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The Brains Behind BrightSparkz

“Purpose is the reason you journey. Passion is the fire that lights your way.” 

It’s been 10 years since the humble beginnings of a few flyer handouts and informal tutor recruitment. As we celebrate our decade milestone, the brains behind BrightSparkz get personal – sharing some insights into running a business, their various challenges and achievements, as well as a snippet of what we can expect from BrightSparkz in the future. 


Amy Stockwell (Johannesburg)
“I completed a BSc. Physiotherapy degree before moving from Cape Town to Johannesburg at the end of 2006 to do my year of community service, while also planning the expansion of our Cape Town tutoring business to Gauteng. In 2009 I completed a Post Graduate Diploma in Business Management through the Wits Business School, and quickly realised that business was my passion. In 2011, I stopped practicing physiotherapy, got married and started dedicating all my time to BrightSparkz Tutors. Our family grew in May 2015 when we were blessed with our baby boy, so my time is currently best spent on being a mom and supportive wife to my husband, who is a competitive cyclist and mountain biker. When I get time of my own, I enjoy running 10km and 21km races.”


Dominique Oebell (Cape Town)
“I completed a BSc. Physiotherapy at UCT in 2006, and worked part-time as a physiotherapist while we were establishing BrightSparkz Tutors. In 2013, I obtained a Post-Graduate Diploma in Business Administration at the UCT Graduate School of Business, and while it was initially Physiotherapy that developed a lot of empathy in me and a passion to make a difference, I believe that its entrepreneurship and education that can really improve people’s lives. In my free time I love spending time at the beach, walking my dogs, and reading books that inspire me to be a better person. My faith life is also really important to me, and that keeps me centered when things get stressful!”


Q1: Where did you get the idea from to start a tutoring company and what took it from an idea to an actual business? (What was your greatest motivation to get started?)

I started tutoring in primary school and continued into my university years. In third year I was unable to take on more learners, but still tried to help to find suitable tutors for parents who contacted me. This is where the idea was born. After some research, we realised that there wasn’t much out there in terms of home based one-on-one tutoring, and that parents really needed this type of service.  AS

Q2: What would you say to people who aren’t fired up about what they’re doing or studying?

I would advise them to not settle on that career (although sometimes it is wise to learn what you can from a field and to use it to your advantage in a transition period), and to keep exposing themselves to different job environments or fields, to discover what makes them tick. Once they have discovered this, to start meeting people and growing their network of individuals who operate in these fields or environments. This is a great way to learn more about a field, but also to be made aware of new job or business opportunities that arise within those fields.  DO

Q3: What advice would you give people who have or are thinking about starting a business?

Starting a business is the easy part. Maintaining it and “finishing” well is the hard part! Knowing why you want to start a business is key. Many experts in a field assume the logical next step is to start their own company but what they don’t realise is that the skills that make them a great employee are not the same skills that will make them a great entrepreneur. They start with great enthusiasm, with ideas of being their own boss and having their own time, only to realise that often the initial investment of time and energy (and money) can be much greater than expected.

Knowing what your customers needs are, as well as how many players are already in the market, is also critical. It doesn’t matter how well you bake bread – if no one is needing home-baked bread, or there are already 5 people baking bread in your community, your business will fail (unless you can provide something that no one else is, that your customers are needing, of course!).  DO

Q4: The world has changed a lot in the last 10 years, particularly in the area of technology. What is BS doing to leverage the technology we have available to us to better serve and educate learners?

It definitely has! BrightSparkz started using a very manual system until we knew exactly what our needs were, and had our first custom system built in 2011. This is something we are in the process of upgrading, and have also been developing a mobile responsive system that we are currently rolling out with our tutors, and will extend to clients later in the year.

We also introduced BrightSparkz Mobile Maths and Science in 2014, which is a platform that allows learners to access user friendly resources via their PC, tablet, or smartphone. The program caters for both CAPS and IEB learners, by dividing the Maths, Physical Science, and Natural Sciences curricula into comprehensive sections. It’s a great tool to help children and their tutor work through and consolidate the Maths and / or Science syllabus for the year, especially in preparation for tests and exams.

One of our missions is to automate as much as we can without taking away the personal touch from our service, as this is something that is still extremely important to us.  AS

Q5: Do you think the gradual move to online education and self-education is a positive one? Is BS responding to this transition is any way?

There are pro’s and con’s to every change in society, but we have never before had access to so much information as we do in the digital era, and that opens up opportunities for learning to many more people. One can learn anything without traditional limitations of space, time, and money. That said, there is still incredible value in face-to-face time with a tutor/teacher/facilitator, and there seems to be a higher level of accountability in face-to-face or blending learning environments. I think the challenge for online education service providers still lies in how to motivate individuals effectively, specifically children and teenagers. 

We are currently positioning ourselves in such a way that we are able to grow with the changes that are changing the landscape of extra-curricular educational services. Online tutoring via Skype is something we already offer, as well as additional tools such as online whiteboards and learning platforms are just a few of our tech plans for future. However, we believe strongly in a blended learning approach, and will always incorporate the human element into our service offerings regardless of how the tech landscape changes, as we believe this is still what our customers are wanting.  DO

Q6: What have been some of the greatest challenges, and greatest achievements over the past 10 years?

