Making the Grade

Lessons learned, collegiates help high schoolers ace campus life.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the July 2008 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Being in college means you've already aced your SATs, taken all the college prep classes and filled out myriad applications to secure your place. Armed with all that experience, you can help current high school students achieve their college dreams.

It was just after graduating from Mas-sachusetts Institute of Technology with a bachelor's degree that Christine Ortiz, now 25, moved back home and started tutoring high school students in her neighborhood. After starting a graduate program at the University of Central Florida, where she is earning a master's in education, she envisioned a whole space devoted to learning. In fall 2007, she started The Knowledge Lab, a tutoring center in Longwood, Florida. Ortiz created a space with comfortable couches, custom murals and a refrigerator full of snacks to welcome students who come to her after-school SAT prep classes and help sessions on subjects like calculus and chemistry. Set to graduate herself next month, Ortiz knows how to navigate the college prep and application process--and shares with students what she wishes someone had shared with her. Positive testimonials from happy students and parents are now one of Ortiz's best marketing tools. She created a street team to talk up her business to high school kids at sporting events and the like. She also markets her business to guidance counselors as a way to get referrals. The K-Lab projects revenue of about $75,000 for its first full year in business. "I'm trying to create the kind of environment where kids want to come, they love the people who work there and they get along with the other kids," she says. "It feels like they're just hanging out and they happen to get their work done while they're [here]." Word-of-mouth marketing and networking within your community is key to getting student clients for your college prep and tutoring business, says William H. Crookston, professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Southern California's Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies. Go to PTA events or counselor events to get your business's name out there. And know what your services are worth. "Write a price list schedule," says Crookston. "And ask for [payment] before you perform the services." If you plan to grow your college prep and tutoring business, you'll want to hire a fleet of tutors. Depending on your needs, you may want to search for employees or independent contractors--but make sure you get a federal tax ID number so you can send out official 1099 or W-9 forms come tax time.

Building out a huge network of tutors--more than 700--has helped Greg Zumas, 31, and Richard Enos, 32, grow their tutoring service, StudyPoint Inc., to 10 cities. Starting in Boston in 1999, Zumas, then a Cornell University student, and Enos, a Cornell graduate, quickly brought in nearly 20 tutors their first fall season. "Ninety-nine percent [of our success] is based on who's going out and working with the kids. We still spend a lot of time and money [on recruiting and training] and are very selective on instructors," says Zumas, who projects company sales to hit more than $6 million this year.

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