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.
“Bootstrapping? Like supporting the business on your own?”
That is the reaction and those are the type of questions I normally receive when explaining the business model for The Learning Hub. People stare and tilt their heads to each side, as if deciding my level of sanity.
And always the same response: “Doesn’t it take a gazillion dollars to manage a business?”
“Yes!” I want to blurt out! “It takes a gazillion dollars and I thought I had the money stashed under my bed.
“But as it turns out – well, it’s empty under there.”
Building a business is not for the faint of heart. I’ve said it a gazillion times before and I’ll say it again.
The Learning Hub is a simple business, attempting to fill an economic and social void in the education market (tutoring for low-income or otherwise underserved communities), but with that comes the territory of marketing a service at a low price point.
The magic number at The Hub is $15.
Fifteen dollars gets you one-on-one tutoring or Saturday lab classes. It is the number projected to us as the perfect pricing for our demographic, our community and for our students in need. So, what’s the problem?
In recent weeks, The Hub has gained more attention than usual. Our flyers are being distributed, we received some coverage from local business writer Peter Cohan, we were among the winners of the StartUp Worcester competition and even received a few donations … but the pace doesn’t seem nearly as fast as it should be.
Keeping up with the momentum is tough in Worcester. There are spurts of opportunity, here and there, but nothing consistent enough to rocket launch The Hub into the program it should be.
With our plans to open the doors to homeschoolers in addition to low-income families, and with the addition of our weekend lab classes, our market share potential is increasing.
But bootstrapping The Hub — i.e., spending personal money on business expenses — no longer seems like a reputable way to branch out and solidify our brand. I feel our brand needs the label of a nonprofit organization. I cringe as I write the word: nonprofit. Not because of a stigma, but instead because of fear — fear of losing the program due to the lack of funds I can’t seem to find without tapping into grants, donations and foundation money.
Which I can only get if The Learning Hub becomes a nonprofit organization.
We launched a GoFundMe campaign in mid-April in an attempt to raise capital and monthly costs through a grassroots source, and gained $120 within the first 24 hours, but as most things go, the momentum died. We are boosting the campaign through social media platforms such as Facebook. Twitter and Instagram but despite our reachability of over a thousand followers, there’s a disconnect. Donations have been disappointing.
For us to take the plunge into the world of nonprofits, there is a list of requirements, including funding needed.
At the top of the list, neck-and-neck with raising the necessary capital to convert to a nonprofit — which requires a fee of almost $1,200 — is forming a board of directors.
This is where the difficulty begins. To form a board of directors and choose officers, there must be a consensus about the vision for the company and its social and economic mission. Even more important, the people involved need to share a dedication to the overall goal, and be comfortable working together to achieve it.
Choosing a list of directors and officers is as hard as deciding on a name for a business. It is a reflection of the company’s mission and reputation and can be a daunting task for many, already working the 9-to-5, full-time position at another company.
In the weeks to come, we will host a meet-and-greet event, in hopes of finding a vast number of local talented people who can contribute their skill sets and assets to create the push The Hub is yearning for. With our yearlong membership to Running Start thanks to StartUp Worcester starting on June 1, we will open the doors to our space and company model to those who seek to fulfill their need of helping those without a voice.
We continue to grow our concepts of the services we should provide, but without a sound team to take on the endless lists of tasks and duties, running The Learning Hub to its utmost potential is impossible, with only one person committed full-time.
Between hosting an event to gain a board of talented officers and keeping up with the winnings of StartUp Worcester, The Learning Hub is on the verge of making its way over the hill of obscurity. When starting a business, especially with an idea that can spark change, it is hard to foresee the struggles ahead.
With big ideas come big setbacks but per usual, we will push through and make progress, no matter how slow the process.
Follow Giselle’s story from the beginning:
Want to be considered for the board of directors and officers? Stay tuned to our social media for the upcoming meet and greet date!