Samantha Berry gets ready to launch her tutoring business
for University of Otago students. Photo supplied.
It's all about recycling knowledge. Samantha Berry is
launching a new business on March 1 called UniTutor, an online
website where University of Otago students can find private
tutors for specific university papers.
Students will be able to search for and book private
tutorials, and the site will take care of all the details,
including the time, date, payment and location. It will also
send out reminders two hours before tutorials.
Her two-year plan includes introducing it to other
universities - Canterbury and Lincoln this year and then
tackling the North Island universities next year.
Miss Berry (23), who is studying for a master of
entrepreneurship, a 15-month degree designed to support those
with an entrepreneurial spirit who wish to start an
innovative new venture, can relate to both sides of the
relationship. she has wide experience both as a student and a
Originally from Christchurch, she has a degree in finance and
an honours degree in Japanese and is six months away from
completing her master of entrepreneurship degree.
For the past four years, she has been doing some tutoring
which started to snowball as word-of-mouth recommendations
spread and she also put up some posters advertising her
Last semester, she tutored for 54 hours a week for four
consecutive weeks - "it got extreme" - and she had kept the
timetable of names, which showed how "crazy" it was.
But she enjoyed seeing students succeed and achieve the
results they wanted to, while also making good money.
She realised there was an opportunity to provide a tutoring
service, as there were so many people wanting private
tutoring but nowhere for them to get it, and also to be able
to get feedback as to how good the tutors were.
First-year students - shy 17- and 18-year-olds, often did not
know where to go to get help, she said.
As well as providing one-on-one paper-specific tutoring, she
learned that students often wanted to come with a friend, as
it was not so intimidating, and that male students preferred
three-on-one. UniTutor will have a maximum of three in the
Potential tutors would have creditworthiness and police
checks and be personally interviewed. Tutor photographs,
background information and feedback from other students would
be posted on the website.
"I'm going to hire the likes of me," Miss Berry said.
What she found out through her own tutoring was that students
needed to know that their tutor could be trusted.
A tutor had to be able to adapt to each student and she was
also looking for people who were approachable and friendly.
She had met students who were so shy she "couldn't get
anything out of them". Her conversational starting point was
always about what they did in the weekend.
One of the most difficult parts of being a tutor was getting
the money from the students, who often did not have much and
were unreliable payers.
The website removed that problem and allowed the students'
parents to top up tutoring accounts.
Miss Berry has visited university departments to explain her
plan, getting great reactions.
She did not believe she would have any problem recruiting
tutors, saying she was going to do all the work for them,
apart from tutoring.
Dunedin students were usually paid only the minimum wage for
jobs and she was "offering so much more" than that for them
to tutor in their own time.
It did not involve getting up at 6.30am and serving food in a
hall of residence, or other similar jobs that students got.
Miss Berry has spent a year working on and refining her idea.
It was something she was passionate about.
Now entering her seventh year, she wanted to make tutoring as
easy as possible for students.
She recalled her own experience when she wanted a Japanese
tutor and had no idea where to go. It was a "horrible"
experience and she never wanted it to happen to a student
Coincidentally, when she first enrolled at university, the
one thing she wanted to do was to start her own business.
She initially studied physics, chemistry and biology, before
deciding that was not what she wanted to do all her life, and
She loved the Master of Entrepreneurship course, and said she
could not have developed UniTutor without it.
Those people who came to speak to the degree participants
were knowledgeable and had a lot of advice. Networking had
"just been outstanding". She recommended it to anyone with an
idea, to "get it out there".
While she was ready to launch in Dunedin now, Miss Berry's
two-year plan included reaching Canterbury and Lincoln
universities in July and then targeting the North Island
universities next year.
"I want to be the first in the market," she said.