Persevering with this business has probably been the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life! There have been so many times when I’ve wanted to throw in the towel and trade it in for a job! But after a good cry and a pep-talk from my family, I determine what needs to change and I keep at it. Being able to celebrate our 10-year anniversary is a huge milestone for us! We have learnt many lessons and have experienced many setbacks, yet I’m proud of the excellent service standards we maintain and of our current team of staff who work really hard to attain this. We’ve had many challenges in the areas of staffing, navigating company restructuring, and in getting our business processes up to speed with competitors who use more sophisticated technology. In some areas, we’ve had to work really hard to catch up and although we have not yet “arrived”, our hard work is paying off and we’ve been able to secure contracts with larger educational institutions, publishers and even film production companies.  DO

Q7: How is BS trying to intentionally deal with the challenges faced by South African learners?

One of our primary goals is to eventually make tutoring accessible to as many South African learners as possible, regardless of their socioeconomic backgrounds. Part of our planning this year is to officially launch our corporate sponsorship program, in order to extend our reach in this regard. We have previously worked with numerous foundations who assist in identifying learners showing potential and who would otherwise not be able to afford assistance. This is something we are extremely excited and passionate about, and look forward to partnering with organizations who value education as the key to the future, as much as we do.  AS

 

“No one can be sure of what changes, big or small, lie ahead. One thing is certain, our journey is not over.”

 

Interested in one-on-one tutoring in the comfort of your own home? We can make that happen for you! Feel free to get in touch with us here.

 

Written By: Ashleigh de Jager, BrightSparkz Blog Writer

Managing the New School Term

“What I learn today doesn’t make yesterday wrong, it makes tomorrow better”.

Just as the stress of the exam season has subsided, the stress and anxiety that comes with a new school term starts to arise. We understand that a new school term can be daunting for both children and their parents, and while it cannot be avoided, there are those unnecessary stresses that can be combated.

 

How to combat unnecessary stress and make the most of the home-stretch:

  1. Keep a routine

Keeping a routine is one of the most promoted yet underestimated and underused pieces of advice. Having a routine makes many of the things in our lives that would otherwise be unpredictable, completely predictable – which then puts them in our control and minimizes the stress potentially attached to them. We also often underestimate how much time we waste during a day that can quite easily be spent on a productive and beneficial activity, had we had a thought out schedule and anticipated it. For example, packing a book and reading in the car in early morning traffic or on the way home is a great time to get your reading done when you would otherwise be doing nothing anyway. This also frees up the time you would have spent reading, and can now be spent on other things – allowing you to achieve a lot more, in less time. Where are you wasting time that could possibly be better spent if you had a schedule and planned for it?

  1. Set goals and daily tasks

How would you like to finish this year? What would you like your report to look like when you hand it to your parents? If you aren’t proud of where you are academically, then it’s time to start deciding where you would like to be, and what you need to do in order to get there. Set some long-term goals for yourself, and then determine what steps need to be taken each day that will get you closer towards your long-terms goals. This requires discipline, and sometimes saying no to other activities that a probably way more fun, but I can promise that you won’t regret it when you receive that report card at the end of the term.

  1. Prepare in advance

If you are anything like I was at school, you probably wait until the very last minute to do everything: to get out of bed in the morning, to do your homework, to start assignments. And as I’m sure you’ve already discovered, this inevitably always ends in a last minute rush that sends your stress levels through the roof! Let’s try getting out of procrastination station this term and start preparing for what will be coming, and keep coming, whether we prepare for it or not. Something as simple as packing your bag the night before can do wonders for a good start to the day, and will even help you to sleep better.

  1. Don’t fall behind

Having to catch-up a day or two’s work may sound like no big deal, but what happens when a day or two rolls over into a week or two? We understand that getting home after a full day of school to sit down and spend more hours on homework can be exhausting, and quite frankly, entirely unnecessary. But homework is here to stay whether we like it or not, and fortunately, has not killed anyone yet. The best way to avoid homework stress is to get it out of the way as soon as possible. After you’ve arrived home from school and had something to eat, dedicate the next hour or two (depending on your Grade and workload), to complete that day’s homework. If you’re able to, you can even move ahead with certain tasks or exercises if you know there will be some days where you might have less time to do homework due to sports etc. This leaves the evening free to do things that you enjoy, without having the guilt and anxiety of what’s still waiting for you in your school bag hanging over your head.

  1. Go over your work each day

One of the best ways to ensure that you’re able to keep up with your workload is by spending some time each day (+- 30 minutes) becoming familiar with what is new. This allows everything you learnt during the day to be processed and reinforced in your brain, which not only increases your ability to recall the information (memory), but also helps you to identify parts of your work you don’t fully understand. You can then spend some time making sense of the work you don’t understand, or make a note to have your teacher or tutor explain it to you. Making sure you understand your work daily also helps ensure that you don’t fall behind as previously mentioned.

