Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in education but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Jennifer Ledwith, Founder of Scholar Ready, located in Houston, TX, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Scholar Ready is a literacy-first service that prepares our students to excel in college. Parents – typically college-educated professionals used to investing in developing their children’s talents and abilities – rely on us to help their students to improve their reading, writing, and math skills and their PSAT, SAT, and ACT scores.
We examine students’ literacy levels and adjust our learning program to make sure they don’t feel lost or left behind. We address the current problem and the underlying cause: poor critical thinking brought on by deficient math and reading skills. In turn, students develop life-long learning skills.
Tell us about yourself
I’m a Houston native raised by a single mother with high debts and no child support. People repeatedly told me that my mother made too much money for me to get any college financial aid. But grants are just one type of aid. When I walked across the stage at high school graduation, I had received so many scholarships that the announcer was still reading them after I was done crossing the stage. When I graduated from college with minimal student loan debt (only $1,000), I realized that I was an outlier: most of my friends and classmates took on massive student loans to pay for college. This was a key catalyst for me.
In 2004, I created Scholar Ready to help future undergraduates avoid taking on unnecessary student debt. Initially, I focused on helping students write scholarship essays; however, realizing that scholarships are a function of several factors — PSAT scores, ACT scores, SAT scores, GPA, and essays — I expanded Scholar Ready’s services to include math tutoring and test preparation. I understood from a young age that education and literacy are crucial to success. To this end, I designed Scholar Ready to give students the help they need to succeed in school and achieve a better life.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Breathing life into Scholar Ready’s summer program has been my biggest accomplishment. It is thrilling to witness what happens when I set goals, devise a strategy, take action, and measure progress.
In the fall of 2019, I was so upset about my student’s lack of college readiness that I began planning an online summer program for reading, writing, and thinking. My goals were to sell out the program, help my students boost their test scores, and earn college scholarships. Two students from the summer 2020 essay writing course earned full academic scholarships. Another student, who struggles with anxiety and Attention Deficit Disorder, had never completed a PSAT math section. That October, her score increased by 200 points, and, in turn, she was named a 2021-2022 Scholar from the College Board’s National Hispanic Recognition Program. My summer program has continued to grow. In the summer of 2021, I sold 90% of the program’s capacity; from 2020 to 2021, the number of students in the program grew by 64%.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Choosing where to best place my time, attention, and money – my business or my personal life – is challenging. Investing in my business may delay a home improvement project. Planning a get-together for my family may delay a new product launch. When I pour energy into a big project for work, I’m tired and don’t want to go out and socialize.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Starting a business: Research your industry. Pilot your product or service with paying customers and adjust your product according to their reactions to your product or service.
- Running a business: Know your numbers. How much of activity X do you have to do to realize Y dollars in profit? What are your income, expenses, and profit?
- Grow a business: Know what is important to you. What level of profitability will allow you to achieve a lifestyle that will make you happy?
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Would you like tips, strategies, and information about scholarships, college admissions, study skills, test-taking skills, and paying for college? Text SCHOLARS (in all caps) to 22828 for Scholar Ready’s weekly newsletter.
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.