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Date Created: 12/21/15
[E-Rock] Well hey everyone. This is E-Rock Christopher and I am excited to have you and be interviewing an incredible lady today. Another interview of a successful entrepreneur, and we are going to be interviewing a franchisee owner of Huntington Learning Center, the East Boise location, and we’ve got the founder of the franchise, owner Jennifer Hovey with us today. Definitely excited to have you with us Jennifer, and we’re just gonna be asking you some really simple questions about your business and kinda find out the skinny of what’s going on in the tutoring world in Boise, Idaho, and what Huntington Learning Center is doing, and we’re gonna be excited and publish this on our website newswire.net as another one of our series of interviews. So welcome to the interview. [Jen Hovey] Thank you very much, I’m happy to be here. [E-Rock] Well, thank you. So tell us a little about your company, Huntington Learning Center East Boise. [Jen Hovey] Okay, I have owned the Huntington for almost 2 years now. Prior to that I’ve always been a small business owner, but this is my third foray and something completely different from what I’ve done before. I’m really excited about it. [E-Rock] And where’s your company, where specifically are you located for anybody who is in the Boise area or anybody who might be watching this. How can they find your business? [Jen Hovey] Well, our actual physical address is 3165 Southbound Way in Boise. We are in the bound crossing. It’s kind of a quasi-retail. We have orthodontists, things like that around there and Flatbread Pizza, which we’re very fond of. [E-Rock] Wow, well I don’t know anybody that doesn’t like pizza, right? [Jen Hovey] It’s made me what I am today. [E-Rock] Well, so I guess so the question is this. You know you had 3 different businesses in the past. Why did you start working with Huntington Learning Center? How did you wind up to that spot and why did you make that investment? [Jen Hovey] Well, it was a wonderful series of coincidences, but essentially I didn’t want people to make the same mistake that I made with my daughter, Kali when she was going to college, which was not doing her ACT exam prep as well as I should have. Well, we didn’t do any prep at all. We lost an opportunity to go to Emery University, which is a top 20 university in Atlanta, because although she was a 4.0 her ACT was only a 27 and knowing what I know now, we could have come here and completely gotten her up into the 30s and then gotten her a track scholarship, but as it was she was wait listed. I can never say for sure that it was due solely to the lower ACT score but we were talking to her coach, she had the times that she needed to run there and I thought it was a slam dunk E-Rock. So I feel like I’m a religious zealot so to speak for exam prep because this is such a great return on investment. You know how much colleges cost these days. Gosh I think Emery’s $60,000 a year, so don’t make my $240,000 mistake. [E-Rock] So that’s a great story, because basically you didn’t make this business decision purely as a financial play or possible money making opportunity. This is really mission driven for you, because you feel that your daughter missed out on a really great opportunity to attend a top 20 school, because you didn’t really think of, or hadn’t seen the value of getting tutoring or exam test prep set up for your daughter, and so really what you’re trying to do is make it up to the world, like hey I’m gonna make sure no one makes that same mistake. So I think that’s fantastic. Anybody watching this can feel good that you’re really looking after their children and trying to make sure they’re empowered for the future. So that’s excellent. [Jen Hovey] Well, I think so, and I think that, yes my hearts in the right place, but I also felt like I was so naive and I didn’t know that there were so many, like we work closely with a wonderful non-profit group called Step Ahead Idaho. They help kids determine where to go to college. They help us, because they know how important exam prep is and it’s just a wonderful community out here in Boise that I didn’t know existed. So it’s nice to be able to educate parents with sophomores and juniors in high school, because it’s a daunting process. [E-Rock] Wow, well that’s kind of an amusing story because I’m sure not every, obviously Huntington Learning Center is a franchise business model. I highly doubt that every franchise owner has that same, like you said, that zealot or passion for the tutoring industry, but being that it is a franchise concept, the Huntington Learning Center, did they offer, you know as a companywide, do they offer value statements or mission statements, business statements or is that something that you do on your level? And if there are any, are there any you’d like to share? [Jen Hovey] Well, the overriding Huntington Learning Center mission statement is, “Your child can learn.” Everybody can learn. We