How Outreach Tuition learnt valuable business lessons
“I was so nervous when I attended the Kent Foundation course on starting a business at the Business Terrace. But by the end of the six weeks, I had a sense that my idea was really going to work.”
It was an article in the local paper about a young man who was running a successful business at the Business Terrace that sparked Jodie Devlin’s imagination. “I’d just been made redundant from my teaching job of seven years and used to drive past the Terrace on my way to the Job Centre. It would remind me of the lad I’d read about in the paper and I kept thinking, “I’d love to be in there.”
Jodie began tutoring as a way of earning that would fit around her childcare needs. She soon noticed a glaring gap in the market – many children who were unable to attend school were simply missing out on education altogether, as Jodie explains, “When a pupil is a non-attender due to exclusion or long-term illness, schools simply don’t have the resources to educate them. And private home tuition is just too expensive for many families. So, those children just slip through the net. It didn’t seem fair that they were at such a huge disadvantage and I knew there was something I could do to help.”
In February 2018, armed with just £500 and an idea, Jodie declared to friends and family in a Facebook post, “I’m taking a leap of faith!” It was then she booked a place on the Kent Foundation course, and immediately after signed up for a virtual address at the Business Terrace and began hotdesking in the building.
Jodie began contacting as many schools as she could, offering one-to-one tuition for pupils who were not able to be in school. The response was amazing and within a month, she had hired two members of staff and a three-person office in The Incubator.
“Being in the Business Terrace was brilliant,” Jodie explains. “There was so much different training going on, and it was so helpful to be among likeminded people. The meeting rooms were so impressive too, we were always really proud to take candidates in there.”
As well as finding the help of the Terrace’s business adviser invaluable, Jodie also made the most of the website’s virtual adviser, ‘Ask Phil.’ “When I hired my first tutor, I didn’t know how to draw up a proper contract so I ‘Asked Phil,’ she explains, “It was great – like having your own personal adviser!”
Today, Outreach Tuition has a team of ten and a new home on Maidstone High Street. Jodie admits that as for many businesses, the pandemic was a challenging time. However, the suggestion by one of her tutors to take the business online was ‘the making of them’. “We’re so lucky that an online approach really suited our business,” Jodie says. “Now, we’re able to tutor most children virtually without having to lose hours travelling.”
With ten regular schools on their client list, the team is thankful to have come so far. In fact, the business was just awarded an Open Awards Bursary for helping to break down barriers to people being in education. And with virtual tuition going well, Jodie’s sights are set on expanding her services throughout the South East.
Her advice to other businesses? “I was so worried that I didn’t have the sales skills to succeed. But there is so much help out there to support you in the areas where you’re not confident. If you’ve got expertise and experience in the sector you’re going into, your passion and knowledge will shine through.”