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Business

19-year-old Long Islander runs 200-client tutoring business

Daniel J. Hepworth, a 19-year-old from Massapequa, created a tutoring business, The Massapequa Tutor. The business offers virtual tutoring over Skype and FaceTime and, as Hepworth said on Jan. 7, "... it's just like being in the room with them." (Credit: Howard Schnapp)

Massapequa teenager Daniel Hepworth once spent nine consecutive hours at the library helping students work on school assignments and prepping them for tests.

“That day was like a tutoring marathon. I barely had time to eat; I got by with a few bites of a granola bar,” said Hepworth, 19, a sophomore at Duke University.

It was then that Hepworth, at the time a junior at Chaminade High School, a prestigious all-boys Catholic school in Mineola, saw a business opportunity in his predicament.

He quickly tapped the talents of several of his high-achieving peers at Chaminade and started a tutoring business, The Massapequa Tutor.

The 4-year-old company now has 27 tutors who work as independent contractors and serve more than 200 clients, tutoring them in subjects from geometry to biology to Spanish, both in-person and through Skype and FaceTime. Many of the tutors are away at college, attending schools including Harvard, Notre Dame and Duke, Hepworth said.

Prep services for tests such as the SAT, ACT and GED are also available.

The company brought in $21,000 in revenue from September 2018 through August 2019, Hepworth said.

Tutoring sessions for core subjects like math or science cost $45 an hour, while test prep sessions are priced at $60 an hour. Tutors take home about 50 percent of all client fees and are paid mileage, treated to monthly team-building events and offered a variety of other incentives, Hepworth said.

All tutoring sessions booked with the business are scheduled and paid for through his company’s website, where clients can view tutors’ profiles.

Ishmael Brown Jr., president-elect of the National Tutoring Association, a trade group based in Lakeland, Florida, commended Hepworth for his entrepreneurial spirit and passion for tutoring, but warned that long-term success in the field will also require business savvy.

“Tutoring is highly competitive,” Brown said. It works so well as a second job “that professionals in a range of careers from teachers to writers and scientists to engineers, are drawn to it.”

Nationally, costs for private tutoring average $25 to $80 an hour, according to Tutors.com, an online tutoring company directory. However, tutors who have more experience, special certifications or specific skills can charge much more.

There’s also competition from larger tutoring businesses such as the Huntington Learning Center or Kumon franchises. Huntington has about 300 learning centers in 41 states, including about a dozen locations on the Island, while Kumon has more than 1,000 locations in the United States with 10 on the Island.

Tutoring sessions at these businesses can range from $40 to $80 an hour, while others collect monthly per-subject fees of $90 to $180. The tutoring centers sometimes charge initial assessment fees of up to $150-$200, and often charge additional fees for registration and materials, according to Tutors.com.

In 2019, U.S. tutoring and test preparation franchises accounted for $1 billion in revenues, according to IBISWorld, a California-based market research firm.

Brown, who owns InfiNeXt Educational Solutions, a South Carolina tutoring business that employs five tutors, said he previously started two other now-defunct tutoring businesses.

“I’ve learned by trial and error,” he said. “But the reason those companies did not do too well is because I was good at tutoring but bad with business.”

Brown suggested entrepreneurs interested in starting tutoring companies take courses in bookkeeping, small-business administration and conflict resolution.

Hepworth said he’s doing just that and has already taken several business classes, including one in managerial finance. Though he manages the business remotely for now, his plan is to run the business full-time after graduation in 2022.

For Nicole Leonick of Massapequa Park, a 19-year-old biology major at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, tutoring two to three times a week for The Massapequa Tutor while she was home for the summer was “the perfect way to earn extra money while making a difference.”

Leonick, who has tutored students in Spanish, social studies and science, said she enjoys the flexibility of the job as well as the opportunity to motivate and help students improve their grades and gain self-confidence. She said she welcomes the chance to continue taking clients through Skype or FaceTime while she’s away at college.

Massapequa resident Cathy Rosario was looking for a math tutor for her 15-year-old, Isabella, when she learned of Hepworth’s business on Facebook. Her daughter has had five sessions and Rosario has already recommended the service to other moms.

“It’s a lot cheaper than other tutoring companies. It’s convenient and reliable,” she said. “The tutor is very sweet, knowledgeable and easy to talk to and my daughter’s grades have definitely improved so I’m happy.”

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