do 3 different things. We do the exam prep which we just talked about. We do basic skills tutoring. We are very phonics based. Reading comprehension was the meat and potatoes where I believe Huntington started the tutoring. And then we also have branched into subject tutoring. Chemistry, math, you know any sort of science. We do Spanish, French, German, things like that here that you wouldn’t have expected. So it’s kind of a one stop shopping th for any kind of tutoring for kids Kindergarten through 12 grade. [E-Rock] Okay, well I don’t know if you’re looking at my question sheet here or if you’re able to see through my screen because I was just gonna ask you what are the different types of tutoring services do you offer the Boise, Idaho community and how would you describe them, but obviously you have just hit on all of those. Is there any other things that you didn’t think to include in that list of tutoring services? [Jen Hovey] Well, I just think that the nice thing about us is regardless of whatever kind of tutoring we’re doing, by in large it’s one to one tutoring. There are no classes. The highest we ever go is a four to one teacher to student ratio, but all the exam prep is one on one which I think is the real beauty of our exam prep and that’s how we’re able to obtain such high score improvements. And for little kids, if you’re under fourth grade, your student will be one to one with their tutor and there’s just nowhere to hide. We can skip over the things that the student is really good at and then we don’t have to hurry over the things that they may struggle with. [E-Rock] Well I know that, and I’m a parent as well, so obviously one of our concerns when our child, our children, cause only one child’s old enough to be in the school system at this point, but obviously like the student teacher ratio, I would think would be a primary concern for any parents whose child is going through the educational process, so that’s a fantastic thing to hear that you’re able to dedicate that kind of quality time with a student. Would you say that’s what makes your Boise tutoring services the most unique or is there any other kind of secret sauce or kind of tutoring strategy that you implement? I mean what would you say makes Huntington’s system unique or better or different than other offerings out there? [Jen Hovey] Well, I can’t speak to every other tutoring center or every other tutor, but I would tell you for us our teachers are certified. You must have a four year degree and if you’re on the learning center side you have to have a valid teaching certificate, which means you’re going through the common core, you’ve already undergone the instruction that the schools have offered you and you’re teaching at 40 hours a week. So when you come here nights and weekends, you can use the same vernacular, the same verbiage. We are totally in line with common core standards here. We have curriculum that dove tails with it. I work very closely with the schools and the teachers so that we can coordinate the correct curriculum and I just really view it as a collaborative effort. Especially when you get into the higher grades, particularly in math or science, sometimes parents and even a standard tutor can’t reach that level of specialization, where we have people here that have advanced degrees in physics and applied mathematics. It’s just really a step above and I’d always promise parents, “I will not tutor your child.” There are people that are much more qualified to do so than I, and I think that’s what makes the difference between us and whomever. [E-Rock] Well, so who would you say those whoever’s are? I mean obviously, let’s face it, there’s different options in the tutoring world. Obviously you guys don’t have a monopoly in the tutoring space. Who would you say is some of your biggest competition in terms of companies there in the Boise area that other parents might be evaluating? [Jen Hovey] I would say that, well, there’s my Huntington in East Boise and there’s another one in Eagle, so we’ve got the counties nice and covered. They have a lot of tutors that will go to your specific home, so you don’t come to the learning center here, and that might work well for some families. For us, I like the idea that students are coming to a learning school environment, rather than at home where there are all the distractions and interruptions. I like the idea that the parent can drop off the kid here and then when they pick them up they can just go home and be the parent. You know, it’s definitely a delineation between home and learning. So I don’t know if I even answered your question but I feel like that’s a real advantage and I think the fact that students can come here [inaudible] I have testing rooms and some students just come in and do their homework here without even having a tutoring session. [E-Rock] Alright, well I used to do personal training or strength training, and obviously you could work out at home but the reason a lot of gyms are in business