5 Minutes with Tutors4GCSE: The Power of Personal

Welcome to a new series on the Edubrand blog: 5 Minutes With.

This is where I chat with someone whose business is selling to schools or parents. We’ll talk about what they found works, what didn’t and just generally give you the benefit of their experience – with hopefully a few interesting ideas along the way.

First up – Sharon Hughes, MD of Tutors4GCSE.


Hi Sharon, and welcome. First up what does your company do?

Tutors4GCSE provides tuition for small groups of children to help them with Maths and English across the North West. We work with a maximum of six children in a group, grouped by age from Year 5 to GCSE. We also have separate groups for adults. . All of our tutors are subject experts and our clients get the kind of focussed attention that’s very difficult to provide in a standard school setting.


That’s great, thanks. How did you get into this area in the first place?

Well I taught in FE for a number of years, and became increasingly frustrated with the restrictions that the curriculum, delivery methods and time placed on students’ learning. So often students are taught simply to memorise lots of mathematical rules, without really understanding the reasons behind them. That, and the very abstract way lots of mathematics is generally taught means students get bored and disengaged with the subject. So about a year ago I set this company up. With our small groups we’re able to take time helping students understand the reasons behind the rules and set learning in the real world.


What’s your main strategy for selling your product?

We’ve tried lots of different things, but increasingly we’re looking at targeting parents direct and face to face, and working with other partners such as schools, youth groups etc who can help refer people to us who might need help. We do have a social dimension to the business as well – out of every group of 6 students, 1 is completely free. With the help of schools we select those students from disadvantaged backgrounds who could really benefit from our service, but just can’t afford to pay. I think it’s really important to have an ethical dimension to your business.


What have you found to be particularly successful?

Actually, the very best thing for us was a stand in the local supermarket. They gave us the space for free because they realised the importance of what we’re trying to do. We had exactly the right target audience there and it made such a difference being able to explain our product face to face. Similarly going into schools works well too and giving talks to parents there


What did you do that didn’t work? Why do you think that was?

When I first started I decided to do a leaflet drop. I selected affluent postcodes in the local area to target and printed up 15,000 fliers and had them sent to a company to distribute them. Except they didn’t. It turned out to be a fraudulent company. Fortunately I was able to get some of the money back because I’d paid them on a credit card, but it was an expensive mistake and caused a big delay, when I’d just set up a business I decided after that just to focus on smaller measurable campaigns where I was in control. It’s been a great success and we’re growing fast!


What one piece of advice would you give to other companies trying to sell to parents?

Being able to speak directly to the parents has made a big difference for us – not taking a passive route and being reactive, but being proactive. It’s the only way people can understand what you do and what the benefits are for them and their children. It’s been a really steep learning curve to make that transition to approach people you don’t know and tell them what you do. Teachers are not used to being proactive in that way. The easy bit is having an idea, the hard bit is making it work.


Thanks Sharon for your thoughts and your time.