  1. Still make time for the things you enjoys most

Have you ever heard that saying: “Too much of anything is a bad thing”? You may assume that cutting out sports and any other extra curricular activities will give you more time for academics, and therefore improve your marks, but truthfully, it’s going to end up costing you far more than is necessary. Creating a balance in your life is very important and cutting out the things you enjoy most will most likely result in resenting what’s left – school and homework. While academics are incredibly important, so is your health and fitness, and it has actually been proven that keeping active and making time for the things you enjoy will positively impact other areas of your life as you develop increased energy and better concentration. But remember, in order to make time for the things you enjoy, you’ll have to have a routine to determine what amount of free time you do and don’t have.

 

How BrightSparkz can help:

  • Private tutoring

BrightSparkz Tutors offers one-on-one, subject specific tutoring that takes place in the comfort of your own home or a venue of your choice. Tutors aim to identify the gaps in knowledge, while simultaneously facilitating learning through lots of practice, revision of theory, and interactive discussion of the subject matter.

Our tutors are unique individuals, who are selected carefully based on their specific strengths in their chosen subjects.  They not only have excellent knowledge of the subjects they tutor, but also a passion for tutoring and helping learners reach their potential.

  • Online Platforms

BrightSparkz Online is an award-winning online Maths and Science App tailored to South African learners from Grade 8 – 12. It covers all content for Maths, Natural Science, Physical Science and Chemistry, and is suitable for both CAPS and IEB learners. The app provides top quality resources, breaks up these curriculums into manageable sections, and is an excellent way to supplement your child’s one-on-one lessons.

  • Study Skills Workshops

BrightSparkz Tutors has partnered with an outstanding Educational Psychologist who offers insightful study skills workshops, designed to benefit Grades 8 – 12 in particular, in order to help your child make the most of their education and tutoring. For more information on when and where our holiday workshops will take place, please contact us on edupsych@brightsparkz.co.za.

 

It’s never too late for your child to start combating stressful habits and taking control of their education. But neither you nor your child have to do it alone – BrightSparkz Tutors are ready to help. Just click here, provide us with your details, and we’ll get right onto looking for the most suitable tutor for your learner’s needs.

 

Written By: Ashleigh de Jager, BrightSparkz Blog Writer

Tutor Tips – How to Make the Most of Your Tutoring Session

How to Make the Most of Your Tutoring Sessions:

As tutors, we are accustomed to the individual needs of each learner. We know that each learner understands and retains information in unique ways. As such, it is important to know how to make the most of each tutoring session. In this way, we are able to get the most use of the time provided, for the learner as well as ourselves.

Prior to the first session, the following checklist can be helpful:
• Arrange a meeting with the learner’s parent(s) to determine the goals of the learner and the parents
• Find out why the learner requires a tutor
• Become familiar with the learner’s interests
• Diagnose the learner’s difficulties (if any)

Having a lesson plan and goals can be vital for saving time and making the most of each session:
• Set goals for the session based on the learner’s development
• Create an instructional lesson
• Provide resource materials and exercises
• Construct a review activity to check on goals achieved and previously taught work
• Construct a suitable set of exercises (homework) for the student to complete before the next tutoring session

When conducting the lesson:
• Be on time!
• Create a positive environment for you and the learner
• Sit beside the learner and not across
• Start with a review of the objectives and go over information from previous sessions
• Discuss the lesson plan and then involve the learner as soon as possible
• When checking work, let the learner make the corrections with your guidance. Avoid answering for the learner wherever possible
• Listen carefully to the learner’s explanations and responses
• Keep your learner informed about his or her progress during the session and regularly make sure that the learner understands what you are teaching
• Making the lesson fun will improve learner involvement and promote learning
• End the tutoring session on a positive note!
If you have any further suggestions or would like to add some information on feel free to leave a comment below.

Written by Kristin Naude – BrightSparkz Maths and English Tutor

There are many companies with very professional and helpful tutors. So why should you choose BrightSparkz?

Many learners struggle to find a method of studying that works for them. This is one reason why it is important to find the most suitable tutor for each learner’s individual needs. Our tutors take each learner’s unique background, personality, and goals into consideration, in order to structure effective tutoring sessions. Some of our key methods include identifying the ‘gaps’ and filling in the basics of the subject that may have been missed in earlier years whilst still taking a fun and purposeful approach to the subject in order to promote a positive attitude towards it. Maths and Science tutor, Hloni, says her secret weapon is to “make lessons fun so that you and the learner are enjoying the content you are covering.”
Katleho admits he “wasn’t particularly thrilled with the idea” of getting a tutor but that it is “way better than I thought.” He says, “I don’t know where BrightSparkz are getting their tutors, but they are somehow able to make schoolwork enjoyable”.

Through years of experience in home tuition, we have discovered that one-on-one lessons with a passionate, knowledgeable, and patient tutor, brings back new interest into ‘boring’ subjects, creates opportunities to ask questions freely, and positively changes attitudes towards learning. As English, Afrikaans and Xhosa tutor, Ulricke, says, “Every problem or challenge will always be accompanied with a learning opportunity.”