is because if you show up in that environment, you’re likely to do the exercise vs it’s easy to not workout if you’re not at home, so I would think that that would probably would be the same, where the benefit is going into an educational environment. If you take the time to get ready and drive down there, you’re going to do the work, whereas at home the work might not be as effective right? [Jen Hovey] I agree, and I think that the analogy you made, the fact that it’s a personal trainer, it is so true, because as you know, personal trainers, you get a lot better workout than when you’re just even going to the gym class that there’s just no hiding. [E-Rock] Right. Well now there are other companies that do offer learning center sites, so how would you compare Huntington Learning center vs Kumon? [Jen Hovey] I honestly E-Rock don’t know that much about Kumon, and I don’t want disparage any other tutoring center or any other tutor. I feel like any time a family is seeking something additional or something supplemental, that’s wonderful, so much the better. I would stick to Huntington’s strengths which is the fact that we’ve been around for over 37 years, so we’ve got it down. It’s a proven system. It’s just like having a giant engine behind you, but like you talked about the secret sauce before, the secret sauce is the one to one or really, really, really small group tutoring. That’s just where the magic lies. The kid gets so much confidence from knowing alright it’s a safe place to ask questions. It’s a safe place to raise my hand, where sometimes in school I think they lack the confidence there to do so. [E-Rock] That’s a very valid point, where children might feel like they might get some social feedback from their fellow classmates that they’re maybe afraid to ask questions or they need extra help or support, whereas if they’re in a tutoring environment that there isn’t that same worry about the social aspect of it. [Jen Hovey] Right. [E-Rock] Obviously you’ve done a good job of explaining some of the advantages of your company, but why would a potential parent want to choose Huntington Learning Center over any of these other competitors? Is there anything else you want to add to that? [Jen Hovey] Well, I don’t know if my answer is why would you chose us over them, but I would say, one of the most repeated comments I get from both parents and kids, particularly students around middle school age, you know seventh to ninth grade, is that it’s such a different atmosphere than they expected. It’s one of very much safety. You remember that old Huey Lewis song “It’s Hip to Be Square”? It doesn’t exactly apply, but it’s a wonderful place where kids can go and learn to excel. It’s to improve your grades. I mean, I have a student here that’s in eighth grade whose father has a PhD in mathematics that is coming here for subject tutoring in math. He already has like an 89% but he wants a 95 and above, so it’s not just the kids that are failing that are trying to get to a passing grade, it’s kids with astounding, phenomenal grades that want to get to perfect, and it’s just a really close knit collaborative atmosphere here. [E-Rock] So, is there an ideal client or an ideal student or candidate for your tutoring services? [Jen Hovey] Oh boy, I would say anybody who feels like they just need some enrichment or they just need a little help in one specific subject. Sometimes it clicks in at different stages for kids and so with the common core coming into Idaho, we’ve had a lot of math phone calls as you can imagine. The parents don’t know how to help their student with their math homework because it’s changed so much from when I learned pure math. It’s a lot of infrancing, word problems, things like that. So I would say we have responded to that really well. We have a lot of fine math tutors and we’re able to turn that corner for a lot of kids. So, whether it’s reading comprehension, phonics, I mean, I don’t know how to answer. My youngest student right now is six years old, my oldest student is nineteen and we have 100 kids in-between. [E-Rock] Interesting. So going along the lines of the math tutoring help that you were discussing, I’m sure that parents who might be looking at this are wondering, well what kind of results are average or that typical math tutoring student experience or what kind of results do they typically see? [Jen Hovey] Well, it depends on when we catch them. I had a junior in high school last year that when she came to us was literally getting six F’s out of seven classes, and her parents were worried that she wouldn’t even graduate. So she was the first student that I encountered when I took over the center. We ended up within about six weeks getting her up to B’s and now she is in the nursing program at Boise State University, and her parents credit us with, her name’s Olivia, turning Olivia’s whole life around, because when she came it was like, gosh, is she even going to graduate, and now it’s like, wow, she placed so well that she