Reading Escapades

Christine Allen first approached the Wilkes University Small Business Development Center (SBDC) a few years ago seeking to expand her existing tutoring business, Reading Escapades, to a second location. The original location was in Palmerton, Pennsylvania. In examining her customer base, she had noticed that while her business was popular in the Palmerton Area, there was a significant amount of interest from clientele in the Jim Thorpe area. The main drawback to Jim Thorpe clientele continuing to utilize her services seemed to be their commute time.

Recognizing past credit problems, the SBDC worked with her to put a plan together that allowed Christine to plan a second location in Jim Thorpe that needed only a small amount of financing.

Christine did receive the financing and successfully opened her new, second business location in the Spring of 2009. At that time the SBDC organized a ribbon cutting event for Christine, which proved to provide a significant amount of publicity and allowed the business to gain new students quickly.

Since that time, Christine realized that her best customers were not who she first thought they would be. Recognizing that she was losing payments due to her by customers who did not return, she returned to meet with the SBDC in Spring 2011. Christine discussed payment issues with customers whose children were not doing well in school. In analyzing her customer base, it was determined that the best customers were those who wanted their children to excel in school, rather than simply pass a grade.

After identifying this market group, the SBDC helped Christine to develop a new marketing strategy to attract more of these students. The SBDC redesigned her brochure, taking emphasis away from the business name and placing more on what opportunities the business offers to students well beyond just reading skills. The SBDC also helped Christine to identify local groups, such as children’s sports leagues, boy scouts, girls scouts, etc. that would allow her to pitch her services to the parents at little to no expense. Finally, the SBDC helped her develop a strategy to have clients write “Letters to the Editor” expressing the benefits that their children obtained from her service.

Throughout the engagement process, Christine routinely stated that she could not believe that such professional advice was available for no cost to the small business community. She has also stated that she could not have reached this point of business success without the assistance of the SBDC. 

At last contact, Christine was employing these strategies and was on pace to reach her student numbers goal. At this rate of growth and continued student success, Christine and Reading Escapes should be a jewel in the Jim Thorpe landscape for years to come.