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Education fi and nic

Published on December 20th, 2017 | by voxx

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Larkin Tutors

When Nicole Woodford and Fiona Ritchie started their business ‘Larkin Tutors’, they had big plans! Five months into running their own business and they have seen how a small business idea can present lots of new, exciting (and big!) opportunities. Nicole and Fiona spoke to VOXX about how they developed their business idea and what made them take the plunge and set up on their own.

Larkin Tutors was set up to provide private tuition and proofreading services to further and higher education students. However, Nicole and Fiona have quickly realised that while you can start out planning to do one thing, you just never know what the future holds. They believe that careful planning, combined with an open-minded attitude to new opportunities, is the key to business success. Having said that, they have a strong passion for education and really believe in their idea to provide academic writing support to others.

Having originally met at school in Caistor, Nicole and Fiona reconnected years later as PhD students teaching at the University of Hull. It was during this time that the idea for Larkin Tutors came about. While teaching, they discovered a demand from students for academic writing support. As a result, they began to incorporate study skills lessons into their tutorials. “Unfortunately, students tend to lack support from their institutions. Whether they are home students, international students, mature students or students with specific learning difficulties, many feel as though they would like a bit of extra support with their work”, said Fiona. Their study skills sessions proved extremely popular, and led to the creation of Larkin Tutors.

Both Nicole and Fiona have taught at university level and hold PhDs. Despite their academic credentials, however, launching a business has been a steep learning curve. “Fortunately, we had an incredible amount of support from other local business people and advisors,” said Nicole. This support even gave them the encouragement to pitch their business idea to a panel of business experts at the University of Lincoln. “We had brilliant feedback from the panel, who felt as though there was a real need for the services we offer, and they awarded us a grant and business support package to help us get established”, recalls Fiona.

Nicole also took part in a CPO Media course in community journalism. She believes the skills provided from this course helped her to grow in confidence and improve her written work, which helped her throughout her degree and even helped to ‘fan the flames’ of her ambition to start her own business.

Starting your own business is a daunting prospect, but these women show how taking a risk can really pay off. “Running a business isn’t always easy and you have to persevere,” Fiona said. Nicole agreed and added, “the best advice we could give to any young people thinking of starting a business is to just go for it, and don’t listen to anyone who says you can’t do it”.


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