actually qualified for the nursing program. It’s remarkable. [E-Rock] Well that’s fantastic. It’s great to hear those kind of success stories and they’re gonna be a nurse so they’re gonna help save some lives too, right? [Jen Hovey] And just to watch the difference between the first time she came into our center and the confident woman she is now. I can’t take all of the credit, but oh my gosh, my teachers are miracle workers in some cases. [E-Rock] Well, so as in regards to reading tutors and writing tutoring, obviously that’s a little bit more abstract, right? If you have a math problem you know 2+2=4, it’s kind of easy to measure and gage progress, but how do you guys manage or what kind of benefit do the reading and writing students receive in terms of skill improvement? [Jen Hovey] You’re right E-Rock, it’s harder to judge but we have them come in when they first start the program to do the assessment. So we do a full assessment which shows their beginning levels in phonics, sight words, reading comprehension and all facets of that. Are they good at infrancing yet? Do they have good study skills? There are so many components that go into that, but then you can see through the student progress record how many grade levels they’re going up and how quickly they’re advancing and it really is a fool proof method that goes through, and I’ve seen students that they get better at one thing faster and they stay down at other levels on other things because you learn things differently, obviously, but we are able to track that and then we do re- administer the assessments at various hours of the program too. So you can see a somewhat quantifiable improvement. To me, when they get closer to that grade level, that’s when you see the improvement in school, because sometimes we’re filling in skill gaps like, I had a fourth grader in here last week who’s reading comprehension level was down at second grade. Well, they’re not teaching that in fourth grade anymore so we’re having to go back with him and fill in these gaps. Well he is working on fourth grade level for forty hours a week at school and then we’re getting him six hours a week here. It takes a little while to be able to see the improvement in school. To me, the first thing parents will always notice about their student is the increase in confidence and the increase in motivation. The fact that often times they won’t fight with them as much on homework now because they will attempt it much more than they used to. Sometimes these kids have had problems for four or five, six years and are so demotivated that I feel like it’s our job initially to get them to see themselves as a good student again, because they haven’t had a positive experience in school for so long they’ve forgotten what that feels like. [E-Rock] Wow, that’s some great insights in the fact that you’re not just looking at the child like a robot, like you know, hey we’re going to give you data and you’re gonna input it and then regurgitate it. You’re actually getting the emotional development of the child, building their confidence and kind of preparing them for, hopefully a successful future. Kind of like what you talked about with the nurse. But I want to go back to a little bit about the passion that you said why you made the investment into the Huntington Learning Center, obviously with your daughter and her experience with the exam test prep situation. So regarding your ACT SAT test preparation services, what kind of results or what kind of improvements do, on average, your students see and how has that affected them as far as their ability to get into better schools and that type of thing? [Jen Hovey] Okay, well I have been tracking the results from my center since I took it over. Nationally, Huntington, 300 point score improvement in SAT I think is the average there, and 5 points in ACT. We are definitely following those guidelines. We just got the results back from our last ACT. We’ve had kids go up 7-9 points, but I would tell you that the average through the full program is about 5 points in ACT. It’s a real game changer. We had a kid that went up 7 points. He ended up at a 32, which, I don’t know if you know much about the ACT, but he is like up in the 99 percentile now. While he started off at a good score 26-27, but once you hit that hump over the 30s, the world is your oyster. It makes a huge difference in the level of schools that you can qualify for. [E-Rock] So for parents that maybe aren’t familiar with the SAT or the ACT system, depending on their educational background, I mean, somebody might say 5 points? I mean what’s 5 points? Like 5 I go from 90 to 95? I mean can you give us a better explanation of the parameters or the relevance of an improvement of 5 points for that ACT and improvement of 300 points in SAT? [Jen Hovey] Sure, well if you’re looking at a school like Stanford, there are 1,900 plus applicants every year, and they only allow 6% in. You have to have pretty close to a perfect score to get there. I