Her personal experience in the tutoring business led to the development of an online service that helps tutors to manage the business side of tutoring. Ordones developed the online tutoring platform Tutor.id and it has seen big growth in the past months especially in North and South America. Compared to the beginning of the year, the employee count has more than doubled. The company is looking to expand the business even more.
Interest in Swedish led her to study in Estonia
About ten years ago, Karen was keen on the Swedish language and was looking for a Master’s degree program she could attend in Sweden. While looking for options, she found the University of Tartu instead and was impressed at how they handled the process of relocating her as an international student. So, she chose Estonia over Sweden and landed at the University of Tartu in 2010 where she began the Baltic Sea studies with a concentration in business administration. By then she was interested in businesses and how to manage things.
“I had a great experience at the University of Tartu. It was not an easy program, which is good because I wanted to be challenged to learn new things. I liked the model of the University; you can use the credits as you wish. There were a few mandatory subjects but you could craft your own curriculum. In Brazil, you don’t get that chance. I liked the freedom,” says Ordones.
After her studies in Estonia, she moved back to Brazil in 2013 and started to work in a language school because of her interest in languages. As she is fluent in English, while only a fraction of Brazilians speak it, she chose English to be the subject she taught. Although she loved teaching, she was not happy with the slim pay she received.
“So, I decided to become a private teacher. Within three months and through word of mouth recommendations from students that were happy with me I had a hundred students. My business grew pretty fast,” she describes.
Apart from English, she started to offer lessons in Brazilian history and literature, the same subjects she was really good at school herself.
To manage the business she came up with a unique idea
According to Ordones, she had many challenges on the road and had to overcome a lot of problems through pain. The biggest obstacle was related to managing the business. How to get new clients, how to hold the ones she had, general management, sales, and marketing. As she comes from a family of two generations of teachers, she has had close, personal contact with teachers from the day she was born.
She saw an opportunity to use the degree she got from the University of Tartu. In early 2015, she had an idea for an online marketplace that would help out teachers and tutors. She named it Tutor.id after she moved back to Estonia to become an e-resident. Ordones saw the complex bureaucracy in Brazil as one of the reasons she decided to become an Estonian e-resident. To clarify, e-Residency does not give you residency in Estonia. Ordones’ personal life just happened to coincide with her becoming an e-resident.
Although there are other online marketplaces for tutors, Ordones was keen on building a new and better one that would simplify the managerial side of the business. Now, Tutor.id has helped to manage over 16 000 bookings and over 24 000 hours of lessons have been taken through the service. There are over 200 subjects available on Tutor.id and most of the tutors offer their first trial lesson for free. The student can set the price they are comfortable with, when they have time, and what age group they represent.
For example, if you have always wanted to learn Estonian, you can find Pille from Pärnu. She has a BA in English Language and Literature from Florida Atlantic University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Tartu. She is willing to teach you her native language for 8 euros per hour. Polyglot Dalisa feels confident enough to teach you Spanish, English, and Estonian. She herself speaks four languages and is working on her fifth. Examples abound. Karen herself has taken tutoring lessons in Estonian.
In the past few months, Tutor.id has grown quickly with an active user count of around 5,000. The general number of visitors to the website has skyrocketed but not all of the visitors end up signing up for the service.
During the coronavirus pandemic, the company decided to lift the normal fees they take from the tutors using the service. Although for potential new investors it would be great to show large sales growth numbers, Ordones sees that education is also a very altruistic area. Unpredictably, during the pandemic, the service has seen the most interest from Africa.
“We are happy to help both teachers and students during this difficult period. We are recommending that teachers lower their fees because a lot of people have no choice but to study at home. And they have done that,” said Ordones.
Thanks to the growth, the employee count has gone up from three to seven employees and the company is looking to hire more people.
According to Ordones, the unexpected growth and competitiveness of the job market in Estonia has caused the team to be scattered all around the world, with people working remotely from India, Brazil, Dubai, and elsewhere.
Looking for new investors, hoping to expand to Asia
At the moment, the company is in talks with potential investors and hopes to close the next round by October. Ordones hopes they can expand to Asia soon.
“The biggest tutoring markets are in Asia. It is a part of their culture to have a tutor. They spend 10% of their household income on tutoring on average, which is a lot.”
Ordones recognises that the biggest lesson she has learned was not to build a company with only junior professionals but to add seniors to guide the young talents. Now, the company employs senior professionals to lead the core areas (Development, Product and Marketing) to grow the business, and to provide faster results due to their industry expertise – essential for startups that wish to be competitive in the market.
Tutor.id is registered in Estonia. Although from Brazil, Ordones is hoping she does not need to move her company to another country and can continue to benefit from Estonia’s streamlined tax system. “We are excited to continue disrupting the industry by empowering tutors to build their brand and grow their one-man (or woman) online tutoring businesses,” says Karen, full of optimism. They are planning to accelerate hiring with new investments.