31 March 2021|Latest Posts, Meet the Successful Founder
Hugh Viney is Headmaster and Founder of Minerva’s Virtual Academy (an online independent senior school) and also Founder of Minerva Tutors (a private tuition and home schooling firm). Hugh is an education expert, having spent a number of years at the helm of his award winning private tuition and home schooling business and more recently his new independent online school. Hugh oversees both businesses’ vision for the future of virtual learning and regularly gives talks and participates in debates around the future of education.
Can you tell us a little about your business background?
I founded Minerva Tutors seven years ago in 2014 having experienced first-hand, the growing incompetence and frustrations around freelance tutoring. I founded Minerva Tutors to develop a bespoke, professional industry offering, one that would provide parents with a much-needed alternative approach to private tuition. With a deliberate focus on nurturing pupil confidence, our mantra has always been to motivate, encourage and inspire pupils to thrive and succeed. As a result, Minerva Tutors has been able to produce outstanding results across academic performance and personal development for its pupils.
Since 2014, Minerva Tutors has helped thousands of children to develop the skills they need to succeed in the exam room and the world beyond. Described by the Good Schools Guide as ‘the Innocent Drinks of the tutor world’. The organisation has become one of the fastest-growing education companies in the UK and has received nominations for several leading national education & business awards. The company is passionate about education and is built upon a foundation of innovation, incredible tutors and a fearless vision around educational philosophy.
More recently, I also founded Minerva’s Virtual Academy (www.minervavirtual.com) during the pandemic, in November 2020. Minerva’s Virtual Academy (MVA) is an affordable, online independent school, for pupils aged 12 to 18 years. With its outstanding virtual learning platform, specialist teaching community and commitment to pastoral care, the Academy combines the best of private education with 21st Century home schooling. With a spirit of community at its core, pupils attend live, interactive lessons with specialist subject teachers, in a virtual classroom environment where they are encouraged to apply their learning and work collaboratively with peers. The school also delivers weekly assemblies online, a range of extra-curricular activities, wellbeing sessions and one to one mentoring, as well as optional in-person meet ups and whole school events. Fostering the development of self-study skills, pupils are empowered to work at their own pace and schedule, nurturing a culture of resilience and self-reliance, while equipping them to succeed and flourish in an increasingly global and technologically driven world.
How did the idea come to you to launch a virtual school?
Home schooling has been Minerva Tutors’ fastest-growing service for the last three years. But home schooling with 25 hours of one to one tutoring per week – is expensive and can be lonely. I felt we were losing out on helping so many other pupils out there, simply because parents couldn’t afford the cost of one to one home schooling, or they understandably wanted their home schooled children to interact and to be able to socialise with other children their own age. So I founded MVA to give parents an affordable home schooling solution but with a true sense of community – like that you would find in a mainstream school.
How have you achieved awareness so far?
We built Minerva Tutors’ reputation on great PPC and SEO, and this is where 95% of our parents have come from for MVA via cross-promotion. Parents have also discovered the Academy via the Minerva Tutors website.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow up to this point?
The success of Minerva Tutors has provided the seed funding to kick start MVA, but sales themselves have driven growth of the new business since January 2021.
What are your key business successes to date?
Being profitable for 6 years is certainly a big one. As well as being a finalist at the Lloyd’s National Business Awards and SME National Business Awards and Education Investor Awards multiple times for Best Tutoring Company, Best Company and also personally as Young Entrepreneur of the Year.
What challenges have you faced with your business and how have you overcome these?
Prior to Covid, 30% of our private tutoring was delivered online. But as soon as the pandemic hit we had to transfer to 100% online tutoring. This was a huge challenge for our tutors, pupils and parents. But we spent a great deal of time reassuring parents that online tutoring can be just as effective, if not more, and we provided in-depth training to all of our tutors to ensure they were fully up to speed and ready for the delivery of online education.
What are your plans now and for the future with Minerva’s Virtual Academy?
I aspire for the business to become a truly global school with a global community. Around 60% of our pupils are UK based, but the rest are in Italy, Spain, Russia, Ukraine and the Middle East. We plan to grow our reach in Africa, and in three years’ time, to provide a timetable suitable for pupils in Southern Asia. In five years from now, we also aim to have pupils based in China and South East Asia. In the much longer term, I’d like to think that in 20 years’ time, the children of the first colony on Mars will be pupils at Minerva’s Virtual Academy!
What advice could you share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
I would definitely say that you don’t need to try to invent something totally unique that doesn’t already exist, to succeed as an entrepreneur. You can always take an existing product or service and make it much, much better. Or you could choose an existing industry with a proven market and solve a problem. If you can make the world better and achieve positive change, whilst also making money, that’s a good start.
Can you share your top five tips for entrepreneurial success?
1. Don’t over linger on thinking and planning. Just get on with conviction and get started, improvements can come later on.
2. Everyone tries to give you advice when you start a business – some good, some bad. Don’t listen to everyone, instead, choose two or three people you trust completely and stick with them.
3. Always pay your bills on time; make sure your cash flow is honest.
4. Appoint a great accountant – keeping track on numbers is vital.
5. Never stop trying to improve. Review your marketing, sales effort, operations, talent and your finance strategies on a monthly basis.
Who are the five people who inspire you the most?
Alexander the Great – Conqueror
Cicero – Orator
Picasso – Artist
Tim Berners Lee – Innovator – @timberners_lee (Twitter)
Sir Jonny Wilkinson – Winner – @JonnyWilkinson (Twitter)
What are your favourite inspirational or motivational quotes?
Aut inveniam viam aut faciam – I will find a way or make one. Hannibal said this in 218 BC when asked how he was supposed to lead his army of elephants across The Alps.
Website & Socials
Instagram – minerva_virtual
Minerva Tutors Twitter: @minervatutorsuk