolled for our highest package right after the trial session!

    We heavily relied on our family and friends for likes, shares, and referrals. Even without boosting posts, we were able to reach thousands of people and received a bunch of inquiries

    The first few weeks were also about establishing our social media presence. As a startup, we heavily relied on our family and friends for likes, shares, and referrals. Even without boosting posts, we were able to reach thousands of people and received a bunch of inquiries, and thats’ when we saw firsthand how powerful networking is. 

    Given that our client list is a result of marketing, we plan to continue improving that aspect to expand the business. We also plan to be more active in our social media platforms, improve our publicity strategies, and offer in-demand classes that clients request for.

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    The challenges of online teaching

    We have encountered some mistakes along the way, especially when we had our first sessions. We were having miscommunications regarding time schedules, especially with international clients. Another is handling internet connection disruptions, which is the most frustrating of all.

    Time is ultimately golden in online sessions, and sometimes, it’s just beyond our control. As a response, we began improving our communication with the parents, doing tech runs at least half an hour before, and creating alternate meeting links using other applications. 

    For minor mishaps, what we do is have a discussion right after, and we even perform SWOT analyses as a team. We come up with a list of solutions, and vote on the best ones. Recalibration is a great technique to solve conflicts. 

    Given that all transactions are online, as parents/guardians, it’s difficult to just enroll children in a tutorial center whose management you haven’t met in person. That also goes the same way with our hiring process. This is why we invested in legal documents, which not only protects the company and its owners, but also to ensure that our clients agree to our policies, and that security and privacy of everyone will always be prioritized.

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    We overcome these challenges by delivering services of high calibre. We constantly strive to do our best in every session, from the free trial till the last session of the package availed. Our goal is to maintain a standard when it comes to teaching and conducting sessions, and one of the ways we accomplish this is to immediately provide feedback to our tutors in retrospect.

    * This interview has been condensed for clarity. Tutor Lab Manila has acquired permission from the students' parents/guardians to use the photos above for this story. For more information about Tutor Lab Manila, visit their Facebook page.

    This story originally appeared on FemaleNetwork.com.

    *Edits have been made by the SmartParenting.com.ph editors.

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