would say a 34-36 would get you there, where, like they say, the standard for the UC schools, the University of California type of schools is about a 28. Well the national average for an ACT student is a 21-22. It varies a little bit on the scale. Well, that would be your average if you did the exam prep program, it stands to reason you could at least get close to one of those second tier schools like the UC schools or something like that, and then if your like we had one kid that went up 7 points and ended up at a 35, so he started out at a 28, ended up at a 35 and he can almost go wherever he wants to go. It just makes a huge difference. It’s the 99 percentile vs the 50 percentile where you start. Sometimes. [E-Rock] So with all the success stories that you’re sharing, which is fantastic, is if I’m a parent looking at tutoring services in Boise, Idaho area, you know, I’m gonna want to know that, because hey, it’s great to see what I read on a website, but actually hear about the difference that you’re making in children’s lives, it’s fantastic. With all the success that you’ve kind of had, would you be willing to say that you offer the best tutors and tutoring services in the Boise, Idaho area? [Jen Hovey] Well of course I would be able to say that. The wonderful thing about our center is we have a really low turnover. Our tutors seem to be very gratified by working here. I tried to put them with the same student over and over again so they get used to each other, so it’s like a shortcut every session. You don’t have to start way back at the beginning. It doesn’t always work out that way, but I would say yes, they get invested in the students’ success. We all get invested in that and it tends to motivate the student as well. I would also say you get out what you put into it. It’s not one of those things where you pay your money and you get the score improvement. You have to do the work. There’s homework. I firmly believe in practice tests and I also believe in taking the real tests more than once just so you can get used to that because it is a stressful distracting environment. To be able to take command of those tests is critical. [E-Rock] Well, as far as preparation there’s lots of climate change in terms of the educational system and obviously we’re in a period where education’s a focal point in the United States, so one of the things that’s seems fairly controversial right now is the implementation of Common Core Standards. Do you mind just kind of sharing your thoughts or make any comments as it pertains to the Common Core? [Jen Hovey] Boy, that’s a hot topic these days, isn’t it E-Rock? I think, when I ask my teachers about it who are actually in the school system working, they think it’s a good idea. They like to see that Idaho is performing on a world stage and at least performing nationally as well as the other states. Up until Common Core, we haven’t really had a national guideline like that. I would also say it’s been really tough on the kids that are like 5 to 8 grade because they weren’t taught Common Core methods all the way up through, so they’ve kind of been thrown into it in extreme. That’s been really tough, particularly in the math. I can see a difference in the kids that, you know, it’s just like switching horses. Ah, now what? It’s just a completely different idea, but all I can tell you is my teachers, the ones that are professionals and that are in there day in and day out think, at least ideologically, it’s a good idea. I think the politics have been interesting to say the least, and I know some teachers who just kind of wish it would go away. All I can tell you is we’re working with what we’re given right now and we’re able to work with Common Core. I’ve got thousands of dollars of new curriculum that we’ve implemented just to address the methods. The nice thing about our teachers are, guess what, they’ve been taking these seminars for 2 or 3 years. They already know how to teach to the Common Core, so it’s not like we’re teaching a Huntington method and then the Common Core curriculum, because they can be one and the same. [E-Rock] Excellent. That’s an interesting observation. So obviously as an entrepreneur, right, I mean you’re offering tutoring services in the Boise, Idaho area, there’s other competitors in the area, what were some of the bigger obstacles or challenges that you had to overcome in order to get where you are today? [Jen Hovey] Oh, I don’t know. I think probably the fact that I was new into this type of a business. It’s been a steep learning curve for me because there’s so many components. I relied a lot on my staff and my tutors because they were more expert at it than I was, but I would also tell you, Huntington is a brilliant task master as well. I had to go back to the east coast for 4 weeks and it was a very intense training that I had to undergo to even be able to say that I was a center director, that I was qualified to work here. I think it’s nice to know they have those stringent guidelines, because