A former science teacher from Newport has used digital technology to quadruple the size of her private tutoring business over the last 12 months, while providing vital services to local parents of children with learning difficulties.
Jo Bold started her tutoring business while working for a local authority as a specialist teacher for children with specific learning difficulties, when she feared that the Council’s budget could no longer support the service she and her colleagues provided. The British Dyslexia Association (BDA) estimates that the condition affects around 10% of the UK population, including some ¾ million children, but many local authorities have had to cut back on their specialist teaching provision.
Jo set up 3D Learning Solutions in October 2017, working part-time with three pupils outside school hours. After being made redundant the following August, she put all her energy into the business, taking on more students and forming a partnership with two other freelance tutors. Two years on and the business operates with a network of eight tutors and provides diagnostic assessments, specialist tutoring and support to more than 70 children aged between 6 – 16 years old.
“Starting from scratch with no business background and only a basic knowledge about digital technology was a real challenge”
Jo developed a personal interest in teaching pupils with learning difficulties when her daughter was diagnosed with dyslexia. Her pupils have a range of learning difficulties, including dyslexia, dyscalculia (difficulty in making maths calculations) and dysgraphia (a disability that affects handwriting, spelling and word spacing) and although the work can be challenging, it was the process of setting up the business that Jo was finding stressful.
“Starting from scratch with no business background and only a basic knowledge about digital technology was a real challenge and I was concerned that I wouldn’t get enough business to survive,” explains Jo. “The other worry I had was around data security. In the beginning I kept everything in filing cabinets at home or on encrypted USB drives, but I knew I needed a digital solution, not only to ensure that personal and confidential information was stored safely and securely, but to make sure my business was compliant with all the necessary regulations.”
Not only did she need to ensure that her business was compliant with the GDPR regulations, Jo also had to meet strict guidelines set down by PATOSS – the Professional Association for Teachers of Students with Specific Learning Difficulties – of which she became a full member.
“The one-to-one advice was the best part of the support for me”
3D Learning Solutions joined the Superfast Business Wales programme and initially signed up for a social media workshop. She benefited from a professional review of her website and also qualified for one-to-one advice from a digital consultant.
“The initial focus was on re-vamping the website, making it completely mobile-friendly and giving the business a much more professional look. Making sure the site was optimised for search engines, adding in an email database feature and linking in with a Google My Business listing all helped to increase awareness of the business, delivering a 50% increase in traffic to the website and a three-fold increase in the number of enquiries from new customers.
“The one-to-one advice was the best part of the support for me as it gave me the confidence to set up a cloud-based system for managing our data, complete with online back-up and storage. The new system not only ensured I was GDPR and PATOSS compliant, but also gave me and my clients the additional peace of mind that all their personal information was securely stored, as well as being much easier for me to access.”
According to Cardiff University’s latest Digital Maturity Survey, 58% of Welsh SMEs are now using cloud-based computing services for storage, with 39% taking advantage of more advanced cloud technology for services like secure data-backup.
“The support from Superfast Business Wales has given me the confidence to go out and try things”
In July, Jo signed a lease on a business premises in Newport city centre, where the expanding business will operate from come September, as well as keeping open its existing centre and increasing the number of pupils who receive sessions in their schools.
“The support from Superfast Business Wales has given me the confidence to go out and try things,” added Jo. “The new premises will provide the opportunity to do so much more with the business and now I know that I can use digital marketing to turn my ideas into reality.”