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Summer Startup where are they now series #09: Tom Maslin

05 August 2019

Run by students, for students, Ignition Tutoring provides NCEA students with a flexible, accessible and relatable alternative to other tutoring services. We talk to previous summer student, Tom Maslin, the guy behind it all.

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Tom pitching in the 2018/19 UCE EY Summer Startup final showcase

We caught up with Ignition Tutoring founder, Tom Maslin, about his progress, changes, and challenges with Ignition Tutoring since taking part in the 2018/19 UCE EY Summer Startup Programme.

When you started the Summer Startup Programme, how developed was your business? 

Ignition Tutoring was already operating and had been for almost a year, which was quite different to a lot of the students, whose businesses were still just an idea and not yet up-and-running. 

Since Ignition had grown a lot over a short amount of time, I hadn’t had much of a chance to work on the back end of the business, so I was keen to take part in the Programme to have time to focus and sort out our management structure and strategy. 

What are you doing now? Are you still pursuing your Summer Startup venture?

Ignition Tutoring now has tutors based in Christchurch, Wellington and Dunedin. We also offer workshops for NCEA externals at the end of the year. This year we also launched our rover maker space, which goes into secondary schools to provide an opportunity for students to learn something outside of their curriculum, including 3D Computer-Aided Design, 3D Printing, and robotics, just for the fun of learning it. 

Is it hard to balance working on your startup with other commitments?

Yes, it definitely is, but being involved in the Summer Startup Programme has taught me to plan and prepare more, so I can keep on top of the workload better. 

Where did the idea for Ignition Tutoring come from - have you always wanted to be an entrepreneur?

Becoming an entrepreneur had never been on my radar, so starting a business was not my initial plan, it just organically happened! I started doing some private tutoring for family friends after getting sick of my job in a supermarket’s deli department. I found it really rewarding to be able to help students finally understand concepts they had been struggling with. This grew through word of mouth, and at one point, I was tutoring 20 kids! I needed to share the workload so I brought a mate on board, and we continued to take on more students. We eventually realised that there was an opportunity to make this bigger, so found some more tutors through Student Job Search, and started Ignition Tutoring. Even now, though, I actually enjoy the tutoring more than running the business!

What are your plans for Ignition Tutoring going forward? 

The whole idea of Ignition is that it is run for students, by students, and since I will be finished with university this year and won’t be a student anymore, I am wanting to step away from the day-to-day running of things. Having developed our management structure during the Summer Startup Programme has helped with this; one of our ex-tutors is now our COO and manages all of the students involved with Ignition. I’m looking for a grad job but hope to continue with Ignition in a governance role. 

Has your experience with Ignition helped you with looking for a job for next year?

It has been a talking point in interviews, people are very interested in me having started my own business while at university! I think starting a business and being involved in the Summer Startup Programme has really broadened my expertise beyond what i’ve learnt throughout my degree (Tom is studying a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) in Mechatronics and a Diploma in Languages in German), which I’m sure will help as well. 

What was the most important skill you learned through the Summer Startup Programme?

Pitching was a big focus of the programme, and developing my pitch has helped my general sales and networking skills. I often got pretty tough questions from judges after my pitches, which were good at making you think more about your business and potential opportunities or weaknesses. 

How did you enjoy the social side of the Summer Startup Programme?

It was really cool to be working alongside people facing similar challenges, because the experience of being a student entrepreneur is not one that many students can relate to! The other people in the programme were great, and I still catch up a lot of them. 

What’s your number one piece of advice for students wanting to start their own business?

Don’t be afraid to ask people who have done it before for help. I learnt, through being involved in the Summer Startup Programme, that people are very happy to give advice, and don’t expect anything in return. People think that business people are intimidating, but they are actually really supportive. Even if they do give you some more negative feedback, it’s always constructive, for example, suggesting new ideas I might not have considered.

 

To read more about Ignition Tutoring, check out their website here.

Applications for the 2019/20 UCE Summer Startup Programme are now open! For more information, click here.


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