Joe Connolly With Megan O'Connor, Sam Gimble Of Clark Inc.

WCBS 880

Small Business Spotlight: 'Hi Clark' Offers Technology To Make Life Easier For Tutors

March 14, 2018 - 7:00 am
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NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- A couple of years ago, Megan O’Connor noticed that her mother was spending an inordinate amount of time organizing and operating the business for the tutoring service she offered on the side – so O’Connor created an organizer so her mother could focus on teaching students.

The product worked so well that O’Connor and business partner Sam Gimbel took it to market. Thus, Clark Inc., also known as “HiClark,” began.

“HiClark is software for your tutoring business. So if you’re an individual tutor and you’re working with students in the classroom or outside, we build software to enable you to run that business,” O’Connor told WCBS 880’s Joe Connolly. “We work with both small educators and also large-scale tutoring agencies.”

The business works on the philosophy that technology can never replace in-person education, but tutors need better tools to educate.

“We provide a pathway to success for these hard-working professionals with timely assistance and business management,” the company website says. “From scheduling your next session to making sure you get paid on time, every time, Clark has your back.”

O’Connor and Gimbel said the education field is growing and booming.

“The growth is coming from the fact the parents, for the first time ever, are really understanding the importance of personalized learning – and the fact that their kids need one-on-one instruction in order to truly thrive,” O’Connor said. “Also, class sizes are getting quite a bit bigger, so teachers are lending software as their big support system in these days.”

O’Connor’s mother is a schoolteacher in San Jose, California who has always tutored on the side to make extra income, going back to the time when she was raising O’Connor and her brother by herself.

“A couple of years ago, I was trying to help my mom with her business, just because I realized she was spending so much time organizing her business, and she wasn’t teaching as many students as she possibly could,” O’Connor said. “So I went out to the Future of Work software space, tried to find something that could support what my mom was doing, and realized that there was a gap in the market. So that’s when I was lucky enough to meet Sam, and we started building Clark.”

O’Connor and Gimbel realized they had a business plan that could take off when they started working with New York educators and serving them as a virtual assistant. She said the people came “in droves” for the same kind of help time and again, and it became clear that the market had never been addressed.

Gimbel said business for Clark is now going “really well.” He said the company has branched out from individual tutors as clients to tutoring centers that employ anywhere between 10 and 100 tutors.

O’Connor said Clark finds many clients, but clients also find them.

“It’s a good combination of both. We do have quite a few people that come to us on a recurring basis, mostly through word of mouth,” she said. “The interesting thing about ed tech software is there’s so much that’s not great in the ed tech space, that once a teacher or a tutor finds something that they like, they’ll tell all of their friends about it, so our best evangelists are our current users.”

As a “scrappy small business,” O’Connor herself handles most of the outbound sales for Clark. The company uses Google Hangouts for what amounts to a virtual conference call with those interested in using the product.

One of the greatest benefits Clark has provided is generating a network of tutors that did not exist before, O’Connor said. To bring that network together, one of the products Clark offers is a daily newsletter.

“We built a daily newsletter called the Syllabus, which speaks to educators who are doing the great work of tutoring, or parents who are struggling with a student who needs help in a subject and trying to figure out if tutoring is right for them – building out that network has been one of the strongest things we’ve been able to do,” she said.

Despite its small size, Clark is taking on many major steps forward at once – hiring people while expanding its market and helping clients tackle complex problems.

Clark has also considered partnering with coworking spaces, since many tutors use them to run their businesses.

“That’s something that we’ve thought about is whether or not we could partner with them, but it’s really fun to watch these people get to have more time doing what they do best, which is educating, and then have us be in all the different endeavors as it relates to them – operationalizing or making their business more efficient,” O’Connor said.

But Clark still stays focused on its mission of making life easier for tutors.

“I would say that we actually do stay pretty narrow-focused when we’re building, and it’s only when our users tell us that they want something that we think about expanding the product,” O’Connor said. “That’s exactly where, you know, the community I just talked about and the news outlet we built came from, is people asking us, ‘What should I be reading? What are the important things I need to know as a tutor?’"