Editor’s note: Since September, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials, tribulations and triumphs of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support and assistance. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s an inspiring one, a full-fledged director of a Pleasant Street tutoring center that opened in late January. Her journey, though, is far from over.
The Learning Hub has been a learning process.
Filled with twists, turns and hurdles it has been a rewarding opportunity to attempt to be one of the first tutoring services in Worcester to cater to the low-income community. The opportunity to reach out to students yearning to have the same playing field as their peers is now my mission.
From my own experiences I understand, though, that the concept of The Learning Hub has to evolve into not just tutoring students but also educating parents in their own battles to provide the best educational accommodations for their children in the public school systems.
With the middle of the academic school year approaching, The Hub hopes to drive additional students in for creative writing classes, paint labs and science experiments to keep the flow of education current through spring vacation, April 18 through April 22, but we are also planning to reach out to the parents.
Parents are the foundation of any child’s education.
They are the tireless secondary teachers to their children, the voice for their child’s needs and the reason behind the success of many children. If parents are given the tools to better understand the public school system, then children will have a better experience and quality of education from the beginning of their early education career.
The more I speak with students of The Hub, the more I realize that there is more help to be given to the students and their families. The struggles I’ve faced with Brooklyn should not be the norm for all parents. An immense amount of education awareness is needed for the parents with children facing learning disabilities, language barriers and medical conditions.
Building The Hub has always been done with too narrow a view. I started simply to open a space where children could receive additional education to boost their abilities at school. Now as I shift my mission, though, the goals are more specific.
My “aha” moment is happening and I am realizing the bigger picture: Education must start with the parents.
As I continue to meet new families, I am blown away by their hardships. I not only empathize with these families, as I walk the same thin line, but I also understand the frustrations of the child. I see their desire to do better. I see the dedication in them to succeed and it is causing me to remold my business.
I write this piece every other week to shed light on the struggles of entrepreneurship and the rewards of becoming a business owner. Sometimes I share some “how-to” thoughts or things I’ve learned, but this week as I retrench, I’ve been thinking more about “what not to do.”
Meeting these parents is causing my mission and vision to shift and is allowing me to understand my market more than ever. My “aha” moment is leading to a series of realizations.
Lesson #1: Don’t guess
Never guess who your target market is. Yes, there may be an apparent gap in the market allowing you to create your business and build a pipeline of clients, but don’t assume your consumer base ends there. With a new focus, my target marketing is growing.
Lesson #2: Don’t shut the door on your consumers
Your consumers are a valuable source of information. They are the demand side of your product/service and their voice can reveal a fresh perspective on the areas your business can service. The Learning Hub is personable with all families. We take the time to listen to our families to better understand the needs of their child, but this information also helps us understand any gaps we have in the business model.
Lesson #3: Don’t ignore the competition
Who cares about XYZ company down the road, right? Wrong. XYZ tutoring could offer incentives to their clients, better customer service, better pricing, expanded hours of operations, bigger databases of materials and more. From my portfolio management days, I learned that the competition is your friend. Almost every business has a competitor. It is what drives the market. Go out and research who your competitor is. Learn how they operate, what they charge, who their clients are and so forth. While you’re there scoping out the place, you might learn their consumers are opposite from yours and it might turn into a cross-promotional opportunity.
Lesson #4: Don’t network with just anyone!
If you want to build a brand and spread awareness of the existence of your business, networking is a great way to conduct cost-effective marketing. I mean, it’s free. But with free comes a fluctuation in quality. Don’t network with anyone and everyone you meet. Not every networking event, group or person is the right fit for your business. Cater your networking efforts to the limits of those that will create opportunity for you and offer a realm of insight. For example, if your business is a tutoring service, like mine, stay away from networking events that cater to real estate management.
Lesson #5: Don’t be afraid of marketing
Don’t take all the time and dedication to build your business and then build in a fear of marketing! No one will know you exist unless you are out in the world screaming at the top of your lungs about the products/services you offer. How will Jane know you’re the right fit for her consumer needs, if she doesn’t know you exist? Don’t be afraid to market your business and talk about it like it’s the best thing since sliced bread. It is a crucial part to any business.
In the upcoming weeks, we plan to remodel the business to incorporate a new segment. We are not really expanding; we are simply including. We look forward to reaching out to parents and host events to speak about Individualized Education Programs, 504 Plans, general school accommodations available in Worcester and the need for parents to become involved in their child’s education. We want to promote a voice for the voiceless.
Follow Giselle’s story from the beginning: