SYMCA - Levelling Up

Entrepreneurial mathematician turns calculates right angle for business growth

A former immunologist turned maths teacher who nearly saw her entrepreneurial ambitions dashed by Covid-19 has hit on a winning formula by moving her fledging tuition business online after calling on help from a unique programme designed to help new entrepreneurs across the Sheffield City Region.

Belgian born Marijke Walters launched her tutoring business Maths Solutions in March 2020. However, just a week after taking the plunge into self-employment, Marijke found her plans in jeopardy when the first national lockdown, effectively prevented her from delivering the face-to-face tuition she had planned.

To make matters worse, just a few days later all summer GCSE exams would also be cancelled and realising that she needed to recalculate her business ambitions, the Wath-based entrepreneur called upon the Sheffield City Region Launchpad programme for advice.

Working alongside dedicated business support manager, Darren McDool, Marijke began formulating plans to move her business online. After taking part in both one-to-one sessions and training workshops, Marijke decided to put the skills she had learned to good use and spent time building her own website, as well as turning to social media to help children master their maths skills.

Since launching her own business, Marijke has developed a particular interest in helping children with a range of complex learning needs especially those who suffer from maths anxiety and dyscalculia, a condition similar to dyslexia which affects 3-6% of the population.

Marijke’s hard work during lockdown has paid off.  Since working with Launchpad, her maths tuition business has not only been in high demand across South Yorkshire, but she has been helping pupils from across the world, attracting pupils from as far afield as America, Russia and Germany. 

Marijke Walters has developed a particular interest in helping children who suffer from Dyscalcula and Maths Anxiety. She also helps deaf children to master their maths skills using British Sign Language.

Marijke Walters, Owner of Maths Solutions said:

“When my husband and I first came to the UK, I found myself working on the checkouts in a DIY store. I spotted an advert and realised I could use my science background to inspire children and successfully trained as a teacher. I was fascinated with the way subjects like maths was taught and I loved that ‘eureka’ moment when children solve a maths problem.

“I always liked the idea of working for myself and so I decided to follow my dreams and launch my own business. In hindsight, I couldn’t have done this at a worse time and when lockdown forced me to re-think my plans, I reached out to the Launchpad programme to see whether they could help me. After working with Darren, I realised I could move my business online and potentially help children not only on my doorstep but further afield too.

“The workshops taught me how to build my website and reach new customers and since putting my own lessons into practice I’ve seen demand for my tuition services grow. I’m now fully booked and even have a waiting list for next term.  The support I’ve received from Launchpad has been invaluable to my business journey and it gave me the confidence and skills to succeed in my new business venture.”

Darren McDool, Business Advisor at Launchpad said:

“Marijke wanted to inspire children to share her passion and love of maths with her tuition business, however, she was acutely aware that without changing her business, the impact of lockdown would have a serious impact upon her plans.

“Launchpad was created to help new business owners to understand the different skills needed to build and grow a successful business. Marijke knew she needed to re-think her original plans but that meant not only thinking about how she could deliver her tuition sessions, but crucially understanding how to reach potential beneficiaries of her services. The success she’s achieved with her website helped her to reach a brand new audience, one which she previously felt would have been impossible to achieve.”

Former cancer specialist Marijke and her husband relocated to the UK from Malaysia in 2004 when her husband secured a new job. Marijke found herself working on the checkout of a national DIY store, before deciding to use her previous skills to train as a teacher. Since that time she rapidly rose the through ranks, becoming the head of maths at a Rotherham secondary school, before taking up a role at the Doncaster School for the Deaf, where she taught maths through sign language.

Marijke is currently balancing her busy work commitments with her own studies and she is working towards becoming one of a select few teaching practitioners who can not only help children to overcome maths anxiety and dyscalculia but also diagnose the condition.

Launchpad is a unique business support programme available to support both new entrepreneurs and business owners which have been trading for less than three years in the Sheffield City Region. The programme is financially supported by the European Regional Development Fund and delivered by local authorities based in the Sheffield City Region and the Princes Trust.

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