When I first graduated college and moved to NYC to work at Lehman Brothers in 2001 as an investment banking analyst, I felt overwhelmed by the city’s volume of people, buildings, and non-stop activity. Yet, I was also excited about the prospect of future success at a large financial firm.
Quickly after I began my position, I realized that investment banking, along with its long hours and insane lifestyle (in my opinion) was not for me. I pushed through as long as I could; smiling and pretending to be engaged and committed until it was no longer sustainable. I knew I needed to pivot and find something more personally gratifying and less numbers driven.
“I knew I needed to pivot and find something more personally gratifying and less numbers driven.”
When I was a child, my mother ran a school for students with learning disabilities in South Florida. I spent years working at her school, learning various multi-sensory teaching methods, and observing struggling learners excel in their appropriate school environment. I realized at the time that I could leverage this experience to provide one-on-one tutoring to special needs children throughout Manhattan.
With great trepidation, I left my job in finance and began tutoring children of all ages with learning challenges – in the evening, during the day at schools, and all weekend long. Soon, it became too much for me.
I left investment banking partially due to the long hours, and here I was all over again working like crazy. Then an idea sparked: why not turn my tutoring practice into a business?
There was only so much time I had of my own to work with children, and there was such a tremendous need for these services. I very slowly brought tutors on board; each of whom specialized in different academic skills and age levels.
“I left investment banking partially due to the long hours, and here I was all over again working like crazy.”
In the beginning, I would have families come to my small apartment in Manhattan for an initial evaluation. I would then match the student with a tutor I hand-selected. I would then personally escort the tutor to the first few sessions with their student and stay there to observe. I was so scared that the parent would not be happy, or the tutor would not do as good of a job as I could.
What transpired surprised me – some tutors were not just as good as me, but even better! I was awed that I could be in charge and that people who were arguably “better” than me could work underneath me and make money for me. That was one of my first lessons in business. The parents were thrilled, and I knew then that this business was worth pursuing.
“I was awed that I could be in charge and that people who were arguably “better” than me could work underneath me and make money for me.”
As I mentioned, I started EBL Coaching in my small Union Square apartment in Manhattan and eventually rented a small office space on the Upper East Side so I could separate work from home. Soon thereafter, I rented a slightly bigger one and purchased our larger learning center on the Upper East Side in 2006.
I chose to grow EBL Coaching organically. I never raised money and always funded the next stage of growth using the business’ revenue. I have since expanded EBL Coaching to New Jersey, Westchester, and all other boroughs surrounding Manhattan. We provide virtual tutoring to students with learning challenges throughout the country and around the world.
Don’t get me wrong. It has not been all sunshine and roses. I have days when I feel like I am putting out fires all day long. Most days, though, I feel gratified, knowing that I have not only created and grown a successful business but that I have truly changed the lives of so many children.
Dr. Emily Levy is an educational expert, business owner, public speaker, and author based near New York City. Dr. Levy is the founder and director of EBL Coaching, a specialized tutoring program that offers individualized one-on-one home, virtual, and on-site instruction using research-based, multi-sensory techniques.
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