Lately, I forget to breathe.
It has been an exceptionally fast-paced seven weeks and with the pieces finally falling into place – more so than they initially were – it seems that I will be the owner of a tutoring center sooner than anticipated.
The process is nowhere near the end, although at times I wish it were. Squaring away the major obstacles of the business has left me to focus on the minor details, which in turn have been the most complex.
My last meeting with Peter Dunn, business program manager for the city’s economic development office, led me to an amazing little space at 253 Pleasant St.
The space is 450 square feet with an open area, two 10×10 office spaces and an individual entrance. The space caters to the very needs of my tutoring business – as a startup. I immediately envisioned the space filled with students learning and asking intriguing questions about their math problems or browsing through our bookshelves for their next mini-reading adventure, while other students focused on how to create a science project for their school fair.
The place was perfection – well, by my definition of perfection.
“How soon can I move in?” I wondered. I am not an impulsive person when deciding on major life events. I like to think things through and at times, overanalyze them until the decision turns into a no-brainer. Starting a business took time to register in my mind.
The ideas flowed vividly and I’d spoken about the concept openly with everyone I’d met for weeks, but the actual point I decided to start the business took time. Taking on the financial responsibility of this new space was not a decision I wanted to make within 24 hours, and I thought that it was something worth analyzing.
To my own surprise, though, I found myself reaching out to Wendy, the owner of 253 Pleasant St., by the end of the day, uttering the words, “I’ll take it.”
A thousand dollars later [$500 for first month’s rent and security] and with a signed lease, I am now the new renter of the space.
As I write this, I find myself smiling. I am stunned that I have full-heartedly followed this passion to help students and am ever-so enthusiastic about opening the doors to students in January. But the process only begins here.
Putting together the business plan has been a task that has drained every ounce of business savvy I have.
Now on paper are the ideologies and missions of my business. I have finished the executive summary among other sections, but am faced with the haunting financial planning segment of the business plan – the part that lays out the company’s ability to succeed according to dollar signs. With zero knowledge of how the business will be accepted by the community, I started to reach out and find some insight.
Last week, I met with Lauren Monroe, owner of the amazing organization, Worcester Think Tank. The organization has been able to reach out to students to provide classes of immeasurable value. While speaking with Lauren, she expressed her interest in helping me along my journey to establish my center. She explained that over the years, she has realized her organization has not been able to reach out to low-income students as much as she would like and we agreed that a potential affiliation between the two businesses could bring both organizations immense achievements.
We spoke about helping students gain access to higher learning beyond the average homework assistance with classes in 3-D printing and computer design. I left the meeting more inspired than I had been in the last few weeks.
To feel the support of community leaders looking to achieve similar goals, gave me the motivation to keep going despite the obstacles that may lay ahead. I was ready to take on the world, until Monroe asked me two questions that have haunted me from the beginning:
What is the name of my tutoring service, and how am I going to fund it?
I reached out to Dunn quickly after my meeting, inquiring about available microloans from the city and the criteria of approval. Dunn sent me an email with an attached application and a list [approximately 18 items] of necessary documents for the submission of the application.
Just to be considered for the microloan of $10,000, I would need an extensive list of items including, but not limited to, three years of personal tax returns, a certificate of tax compliance, a personal credit report, and letters from traditional lenders demonstrating a funding gap.
The thought of this application process gave me sheer anxiety.
It seemed to push me further away from making my business vision a reality due to timing and the extra effort to reach out to lenders, the IRS, and everyone else involved in the business sector.
The application steered me away from traditional funding. I began to see things differently after reviewing Dunn’s email. I started to wonder if I wanted to take on a traditional business loan and start a business in debt. I wondered if that was the best I could do to launch this business.
Starting the tutoring center has always been about the mission and not about the profitability, but if I obtained a loan, my mission might be switched from tutoring students to ultimately ensuring the repayment of this loan. I didn’t want to worry about the bottom line so early in the business and decided to bootstrap the business myself.
Keeping my overhead costs low, to a tight budget of $800 a month, I am confident in my ability to maintain the needs of the center while providing quality service.
In the days following my decision to fund my business independently, I felt a sigh of relief.
The process seemed clearer to me and ever-more personal. My lease is signed to start on Dec. 1 – yes, in less than four weeks! – and I will open the doors to students in early January. My partnership with students of Worcester State University, to tutor our students, has been confirmed and remains a major factor in my business structure.
And in the past week, I have even established the center with a business certificate from City Hall that reads: “In conformity with the provisions of Chapter One Hundred and Ten, Section Five of the General Laws, as amended, the undersigned hereby declare(s) that a business is conducted under the title of THE LEARNING HUB.”