I-MAGAZINE Spends An Evening With Mark Hughes, CEO, Tutorful

Why did you start Tutorful and what is the company’s mission?

Since I was a child I was always obsessed with the idea of creating things. My first ever dream was to build a robot – however unfortunately that one never did come to fruition! I did however go on to study Engineering at University and ended up working as a tech analyst, and whilst I will be the first to say I was pretty good at it, I always knew I was on the wrong side of the table. Rather than having a passive role which focused on making decisions regarding investments, I wanted to be the person creating the products that people were investing in. Once I realised that my future would be in education, it was easy to see how it fit with my love for building. Building a business is a different challenge, it involves products, people, engineering, and marketing. Sometimes it’s frustrating but I live for the sense of achievement when I get something right.

I love the challenge that comes within working in education. It all revolves around problem-solving, however there is no limit to the amount of problems that need to be solved and the number of solutions we can create. I enjoy the process and will always strive to come up with bigger and better ideas to help parents help their children succeed. Both my mother and father are teachers, so I grew up in an environment that was heavily focused on education, my mother was also a private tutor, and whilst I could see that both parents loved their jobs, I always knew that I wasn’t a teacher.  It wasn’t until my long-time friend, Scott, came to me with a problem that I was inspired to delve into the realms of education.

Scott was a private tutor, and with my tech background this allowed us to come up with the idea of a website that would help connect him with more tutors so that we could ensure no children were left behind. It started off as such a simple idea – we were like a yellow pages for tutors – people would call up and we would book them in for a lesson with one of the tutors on our books. There was nothing fancy about the whole process, and although we did have a website, we didn’t have the infrastructure to take online bookings or process payments. It felt very old-fashioned, and I was desperate to take our idea further by building a real platform where people could find their own tutors and that people could put their trust in.

What makes Tutorful different?

We started Tutorful back in 2015, working out of my Co-founder Scott’s spare bedroom. Our aim has always been to connect parents with trustworthy, quality tutors who will help their children achieve real results.  It started out as a fairly simple problem that we wanted to solve, which was that it’s hard for parents to find trustworthy tutors. Since then the problem has evolved, as whilst connecting parents with tutors is the immediate problem, the real problem is helping parents help their child succeed and we were dedicated to becoming the solution.

We’ve always put a real emphasis on great tutors, as they are the foundation of what we do, and we pride ourselves on only taking on the best of the best. In fact, only 1 in 7 tutors that apply actually get through our interviewing process! We deeply care about quality over quantity and are confident that each and every tutor on our site is the perfect fit.

We’re always working hard to make our platform better for both tutors and students, and have recently launched our own bespoke online classroom. Gone are the days where we had to rely on unreliable third-party tech to deliver our online experience – we now have a state-of-the-art online classroom, built in-house by our talented developers. This means that we have full control over all the features of the application, can easily fix bugs, and can connect with tutors and students to find out what features they want to see in future releases. Our online classroom makes learning into an interactive, collaborative, and fun experience.

I think the general consensus of online tuition is that it “kinda works”. We’re keen to prove that online tuition doesn’t just work, that in some cases it actually surpasses traditional in-person tutoring. And over the past year, I think we’ve managed to do just that!

Has Tutorful seen a growth in demand since the pandemic?

Going into the pandemic, 80% of our business was local, face-to-face tutoring. So as you can imagine, once the pandemic hit, the odds were stacked against us. Whilst we had a small and growing online tutoring business, it was still only a small fraction of the whole company and we didn’t have much time to turn that around.

I’m pleased to say our team really pulled together and kept us going and our team has grown a lot considering the circumstances. We’ve been able to welcome on board new developers, more customer success experts and have grown the marketing team substantially. The growth that we have seen following the switch to online learning has been extraordinary, and we’re excited to find out what the next few years have in store for Tutorful.

This is all thanks to the switch to online tutoring. We were proud to be there for parents and children during a time when education was so fragmented, and what could have ended in disaster for a company that relied on lessons taking place inside peoples’ homes, ended up being a brand new start for us.

We were able to help thousands of children stay on top of their education during a really tough time, and provide an income for people who were out of work or furloughed.We expected the online focus to be a short-term solution to an immediate problem, but instead it has shaped the future of our business. As Tutorful became fully online this year it has in fact led to an increase of 400% Y-O-Y in online lessons and a huge milestone as we complete our 2,000,000th lesson on Tutorful!


The rest of this editorial will be published at a later date.