Natalie Mangrum is the CEO and founder of Maryland Teacher Tutors, a private tutoring and academic coaching company built and sustained by certified teachers. Maryland Teacher Tutors supports and empowers students to excel in the classroom and beyond via online and in-person tutoring in the Baltimore area. As a former teacher, Natalie recognised the value of one-on-one instruction on a student’s education. In her first year as a reading specialist, her students grew more than 2.5-grade levels over the course of just one semester! In fact, the huge academic gains were so significant that those students entered the mainstream classroom way ahead of schedule. Natalie became obsessed with the individualised instruction model, and the rest is history. A few years later, Natalie left her job in the classroom to pursue Maryland Teacher Tutors full time. What started out with 1 tutor is now a thriving company of 30+ tutors with vast experience and expertise in a variety of subject areas.
Hey Natty, can you introduce yourself to us?
I’d be glad to! My name is Natalie Mangrum and the only reason I go by Natty as @NatMangrum, which is my actual nickname, was taken on Instagram. I’m a CEO, a wife, a mom, and a believer.
Can you take us through your journey to where you are now?
I started my career as an elementary teacher in Baltimore City Schools. From there, I went on to become a reading specialist in middle & high school. It was in that role that I really saw the value of one-on-one instruction as my students made huge academic gains in a short period of time. I went on to teach college literature to freshmen and sophomores before leaving the classroom altogether to pursue Maryland Teacher Tutors full time.
What is a day in the life of you like?
It’s funny you ask this because my life is actually quite simple. I wake up at 4:30am for coffee and devotions. I get to the gym for kickboxing and weight lifting around 5:30am and then I’m home back around 7:30 to put on my CEO hat. Around 10am, the rest of the day is mine! Let’s be honest. That’s one of the real reasons I went into entrepreneurship full time – for the freedom and flexibility! I mostly fill my time from 10am-10pm with family, lunch with friends, and martinis!
What was the concept behind launching Maryland Teacher Tutors?
The purpose of MTT is to provide excellent private tutoring and academic coaching to students. The big idea behind it though is that certified teachers would be the ones providing the service. We believe that teachers are experts at what they do. More than anyone else, teachers know how to motivate and inspire children to do great things!
How are Maryland Teacher Tutors funded, is it bootstrapped, self-funded etc.?
MTT is funded by our clients. Families pay the company directly to have our tutors come out to them.
Can you tell us more about your brand DNA and ethos within Maryland Teacher Tutors?
What sets MTT apart is the relationships we build with families. Early on, I had schools and non-profit organisations reach out to ask me if I would consider allowing our tutors to be used for after-school programs or in-school tutoring programs. But that’s not the DNA of this company. Our heart is really to become an extension of our families. We come to the family to make it super convenient for them, and that family can depend on that tutor for as long as they need. We value the personalised relationships with our families and tutors are able to foster. It is not at all unusual for families to cook dinner for our tutors, give them Christmas gifts, and invite them to birthday parties. And we love it!
Where do you see yourself within the next 3-5 years?
In the next few years, my hope for Maryland Teacher Tutors is that it becomes a household name. I want to continue to increase our exposure, not just to families in the Maryland area, but nationally and internationally. We have a franchisor interested in having an MTT in the Bahamas! Woo! We’re excited about the possibilities.
Currently, you serve Baltimore, Howard County, Anne Arundel County, and Harford County. What strategies do you have in place when looking at the expansion of your business?
Our strategy is really to saturate the markets we’re in currently before biting off more than we can chew. In due time, we’ll expand, especially as we continue to work hard at spreading our message and making sure people know who we are.
Can you tell us what areas you have struggled in professionally?
Absolutely. I’m happy to share the pain as well as the glory! I struggle with being overly ambitious. I realise that sounds like a great answer to an interview question, but in all honesty, it has hurt me time and time again. I am trying to learn to slow down, reflect, and get advice before jumping into new opportunities. Timing is everything.
Have you ever had any other mentor? If so how has this benefitted you to grow?
To be honest, I can’t identify one specific mentor that has been with me through the whole of my entrepreneurial journey, other than my husband. And he’s less of a mentor and more of a partner-in-crime. I’ve been blessed to have several mentors who have invested in me during different seasons of my life. It’s beneficial because I don’t know everything. And for the things I don’t know, I need help.
What outlets do use to market Maryland Teacher Tutors?
We use a variety of social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Additionally, we are very active on Google and we’ve built great relationships with the communities we serve so that people know we exist and are here to help.
Which methods are you using to build your own support network?
We communicate with our families via email and phone, but mostly through text, believe it or not. This has really allowed us to move from a formal relationship to a more informal one. We want parents to know that we are accessible and that they can reach out to ask us questions or voice their concerns. Additionally, we provide our families with newsletters that are specific to them. These newsletters include specials, discounts, and giveaways that no one else has access to, which our parents really appreciate.
What is the best piece of business advice you have received to date?
Be patient. Be consistent. Be ethical.
What is the number 1 critical lesson you have learned in your career so far?
Again, be patient. Really successful entrepreneurs are not built overnight. Look up the bios for Oprah or Jeff Bezos. You’ll see that people have been at their craft for a long time before they reach the level of success everyone admires.
How do you create an evenly balanced work and personal life?
Hire people! We have an operations manager, a marketing team, and a parent coordinator. That allows me to focus on the big picture items and not go crazy trying to handle everything by myself.
A seminal point in your career so far?
I was interviewing a teacher once and telling her about the company. In the middle of the interview, she interrupted to tell me she had been following my journey as an entrepreneur and #bossbabe, and that she was obsessed – in a healthy way, of course! She went on and on about how brilliant and magnificent it was that I chose to hire teachers exclusively and that she knew this company would go so far. It caught me off guard, but it was really what I needed at that moment because I had been discouraged that week. I still think about that moment, often.
What gives you ultimate career satisfaction?
Feeling like I am honouring God well with the gifts and talents He has given me.
What challenges have been presented during the growth of your business?
Oh dear, too many to count. The dynamic of managing people is always tough, even if you’re a good leader and a relatable supervisor. Then there’s the management of families and making sure things are running smoothly for them. We want to be sure parents are not just pleased, but ecstatic with the service we are providing them. In addition to the person-to-person aspect of the business, you’ve got the operations, the marketing, the budgets, etc. It really is a lot! And that’s why it’s important to have other business professionals and experts in your corner to help advise.
Which other leading entrepreneurs and pioneering game changers do you also admire and why?
I keep tabs on local folks more than the national scene. Dayna Bolden, a major influencer and Jess Gartner with Allovue have always been inspirational to me. Both of these ladies are right here in Baltimore. Jess and I taught together in Baltimore City and I left my job a few years after she left hers to pursue running her company full time. We’ve remained friends ever since. I’ve never met Dayna, but hopefully, she reads this and gives me the privilege!
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
I really enjoyed Jen Sincero’s book, ‘You’re A Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness And Start Living An Awesome Life.’
Top 3 go-to Podcast channels?
I don’t listen to podcasts. Is that crazy? I listen to music, though!
What does #BEYOUROWN mean to you?
To me, #BEYOUROWN is a call for women to stay away from the ugly idol of comparison. There is enough room in this humongous world for all of us to be successful. You don’t need to look like anyone else. You don’t need to talk like anyone else. You don’t need to have the same experiences as anyone else. There is room for you to be your own person. And the world will be better for it.
Finally, what can we expect from you next?
I’ve been picking up some modelling and sponsorship opportunities on Instagram and that has been super fun! I hope to do more of it because it gives me a nice break from wearing my CEO hat.
Instagram: @nattymangrum @marylandteachertutors