Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Laura Richardson, Chief Advancement Officer of Math Corps, located in Birmingham, MI, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

We are a social justice non-profit serving students from middle school through college. The mission of the Math Corps is to empower and inspire children from under-served communities – through the teaching of mathematics and the fostering of self-worth, strong values, and a sense of family – to build good lives for themselves and a more just society for all.

The goal of the Math Corps, then, is to ensure that every child, while cared for and supported in the present, goes on to graduate high school fully prepared to succeed in college or another rewarding endeavor.

Tell us about yourself

What motivates me = The kids. I started with nothing. Not one piece of paper. Not one forwarded email, not even an old grant request. I was simply asked to raise enough money to support the program in Detroit and the newly formed National Office. The total bill was about $1M at the time, and they had never raised more than $200,000 through the new 501c3.

I had no office to go to, no co-workers, no employee handbook, no systems, no database, no website, and no former employees to consult. Also, camp started in July, so I had five months to raise the money. Did I mention two weeks later, a pandemic broke out? Most people would have run, but I was head over heels in love with the program, the kids, and the unique way this program crushed the cycle of poverty one student at a time.

In my 25-plus years of working in this field, I had never seen anything like it, ever. I knew no one else would jump at this opportunity. I couldn’t “play it safe” and watch them fail. So, I dug in and started creating the business tools and back-office resources necessary to support a blossoming national program while racing the clock to raise funds to cover our budget

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

I am proud to say today not only are Math Corps Detroit and the National office secure, but we are also ensuring the financial sustainability of all eight national expansion sites. We have a website, social media following, and a recognizable brand. In July, we were recognized by the Secretary of Education and the First Lady as being one of the top three programs in the nation for learning loss recovery.

In December, I will be recognized by Crain’s Detroit as one of the Most Notable Women in Non-profits. However, all this pales in comparison to any one of our kid’s real-life stories.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

The constant risk. For me, the stakes are high. Relying on philanthropic donations to sustain a program is not for the weak. Our program is a lifetime program. We create a second family to support our kids. Our middle school kids come in fresh. When they become high school students, they serve as paid teachers/mentors to middle school kids. When they ultimately enter college, they come back and teach the high school kids.

We are a pipeline from middle school to university for at-risk, under-served, minority, first-generation students. They succeed because we become their second family and promise we will be here for their lifetime. We cannot let them down. We absolutely must be there for our kids every year. A change in funding priorities at local foundations, the government, or individual donors, can abruptly affect our financial stability.

However, I will not let it affect our kids. I am constantly on the prowl for additional funding while trying to stabilize our base.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Be passionate about your mission.
  2. Don’t give up.
  3. Never forget your humble beginnings. Keep that drive.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

Turn your craft into recurring revenue with Subkit. Start your subscription offering in minutes and supercharge it with growth levers. Get early access here.