Type of member: Acceleration
13th Mar, 2020
Francis Malone-Lee and James Willmott are the smart cookies behind the recently launched platform for online maths tuition, Maths Kitchen.
The team at SETsquared Exeter have empowered them to convert their expert tuition knowledge into a commercial business.
The aptly named platform was created by the former maths teachers whilst working on the idea part-time in their home kitchens. The aim of the platform is to provide secondary school aged children with a comprehensive revision site to review learning in preparation for GCSEs.
The idea came about when the duo were offering mathematics tuition services. There was a clear appetite for continued learning from the students they taught and a desire to utilise this expertise on demand.
The website’s intuitive approach focuses on the user and has the ability to make prioritised recommendations specific to ability, including strengths and weaknesses (ascertained as a result of their work on the site). James explained: “We make expert recommendations in much the same way a tutor would but ultimately they are able to take control of the journey themselves.” The site has already been endorsed by students and teachers with more than 500 subscribers each week since January 2020, with a total of more than 5000 users now signed up.
Following a recommendation in the community, Maths Kitchen joined the first cohort of the SETsquared Business Foundations Programme in 2019.
James revealed how the Programme has given them a thorough understanding of the fundamentals of business: “Having come from a teaching background, Francis and I lacked a lot of the basics in how to build a business. It opened our eyes to the value of collaboration and saved us a lot of time in being able to get impartial advice from a team of experts that offer regular drop-in sessions at the Science Park.”
The next steps for Maths Kitchen include the launch of their premium site and the development of a teacher dashboard.
When asked about advice for aspirant startups, Francis was keen for others to carpe diem. He said: “I’d absolutely encourage people with a passion or idea, just to try it. It’s initially very low risk and there are some excellent free tools and programmes to support you.”
James added: “It’s crucial to know your audience and get them to trial your idea. This is precisely what we did with a group of teenagers, we observed them as they explored the site. It’s the only way to truly understand what your product needs to do. Know your audience, listen to and communicate with them.”
Of course, starting a business is not always cut and dry, especially when you are close friends like Francis and James. James explained: “Part of the challenge for us has been making sure we maintain our friendship whilst working together every day, often under some pressure and with difficult decisions to make. It's something we've managed very successfully I'd say (Francis might disagree)! One thing in particular that's helped with that has been getting out of the office, or kitchen in our case and having a run to get perspective and encourage open conversation.”