Tavistock Tutors was set up by Marcus Ereira and Luke Shelley when they were just 17 years old. A few years on, the business has grown tremendously and they have over 300 tutors on their books. They provide private tutors for GCSE and A-levels as well as extra-curricular activities. Tavistock Tutors started of advertising the company with a brightly coloured orange bicycle, and now have their own G Wizz driving around London. They have clients ranging from the Far East to America and they plan to be the best agency in the world. I caught up with Marcus to find out more about the enthralling duo.
Nida Mahmud: What businesses are you working on?
Marcus Ereira: I tried setting up a student card with a business partner in the past. He was previously studying at UPenn and saw the idea was successful in the States; we tried to do something similar in London, unfortunately it didn’t work as well as we had liked. I am working on Tavistock full time with my business partner Luke; it has grown very quickly in countries and areas that we wouldn’t have expected any business from.
NM: How did you start up Tavistock Tutors?
ME: It was set up when I was in school at 17 with Luke, we grew up in same area so knew each other since we were kids. I had used tutors from other agencies and had found some were charging 45-50% commission. So I set up my own agency with Luke. I left school to focus on it full time and waited for Luke to finish his A-levels before I started University at Regents Business School.
NM: Are you looking at starting other businesses or are you solely hoping to focus on Tavistock?
ME: I am looking into things, but it is hard to say what might happen. Steve Jobs talks about connecting the dots; you can connect the dots looking back but you can’t connect them looking forward. At the moment Tavistock Tutors is my business and my priority. As I am generally interested in business there are things I have come across and looked into and read about, whether or not I make it a priority to dedicate a significant time towards something other than Tavistock Tutors is something I am not a hundred percent sure about. I am interested in wells out there and it is difficult to say what might happen ten years down the line and what else I might want to do then.
NM: How did you set up Tavistock Tutors and how are you different to other similar businesses?
ME: When I started online at www.tavistocktutors.com, we were not able to get certain tutors other agencies had. Some agencies only recruited from Oxbridge and Ivy League universities from the states, just generally the best universities in the world. I was 17 years old and didn’t have any money to start out, so I was out and about trying to recruit wherever I could. I called up heads of departments of universities to get them to refer students and postgrads. At the beginning our rates were far cheaper than our general competitors. At that time rates were cheaper than others. Most competitors are charging £55-60 an hour at the moment, we are significantly cheaper than them often offering the same tutor at at £40 an hour. The tutors were still getting paid about the same whether they were working with us or them as we take a smaller commission than our competitors. At the beginning we had lower overheads than other companies so we could afford to do that, even now we are still able to do that. I am amazed by the fact some agencies take 50% commission for lessons on an ongoing basis.
NM: How did you put together logistics and figure everything out? Was it trial and error or did you have someone helping you?
ME: We didn’t have anyone helping out, it was mainly Luke and I trying to organise things and a big part was trial and error. We spoke to other agencies to find out how much they were charging and spoke to tutors to find out how much they were getting paid, so we basically tried to find as many faults as possible with the system. Other agencies were not very transparent and tutors weren’t aware of what was happening. We are the cheapest in comparison to our direct competitors and feel it’s good to be transparent with our rates.
NM: What things have been the biggest obstacles in the businesses you have been with?
ME: Obstacles are ongoing. With Tavistock it was difficult starting with no money, we needed to get our name out there. It is easy to go to printing shops and have them hand out leaflets on the street, but so many leaflets get thrown in the bin, so we wanted to do something different. I saw a bicycle in the skip one day, I picked it up and painted it bright orange; it was parked outside different schools and worked as a great piece of advertisement that was very cheap to do. It’s hard to set up a business when you don’t have much money and it’s hard working long hours and not getting paid. My parents wanted me to finish my studies, it was also hard to be taken seriously at a young age. The timing was helpful in a sense as I was living at home; I didn’t have expenses and didn’t need to make any money.
When you are starting a business, it is likely that you would be running everything yourself, from the accounting, HR, running the marketing and managing the overall business; it can get difficult to juggle everything.
NM: What are the key skills needed for a business?
ME: I believe anyone can go and set something up, it is really important to be proactive and enthusiastic about what you are doing, you have to be prepared to work long hours. It is fantastic to see young people setting up business. 4 years after setting up Tavistock Tutors we are working crazy hours, 7 days a week and 13 hour days, but both Luke and I enjoy it. It is important to enjoy what you are doing. There are lots of opportunities despite the poor economy.
NM: Any other tips?
ME: Some things work for some people and they don’t necessarily work for others. I don’t think there’s a rule book for setting up a business, but it’s important to be different. You just need to enjoy what you do. Nobody should expect to make a fortune at the start.