National Success for Sheffield Tech Business
19 April 2016
A Sheffield business that started as a ‘problem solving exercise’ and became a market place tech solution with a £150,000 crowdfunding investment. Scott Woodley explains his journey from teacher to Co-Founder of a successful tech business operating in 12 cities across the UK.
Whilst I was working as a primary school teacher at Bradway School in Sheffield, parents kept asking me if I knew of any good private tutors to help with extra tuition for their children. I love working with children and wanted to see them improve, so I took on some extra tutoring work, but couldn’t meet the demand. I really enjoyed tutoring so I decided to set up my own business called ‘Studying Matters’ and received so many requests for tuition that I decided that I needed to do something more. I contacted my old friend from school, Mark Hughes, who was working for a technology investment firm at the time, to see if he was interested in coming into business with me, and Tutora was born.
We noticed that the current solutions in the market weren’t suitable for the needs of the parents and tutors, so Mark and I set up a website called Tutora.co.uk in August 2015, where parents can search for the subject their child needs support with, the postcode they live in, read the bios of a selection of tutors and then book lessons. It’s a bit like Airbnb for tuition – a two-sided market place, matching parents with tutors in the right area and subject matter. I’ve found that parents want tuition in their own home and don’t want to be travelling far to receive it.
Tutors can advertise on our website for free and we take a commission when they find students. It’s basically a one-stop shop for all tutors wanting to set-up on their own. We have a variety of tutors advertising with us: from retired teachers to PhD students, foreign nationals teaching languages and lecturers focusing on degree level. We vet every profile and ensure that we check every tutor’s ID when they apply to advertise on our site – we only advertise top quality tutors with the right qualifications to provide the best teaching for every child.
Sheffield is a great place to do business. I find the people here really helpful; we have been in contact with other Sheffield tech start-ups who are happy to give us their time and feedback. In fact, there’s a group of small businesses who meet up in places like Tamper to help each other, give advice and provide honest feedback. There really is a strong community of start-ups here in Sheffield all pushing each other forward - we are all facing the same problems so we look to support each other wherever we can! The University has been great too. I studied a Masters at the University of Sheffield and as a graduate I am able to use their Enterprise Zone office space for free, which has really helped with the initial stages of our business, and it’s where we run our business at the moment. They have also provided us with things like PR support.
Our business is doing much better than we ever anticipated. Initially we were planning on focusing business solely in Sheffield, but its popularity with parents grew rapidly, so we have expanded to 12 different cities across the UK.
We have faced challenges setting up our business - time and money aren’t on our side! Part of our service is to sort out refunds, vet tutors, organise finance, answer the phones as well as advertising and marketing so that our tutors can focus purely on teaching and not have to worry about anything else. But there are only two of us and 1,500 tutors across 12 cities advertising on our site so we work flat-out most of the time. We do love it though. Everything we do feels worthwhile and every decision has been ours which is great. Plus with our £150,000 investment which we raised through crowd-funding (we raised this in just four days), we are building our team in Sheffield. At the moment, we’re recruiting an admin role and some web developers which is exciting. We’re also going to make more features on the website and scale the business across the UK.
If I had one piece of advice for someone wanting to set up their own business, I would say: find a good problem and solve it. I would also encourage any would-be entrepreneurs to come to Sheffield and push forward with their idea.
Looking for a tutor? Visit Tutora’s website to find an expert, local tutor in any subject for any age. Their tutors will visit your home for one-to-one tuition sessions: https://tutora.co.uk/
Have a business idea or wanting to set up your own company? You can get free and impartial advice to help you set up and grow your business here in Sheffield. Contact Business Sheffield on 0800 043 5522 to learn more.