Business Leader recently sat down with Luke Shelley – who, with his business partner, recently sold his tutoring business, Tavistock Tutors – to discuss the growth of their company and their entrepreneurial journey.
Congratulations on your sale, tell us how that come about?
Thank you! We have been exploring business opportunities that have greater scale potential for some time and we built that with Central 23 (our stationery publishing business where we sell our products to 4000+ stores around the world). The sale of Tavistock Tutors has helped us free up our time so that we can really focus on Central 23 as well as a new venture we are launching (a tabletop game business).
There are significant growth opportunities for Tavistock Tutors. We are confident that the new owners, who have a complete focus on the tutoring industry, will be able to take the business to new heights.
What inspired you to start Tavistock Tutors in the first place?
While in school, Marcus (Ereira – his business partner) met a tutor who was building a tutoring agency. The agency were looking for more clients and Marcus agreed a commission structure with them. If Marcus found them a client, he would get a small fee on every hour they worked. The company stopped paying the commission agreed so Marcus came to me (we lived on the same road and were both entrepreneurial) and suggested we start a competing agency. We purchased a pink flip phone from Carphone Warehouse (the cheapest phone we could find) and we got started.
How did you grow the business to become London’s leading tutoring network?
We built Tavistock Tutors into one of London’s leading agencies and it wasn’t easy.
It is a highly competitive industry with little or no barriers to entry. It’s a saturated market and we needed to stand out. In our early days we focussed on making sure we were available 24 hours a day and we literally had calls to our mobiles at midnight, which we took.
Further along on our journey, we made sure that we offered the best service. We interviewed all of our tutors personally, only made sure that we worked with the very best and we refined our matching skills to make sure we got it right and students succeeded.
We invested huge amounts of money into Google marketing which helped to solidify our name as one of Londons most trusted agencies.
What is it like working together? Do you bounce off each other or do you sometimes clash?
Two heads are better than one is the perfect answer to this. We work very well together and have different ways of looking at the same issue. This helps us create a lot of opportunities which helps the business grow.
We have differing opinions on some topics and we debate a lot. I would be worried if we didn’t. When someone questions your judgement it forces you to think about that decision in greater detail and helps improve our collective decision making process.
Ultimately we both have the same goals. We might not always agree on how we get to the destination but as we run towards it, we let the best ideas lead us.
What tips would you give to budding entrepreneurs in today’s uncertain climate?
Work hard and work smart, don’t let the uncertain climate around you dampen your mood.
Tavistock Tutors was started during a global recession and the whole world is now going through the Coronavirus crisis together.
With hard work and good execution, anything is possible. Go for it and get started.
What’s been your biggest challenge to date?
The biggest challenge to date is the current challenge we are facing with COVID-19. At Central 23 we had hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of orders cancelled in a single day.
The next few weeks and months are going to be a challenge but as we have said before, hard work and smart work will help us overcome the challenge. We will come out the other side of this pandemic running and we will be running faster than our competitors.
What’s next for you both?
We started Central 23, a stationery publisher, three years ago. We sell our products to 4000+ stores around the world and on Amazon.
Over the next few years will be working on Central 23 and aim to become the most well-known stationery publisher around the world. You will be seeing our products in a lot more places over the next few years.
We are also launching a new business, Sloshed, in the tabletop game category (think Cards Against Humanity). It is an extremely exciting opportunity and we have spent the past six months developing our first game. We will be able to discuss this business in more detail soon but very exciting things to come.
That’s a totally different industry, what made you make that switch?
Marcus and I have always looked at the opportunity cost of our time. We determined that we can have a bigger impact on the world and make more money if we focus on something that is more scalable.
Central 23 and Sloshed are the more scalable opportunities we have been working towards. With Central 23 we sell products to millions and millions of people and we will be doing the same with Sloshed.
Where do you want to be in five years time?
We want to create successful businesses and brands that are known around the world.