Timothy Scafaria has 3+ years of experience working with over 70 clients in online education, both independently and for 3rd parties, along with previous roles at J.P. Morgan and a Colorado-based multi-family office. He is the founder of remoteUprep, LLC. After realizing that the industry leader in online tutoring charges $95 for a student to meet for an hour with their tutor making $17 in that time, and that understanding how financial aid works is most crucial for the middle class not historically targeted by college admissions consultants, the vision for remoteUprep.com was born.
remoteUprep is a platform for high school students to connect with tutors and advisors. We offer affordable, no commitment, pay-as-you-go, online tutoring, and college admissions consulting, where students can directly contact approved tutor/advisor profiles. Since we have the lowest platform fee in the industry, we’re able to attract the best talent and keep costs affordable for students.
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Table of Contents
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Tim Scafaria: Of course! Thank you for having me. In the summer of 2017, I searched Google “how to make money from home.” I quickly found out that I could tutor online from the comfort of my home. Before I knew it, I was working 12 hour days tutoring the SAT for 3rd parties. I was ecstatic making $17 an hour until I realized how much the students were paying to meet with me. While it was hard to get clients on my own in the beginning, the positive word of mouth my clients provided was the catalyst to realize there’s something more here. Online tutoring was a side hustle for me for years and supported me through college.
When I studied abroad in Prague, I went to about 12 European countries and broke even on my trip because of tutoring. Over time, many old clients reached out to me wanting to continue working with different topics in mind they needed help with. The most common situation was originally working with clients on their SAT, but anyone who takes the SAT has the goal of getting into college in mind. So, I studied up hard on the college admissions process and added that to my offering. Soon, I realized that getting into college is the easy part in most cases: affording it is the real challenge. I was able to create a comprehensive offering for my clients and then was determined to provide a platform for others to do the same. There’s so much opportunity to better serve students and their families that I decided to quit my stable finance job to pursue this full-time.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Tim Scafaria: My dad and my grandfather. When I was about 6 weeks in, trying to turn my idea into a product, I realized what I was originally planning was not feasible to bring to market. I will always remember calling my dad at this time convinced I failed when he said “Tim, you’re an entrepreneur now. This is just your first of many pivots.” Having my dad, a successful entrepreneur, at my side each step of the way is such a blessing.
My grandfather always fills me with tremendous confidence. I call my grandfather nearly every day and no matter how I’m feeling prior, he always makes me feel ready to take on any challenge. His belief in me always overcomes any self-doubt, which is especially important as an entrepreneur.
Getting to have both my dad and my grandfather be able to witness my launch was the proudest day of my life.
What are the most common mistakes you see entrepreneurs make and what would you suggest they do?
Tim Scafaria: I think many entrepreneurs make a mistake rushing to seek VC funding. It’s a lot of pressure to make money from someone else that might also come with their different visions or expectations. I think the ideal situation, if possible, is to wait until it makes sense on your terms. Give yourself the time to realize what you want out of the business; being VC-backed is not synonymous with being successful. Maybe that means taking VC funding early, but negotiating with a professional shark out of the gate seems designed to be tough for the entrepreneur.
I am a huge believer in equity crowdfunding and believe it is a better alternative for startups of nearly any size. I’ve been fortunate to not need to seek outside funding of any kind; a bit short on a company called GOTU that took 11 months to hit sure helped on this end. However, if I ever was to seek funding, you can sure bet I’d do it through equity crowdfunding.
Is there a particular podcast you listened to, or business thought leader that you find helpful while maneuvering this pandemic?
Tim Scafaria: I am a visual learner to the max, so I usually struggle to stay engaged listening to podcasts. However, the best interview I’ve ever heard of all time is on Spotify titled “Real Vision Classics #2 – Joe Duran Speaks to Brian Price.” I listen to it about once a month to not only remember these teachings but to also make sure I’m consistently applying them to my daily life.
In your opinion, what makes your company stand out from the competition?
Tim Scafaria: The value we provide to both sides of our marketplace is unmatched. Online private tutoring and college admissions consulting are historically not accessible for students and their families unless they are wealthy. It’s traditionally a luxury, but quality does not have to be sacrificed for accessibility, and that’s what makes the remoteUprep.com business model so incredible.
First, we simply have the lowest platform fee in the live online tutoring space, so we naturally attract the best tutors and advisors. At the industry leader, students pay $95 to meet for an hour with their tutor that is making an average of $17 for that hour. This literally means that tutors, entrusted to work with children at a pivotal point of their lives, could make more at my local McDonald’s entry-level position than they do on some platforms.
On remoteUprep, tutors/advisors can set their own rates. If one hypothetically sets their rate at $95, what the student pays, that tutor keeps $71.25. It’s a constant industry-low 25% cut which keeps prices low for students. Tutors/advisors can make way more on remoteUprep than they would elsewhere and still charge students less.
