Allison’s New Global Platform is Changing the Face of Education
What’s your story?
I’m the founder of Tutor Genie, a global app that makes teaching and learning easy and accessible for everyone.
As a former American critical care nurse, gymnastics coach, house flipper, and tutor, I began my journey as a homeschooling mom in September 2019 to allow for flexibility around my daughter’s budding acting and modelling career. At that time, our family lived in Hong Kong and we couldn’t find good tutors in our area. The best sources I could find were referrals from my local WhatsApp mom’s group, Facebook posts, or expensive agencies, none of which provided seamless matching. For a city with such a huge education industry, it shocked me that it was so difficult to connect with suitable tutors.
This experience planted the seed to not only homeschool all three of my children, but to also invest my time and effort into removing obstacles to alternative forms of education. This extends to helping tutors and students, of all backgrounds and ages, access formal learning, upgrade their skills or develop new hobbies.
What excites you most about your industry?
The world is changing and we’re all changing with it. Through Tutor Genie, I have the opportunity to change the face of the education industry to meet people’s evolving needs. Also, to help people discover their own inherent value to humanity, and to monetize that value. Numerous degrees and experience are, of course, impressive and hold value in the education industry, and we absolutely encourage these people to use our platform. But, what about the stay-at-home parent in the US, for example? They may ‘only’ have a high-school education, but they may be an incredible teacher. They may have impressive language skills or be a top seamstress or chef. I firmly believe we all have value. We all have something to teach. And I equally believe someone, somewhere wants to know what you know.
What’s your connection to Asia?
I moved to Hong Kong in 2012 with my Chinese husband when I was just a few months pregnant with our first child. I had never been to Asia, and, having grown up in a small Texas town with fewer than 5,000 residents, I couldn’t pinpoint Hong Kong on a map! But when I arrived, I was fascinated by the fast-paced, beautiful city. We have maintained our roots in both the US and China, but have chosen to raise our kids in Asia. We currently reside in Shenzhen.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
I believe the future is in the Greater Bay Area. The opportunities here feel limitless. With nine cities in Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macau working together there is access to manufacturing, world-class tech companies, entertainment, health care, logistics via the ports, and a population of 70 million to keep it afloat. In the coming years, I plan to explore opportunities within this base of operation.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
One of my favorite life mottos quoted in Theodore Roosevelt’s autobiography by Squire Bill Widener is so simple, but transcends every facet of life. “Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.” Especially during this pandemic, I cling to this motto. When evaluating your own value and progress, keep score with yourself only, and, even then, be kind. Strive for progress, not perfection.
Who inspires you?
My sister. She is a single mom of two and a psychiatric nurse in the town we were born in. Although she has yet to board an airplane and travel outside of places within driving distance of Texas, she is incredibly open-minded and presses on to do her best for herself and her children. She finished her degree in the same year as her tumultuous divorce, while raising her children. Her resilience is next-level. I created Tutor Genie with people like her in mind. Someone with incredible skills and experience, who needs the opportunities and flexibility to increase their income, by sharing their knowledge.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
While researching the history of masks, I learned that, in fact, facial tissues exist due to a brilliant repurposing campaign by Kimberly-Clark. Due to a cotton shortage during World War I, they were originally designed to replace thicker filters in gas masks. After the war, the company made the tissues softer and the brand Kleenex was born. Random, I know, but what can I say? I love to learn! It’s a great example of being creative during times of great uncertainty in a rapidly changing world.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would waste no time dwelling on regret. So I guess you could say that my only regret is regret itself. As long as I keep my intentions in-check and do my best to do no harm to others, I try to keep myself in a growth mindset, saying “sorry” less and “thank you” more. I have become acutely aware of the importance of keeping this mindset during the current pandemic, and when interacting with my children.
How do you unwind?
Before the pandemic began, I would go out alone for a walk around the city with headphones blasting music to match my mood (or the mood I was striving for). These days, during the “new normal” in which alone time is not very likely, I like to read inspiring stories, watch movies or play games with my kids.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I haven’t made it to many of my “bucket list” Asian destinations, but the one I discovered this past year is Koh Samui, Thailand. My daughter and I first traveled there when she did a TV commercial for Marriott in June 2019. Recently, when we decided to take a break from the lockdown in Shenzhen, we escaped to Koh Samui, thinking we could come back when things normalized. After 40 days on the island, we realized the gravity of the situation and decided it was time to return home. Koh Samui is an ideal place for families looking to relax, and is an easy, direct flight from HK.
Everyone in business should read this book:
For those, like me, who are recovering “people pleasers” in business, I would recommend, “The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living,” by Mark Manson. This book is also for momtrepreneurs looking to push away the looming cloud of guilt, or who are exhausted from juggling endless “to do” lists. This book helped me to overcome a great deal of “mom guilt” and to question the origin of the voice in my head which echoes,“I ‘should do’ this.” It helped me learn how I can add more to my life by doing less.
Shameless plug for your business:
Tutor Genie is designed to make teaching and learning affordable and accessible for everyone.
Our app connects tutors – academics, professionals, stay-at-home parents and more – with students – young and old – locally and globally.
Enjoy the flexibility and freedom to fit classes around schedules and gain access to endless education opportunities online, in-person, or a combination of both.
Unlike most knowledge-share communities, our platform is free to use. Tutors earn for their expertise and students learn within a budget that works for them. We’re not doing this for economic gain. We’re doing this because we believe in education for all.
How can people connect with you?
Students can download our FREE Android app from the Google Play Store, and teachers can sign up at www.tutor-genie.com.
Coming soon: Tutors will be able to access the app and students will be able to access the online platform. We also plan to have an Apple version, so if you’re a coder with Apple knowledge and you’d like to pitch in, please connect: [email protected]
For homeschooling tips during these challenging times, you may wish to join our Facebook community: The Homeschool Parent: Coping with Kids Amid the Coronavirus Chaos. Here, parents, caregivers and teachers can connect in a safe space to share stories, frustrations, survival, as well as educational tips and tricks, from different corners of the world.
This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connects’ series of more than 500 interviews
Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder and CEO of MBH Corporation PLC. He is the author of three best-selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’, ‘Agglomerate’ and ‘Entrepreneurial Investing’.