How credit cards helped launch a throwback to personal tutors
Founder Skyler Lucci utilized good credit and business cards to supply a need to a niche market
Erica Sandberg is a prominent personal finance authority and author of “Expecting Money: The Essential Financial Plan for New and Growing Families.” She writes “Small Business Credit Profiles,” a weekly column featuring small business owners' journey with credit and credit cards for CreditCards.com.
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Parents want their children to maintain academic excellence, but there are times when achieving that goal requires extra help. Rather than placing their child in front of yet another screen for virtual tutoring, personal tutors are making a comeback.
Fresh out of high school, Skyler Lucci recognized the need for such specialized tutoring and decided to make a business out of it. At 19, he started a small tutoring company with a prepaid cellphone and a school address book that listed parent emails. “Within months, I was recognized as the go-to tutoring service in the Beverly Hills community.”
Lucci soon realized there was a void in the market for in-person tutoring services because larger companies were pushing online services. Yet conducting educational sessions over a computer screen isn’t always in the best interest of students. Bucking the trend, Lucci founded HeyTutor in 2015, a company that connects students with local tutors by way of an online platform.
HeyTutor recently received a $1 million Series A investment from ScOp Venture. Today, the service is operating in more than 100 U.S. cities and provides tutoring in over 250 subjects. “Demand is not an issue right now,” says Lucci. “We’re receiving an overwhelming amount of clients. Our biggest obstacle is meeting that demand with the best tutors!”
Throughout the company’s history, Lucci has been using credit cards – wisely and prolifically.
How did your credit history affect the way you initially financed your venture?
If it wasn’t for good credit, HeyTutor wouldn’t be where it is today. It’s 2019, and everything is expensive. Hiring employees, buying a website domain, hosting the website, office expense, travel expense, marketing, legal work, etc. Founders like me call the first round of funding the “Visa round!” Basically, you apply for every single 0-percent APR credit card you can find, and put every single expense you have on them – responsibly, of course. We’re now debt free, but at one point, we had over $250,000 in debt. With a great credit rating, you always find lending, but watch out for the high APR credit cards!
Did you make any charging mistakes?
To be honest, we racked up so much credit card debt that it was starting to get uncomfortable. Our ROMI (return on marketing investment) was amazing, so we dumped money into advertising. We also knew the more we invested into our platform, the more efficient we would be, in turn, saving on employee cost.
How are credit cards helping you and your business become successful?
Currently we use credit cards for multiple reasons, points being one of them. If I combine all of our cards, we probably get north of $20,000 back a year. In this case, you probably have to be spending millions, but for companies just starting out, you can easily see a couple hundred or even a thousand bucks back a year.
Using credit cards is better than using your debit cards, too. You never want to tie your bank account to subscriptions or give it out in general. Remember, when giving out your debit card number, that person or company can take your real cash out. Let me paint a better picture for you: If you got overcharged for something, would you rather it be pulled from your bank account or a credit card? For sure a credit card!
Credit cards are also good for organization. The companies offer a lot of tools and tracking for you and your employees.
The cards we use for the business are the American Express® Gold Card and the Chase Ink Business Preferred because they offer great rewards and high limits. The Blue Business SM Plus Credit Card from American Express, which has a low APR, is a good card for our employees. We have 25 people working for us and five are managers, so they have access to that card. Like most credit cards, it offers tracking and analytics, so it’s super easy to manage.
Tip: Business rewards cards come in all shapes and sizes, so it can be easy to find a rewards rate that meets your spending patterns. Whether you want to earn rewards on gas, dining or travel purchases, don't underestimate the value of business card perks.
What do you typically charge and how are you using the rewards?
One-time expenses, such as a big legal bill or office equipment, along with marketing is what we put on the credit cards the most. We love rewards cards! As every entrepreneur should, the rewards are invested directly back into the business. Using it to pay down the credit card bill is best.
What have you learned about business and borrowing that you can pass on to other entrepreneurs?
My first piece of advice to all entrepreneurs: Prove that there's a need for your product and service. Once you achieve that, make a realistic one-year forecast, understanding the best and worst-case scenarios. Know the unit economics of your business, specifically customer acquisition cost and lifetime value. If all of this adds up, look in the mirror and ask yourself, “Am I going to give this business my all? Am I going to crack under pressure? Am I capable of staying focused for years? And most importantly – am I able to sacrifice?” If the answer is yes to all of those, borrow away. Look for the 0-percent APR credit card offers.
Oh, and remember that business credit cards look at your personal credit report. Keep your credit clean and you’ll be able to pull large credit lines for your business. Again, go for the low APR offers, but don’t forget – one day it’ll be time to pay up!