Second, our no commitments, pay-as-you-go model is a HUGE deal. We currently have a client whose mom made a massive commitment at a major test prep company. Even though her son hates it, the commitment they have locked them in. This will never happen at remoteUprep, and the mom has been so happy with our services that she’s made her commitment a sunk cost to continue working with us.
Third, we offer free admissions and financial aid consultation. If you can be helped in 30 minutes and need nothing more, that’s a great outcome.
Fourth, we offer flexible pricing which really means 2 possible rates. Each tutor/advisor sets their “standard” rate which is what they believe their rate truly is based on market rates, and a “needs-based” rate for those who might struggle to pay that. We even have a Georgetown Masters graduate who just received a 99% score on his MCAT offering tutoring in the sciences for FREE! It just makes me so happy with the type of people we attract. We do the right thing, work to make this industry fairer, and hope our clients appreciate that genuine care.
Lastly, clients can reach out to anyone they want! The company doesn’t have to act as a middle man to match tutors and students; the tutors are already approved anyway! You pick who you want to work with on your own terms.
remoteUprep is democratizing online private tutoring and college admissions services.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success?
Tim Scafaria: The importance of listening first, talking second, is crucial. I’m not always perfect at this, but I can’t help a client unless I fully understand their needs. I can’t understand someone’s needs by talking over them.
Next would be my hard work. I’m certainly not naturally the smartest, but I’m smart enough to have hard work put me in a good position to succeed most of the time. Lastly, I’m very patient. As long as someone is doing their best, I’m fully there to support them.
I believe these 3 traits make me a very effective tutor and help explain why I enjoy the business so much. I relate to students because I’m not a genius. I had to work really hard to be where I’m at and a lot of me being a successful tutor is getting the same level of commitment out my students that I give in myself. It’s important to realize private tutoring is not something a student has to do (some parents might force their kids, but I never take on those opportunities). I always do my best to support my clients and that genuine care for them and passion that I have in helping them reach their goals naturally translates to business success.
One of my favorite maxims is Dan Gilbert’s quote, “money and numbers follow; they do not lead.”
Being a CEO of the company, do you think that your personal brand reflects your company’s values?
Tim Scafaria: Oh absolutely. The term “populist” has been misused for political purposes, but I am unequivocally a proponent of the democratization of industries traditionally catered to the elite. Private, online live tutoring and college admissions consulting is an example of this. I knew from the beginning there was an opportunity in this space, but I refused to pursue it unless I was able to construct a way to make these services accessible for those who could really benefit the most or are not traditionally targeted by them.
There’s no point in starting a company in my opinion if you don’t want to make society better. If you want to make money, I would suggest going into banking.
What’s your favorite leadership style and why?
Tim Scafaria: Leading by example. People that try to take command by talking and not walking are more likely to just be loud than they are to be a leader. The bosses I’ve worked hardest work hard themselves. Preaching is for church.
What advice would you give to our younger readers that want to become entrepreneurs?
Tim Scafaria: While the economy that we are a part of often requires specialized knowledge to succeed, I would highly encourage the youth to learn as much as possible across different topics and to have diverse experiences. If you don’t know what I mean by the term specialization, think about what it takes to become a heart surgeon. First, you are pre-med, then you go to medical school, then you decide to be a surgeon. Once you specialize in heart surgery, that doesn’t mean you’ll regularly perform all different types of surgeries possible on the heart; you’ll perform the same ones over and over again. I personally would rather have a surgeon who’s done the same thing 20 times that week before operating on me than a generalist!
So does that mean the youth should determine while they’re young what they want to be specializing in? I wholeheartedly say no. Being an entrepreneur is all about being flexible. The first plan rarely works. It’s all about how you react to adversity and make your pivot. Having as wide a range of experiences and knowledge base as possible to prepare you for the unexpected is tremendously valuable.
I would highly recommend you read. When you become an adult and need to put food on the table, it is harder to make time for reading. This is one thing I thankfully realized before entering the real world. I read obsessively in my youth.
There are two things I wish I did more of when I was young. First, I really wished I learned another language where I could actually talk to someone in that language. Second, I wish I was better at coding to handle problems more complicated than the basics.
Lastly, it does not matter how well you did in school as an entrepreneur. You’re not following a rubric and no one is grading you. Entrepreneurship is not taught in school. If you want to be an entrepreneur, you might as well learn by starting now!
What’s your favorite “business” quote and how has it affected your business decisions?
Tim Scafaria: “Here’s the key to understanding risk: it’s largely a matter of opinion.” – Howard Marks
Lots of people considered it risky to start my own business full-time at 23. I considered it riskier to be complacent.
Larry Yatch, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Tim Scafaria for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Tim Scafaria or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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