there is quality control. I have corporate people fly out all the time. We undergo reviews. I just was reaccredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, which is the same association that accredits schools and colleges. So it’s not just me saying, hey Huntington’s really great, it’s like, okay, we are a nationally accredited institution. [Inaudible] [E-Rock] Excellent. And so moving forward on the tutoring industry and educational space, what are some of the things that you think will be the biggest hurdles that you’ll need to overcome or you’ll need to adapt to moving forward? I mean, do you have any prognostications about the future of the tutoring industry? [Jen Hovey] Well, I guess, in answer to that I would say that the biggest misconception that people seem to have about Huntington is that it’s only where struggling kids go to get help. Sure, we do have that and we do help with that, but we’re also here to help the almost perfect get better, and to help the teachers and the principles and everybody realize that we’re here to augment what they’re doing, not to usurp their power. I think sometimes teachers might feel a little threatened, like well, why do they have to go to tutoring? Am I not doing a good enough job? And it’s like, no, please understand, you have 28 students in your class, you know, we can do more with the one-on-one tutoring to help your student and his performance in your class as well. So that’s been, you know if I had to choose one thing, I would say that’s the thing that I’ve made it my mission, is to break down some of those walls and to help the teachers and administration understand that we’re just here to help. We think you’re doing a wonderful job, we have accredited teachers here, and we’re all here for the betterment of the student. [E-Rock] Well, isn’t there a saying that says something along the lines of it takes a village to raise a child? [Jen Hovey] Yes, absolutely. And the parents, they need to be involved. I actually had parents come in and say, can we talk to the tutor, because he needs to teach us how to teach our daughter subtraction, because we helped her with her homework last night and she got it all wrong because we didn’t do it the MTI method. So it definitely sometimes it takes a village to raise a parent as well. [E-Rock] Well, obviously you’re in the business of empowering children, helping them through their abilities and their confidence. Is there any special offers or a deal or an event that you’d like to promote or share with anybody who might be watching this? [Jen Hovey] Well, I just think that the parent teacher conferences and the progress reports just came out, so we’re to the point where it’s like, okay, let’s nip this in the bud. Let’s do whatever we can at the beginning of the year, so it becomes easier throughout the year. That said, you know our rates are, it depends on if you get one to one tutoring or up to the 4-1 group and then the exam preps a little higher. I always offer discounts if you pay for the hours up front, and I always offer refunds for unused hours in case a parent isn’t satisfied. I will, knock on wood, tell you that in two years, I’ve never had anybody ask for one though. So, we’re doing something right and nationally, the statistic for Huntington is that 95% of parents would recommend our services to other parents or students. So it’s a pretty high achieving tutoring center and we wouldn’t be here this long if we didn’t know what we were doing. [E-Rock] Awesome. Well, I think that’s all the questions I have today Jen. Is there anything else that you’d like to share or add to anyone who might be watching this? [Jen Hovey] Gosh, you know, it’s just hard, I would say, if you’re on a fence, just call me and come in and see what the center looks like. Let’s just do a consultation. See what your needs are. We’re here for you, not the other way around and all of our programs are personalized, highly individualized, and we will work really hard aligning our self with both the parents’ wishes and the teachers wishes to help the student get better as quickly as possible. [E-Rock] Awesome, well Jen, I really appreciate your time. I know that you’re probably very busy, probably have some children to go empower and help make the world a better place, and thank you for contributing to the good of the educational system. [Jen Hovey] You’re wonderful. Thank you E-Rock. [E-Rock] You’re welcome. So hey everyone, thanks for watching. Hopefully you got some great insights about the tutoring industry and Jennifer’s Boise tutoring services, so look for the next interview coming up and we appreciate that and you’ll get a chance to get an article and see all this at newswire.net. Thank you for your time and Jennifer, we’ll hopefully talk to you soon. [Jen Hovey] Thank you very much. Bye, bye. [E-Rock] Bye, Bye. Would YOU like to be interviewed for your business? Contact http://www.localbusinessrockstar.com today!
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