Interviewing Ione Inness, Director and Founder of SEND Tutoring
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- Interviewing Ione Inness, Director and Founder of SEND Tutoring
Interviewing Ione Inness, Director and Founder of SEND Tutoring
Posted on March 24, 2023
I set up SEND Tutoring after seeing a massive gap in the market for bespoke tuition for children with special educational needs and disabilities. SEND children are sometimes portrayed as the most vulnerable within society and are also grouped together with all children, which seemed a negative to me. Educators and parents know that the one size fits all approach doesn’t apply to many children, particularly SEND children.
Lots of things inspire me, lots of people do too, ultimately it’s people who are trying to make the world a better place through education, kindness, understanding and laughter. I’m lucky to have a very strong friendship group and supportive family who all believe in me and my idea.
It’s been a massive learning curve setting up a business from scratch, I know how to teach but I didn’t know about all the backend things I would need. I’ve had a lot of help from the superstars in my life and I’m still learning. I’m not sure as a small business owner if you ever stop learning and I think in part that’s what I find so fun and also a bit daunting 😉
There are LOTS of exciting avenues to take your business down and you meet lots of other inspiring people all who have similar values to you. It works as a motivation for because the flip side of being a small business owner is that sometimes it can feel quite a lonely. An obvious point about starting a small business is generating your own income and in tandem, satisfaction with your product.
How would you explain your business to someone who has no knowledge of it?
SEND Tutoring is a subscription model made up of three tiers (Bronze, Silver and Gold) with tuition provided in each tier. The tuition is given by registered teachers who are all highly experienced and have qualifications in special educational needs and disabilities. In addition, in the Silver and Gold tiers, parents have the opportunity to choose a Speech and Language Therapist, Dyslexic Assessor or other to draw on their expertise to make sense of existing reports or contribute towards an annual review.
What I’m really proud of about SEND Tutoring is that I was totally inspired by SURE START an initiative set up by the Labour government that brought together children services so that all facets of the child were catered for. SEND Tutoring is a private service at the moment but it has all the elements of SURE START in enabling parents to build strong relationships with the same professionals over the period of time they need them for.
Currently, waiting times for the NHS are a minimum of two years and parents are shunted between oversubscribed services or they never see the same person. SEND Tutoring gives the parents the opportunity to not only see the same professional on a monthly basis twice but they can chop and change and then go back to the person they were seeing at the beginning.
I hope in time SEND Tutoring will build links with with Local Authorities and EOTAS (Education other than at school) so that we reach more parents and continue to provide a great service.
How long have you been in this business? And in other businesses?
I have been working with children for most of my working life in one way or another but I have been in teaching for 15 years and working with SEND children for the last five years.
I used to cook a long time ago and I taught cooking to children of all ages. I thought cooking was the hardest thing to do and then I tried teaching….
Why did you choose it?
I am dyslexic and I had wonderful teachers when I was at school to help me overcome the many difficulties dyslexics often have in order to achieve and gain qualifications before leaving school.
Individual tuition is a fantastic way to get to know the child and their family and really hone in on what that child finds difficult. Plus, you get to think outside of the box which makes teaching dynamic and no two lessons are ever the same.
Working with SEND children is an amazing way to fine tune your teaching skills and draw on your theoretical knowledge. I have more than one qualification studying child development and neurodiverse conditions and that helps identify what the child is struggling with and how to apply theory to the practical so that lessons engage and they work to fill the gaps in their knowledge.
How did you get started?
Two important people in my life instilled me with the confidence and power to set up SEND Tutoring.
How do you attract your clients?
Quite a lot of referrals have been word of mouth which are always lovely to receive and hear that clients I have worked for in the past have passed on my details. My car is branded with SEND Tutoring and that has brought in a few enquiries too. Google search via SEO keywords is also starting to generate interest, watch this space!
Can you describe your customers?
My customers/clients are those that look for the expertise of the tutors I have on SEND Tutoring’s platform. Mostly, they’re middle class parents seeking the highest quality tutor with relevant qualifications and experience.
Where do you see your business in the next year? In the next five years?
In the next five years I’d like to appear on the first page of google in any keyword search and have a wide reach across the UK. Obviously too, I’d like to be spreading awareness and working with lots of different types of families and helping more children.
Which things make you happy as a small business owner?
All the choices I make about SEND Tutoring are my own, I can take the business in any direction I want and I get to meet some amazing people and I have some truly fantastic tutors and specialists featured on my website.
Which is your best-selling product or service and why do you think your clients love it so much?
All parents want the best education for their children. Parents of SEND children are no different but sometimes children who struggle in education due to neurodiverse conditions or anxiety and mental health are harder to reach. If this is the case, parents more than ever want tuition to be given by highly experienced and qualified teachers who can give lessons that are engaging and fun and address many of the underlying issues like confidence and self-esteem that children experience.
My best-selling product is tuition, all of the tutors on SEND Tutoring’s platform are qualified teachers and have experience working with SEND children. Parents love it so much because they know they’re in safe hands. It’s a win win siututation.
Why do your customers select you over your competitors?
Clients choose SEND Tutoring due to the uniqueness of each package. There is no other company offering this service. It is totally personalised for each client and exclusive.
Customer Retention: how do you keep your customers happy?
I like to give time to each client and I follow up with calls and email contact to make sure the client is happy and can contact me with queries or questions.
Which challenges did and do you face, running your business?
Learning about all the back-end bits of running a business has been a huge learning curve and that is on-going. I had no idea about all the things and who I would need to be in contact with to get off the ground. I think a grounding in business would have been helpful…it’s a work in progress…
Is there any business lesson you learnt through experience that you wish you knew about earlier in life?
Invest time and education in a business or occupation that you are truly passionate about… not what others think you should be doing. I think I was always destined to set up my own business but it took a long time of doing lots of different things to reach this point. If I could go back to my younger self I would have worked on my self-belief and drive that I could do this.
How do you mantain a good work-life balance?
I like to have quality down time which helps keep motivation levels up.
Which is your best strategy for time management?
Be organised and implement systems which create efficiencies that reduce stress and time, delegating.