Serial entrepreneur Obanor Chukwuwezam is the first to attest to the power of pivoting your business. Having launched two e-commerce startups which failed to get off the ground, it was back to the drawing board. But in 2013, together with business partner Ogunlana Olumide, they hit upon the idea for the Prepclass, and now Chukwuwezam says it’s third time lucky.
Prepclass launched to market in January 2014, as a platform offering test and exam preparation help for students in Nigeria. Tapping into the increasing call at the time for school exams to be taken digital, Prepclass was ahead of the game, offering past papers and study guides via the online platform.
However, Chukwuwezam admits the co-founders soon knew they hadn’t quite got the concept right.
“What we discovered down the line was that there was more value in connecting students to teachers who could truly help them understand difficult concepts, rather than merely giving them a screen full of text. We started to connect the best tutors with our clients and it soon became our mainstay,” Chukwuwezam explains.
Today, Prepclass functions as a successful online platform where students and parents can access vetted tutors, and book time with them.
The vetting process for tutors is of paramount importance, Chukwuwezam explains. Tutors apply to be listed on Prepclass, whereafter the startups puts applicants through online and phone-based interviews. At this point, those still in the running are invited to the company office for a three-stage interview process that includes a written test, a personality test and a teaching practice exercise. The startups also requires references and performs a background check.
“Tutors have to pass through every stage of the vetting process before we connect them with any client,” Chukwuwezam says.
“A gap exists in the market in discovering the best tutors, testing them to be certain of their capabilities, and guaranteeing the safety of students. For the tutors, the assurance that they will get paid for their services is of utmost importance,” he says.
All payments to tutors are made directly through the Prepclass platform, which disburses payments to tutors while taking a commission on each booking. Chukwuwezam says the company made US$100,000 in revenues in 2015, and is aiming to grow this to US$500,000 by the end of this year.
According to Chukwuwezam, technology is completely changing the educational space in Nigeria, and for the first time empowers parents and students to easily improve their education and access personalised study help.
“Today a parent or client can see their child struggle in a particular subject, or be apprehensive for a particular exam, and pick up their phone, go to Prepclass.com.ng, and have access to our test prep platform for a token fee or request that a knowledgeable specialist be sent to their home to help their child through that difficulty,” the co-founder says.
“It’s very different from what you have in classes because this is a 1-on-1 arrangement with the entire focus concentrated on just one student with the bid to know and understand his strengths, weaknesses and most important, to help him meet his goals and ambitions.”
Prepclass is currently only available in Lagos, but is in the process of scaling to Abuja and Port Harcourt. The startup has ambitions to take its service across Africa, and will in the near future be looking to raise US$1 million to enable it to begin its pan-African expansion.