Flexible financing helped SiSTEM Tutoring’s regional and national expansion.
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Phenomenal growth has marked the past year for the SiSTEM Tutoring Agency, founded by Pearl Ubaru.
Once exclusively focused on private, one-on-one instruction, SiSTEM Tutoring saw an opportunity to grow and began landing large school board tutoring contracts across Texas.
But with government contracts came invoice payments set at net 30 days. Since SiSTEM pays its tutors weekly, Pearl faced a significant gap in working capital that threatened to limit growth and her ability to hire best-in-class tutors.
With Liquid Capital’s invoice factoring solution, SiSTEM has the cash flow to meet payroll on time, remain competitive in the industry, and begin taking the business nationwide.
Laying the groundwork for future generations
SiSTEM Tutoring Services — which stands for Students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) — was established in 2019 as a private in-home tutoring company. They offer online and in-person tutoring and test prep in science, math, English and foreign languages by qualified teachers and graduate students.
When the pandemic increased the need for tutoring services, and local governments began funding school-based tutoring, founder Pearl Ubaru saw an opportunity she couldn’t pass up. She decided to make a move beyond private tutoring, pivoted her company in a new direction and quickly scaled her business.
In late 2022, she doubled-down on marketing her company’s tutoring services to larger school boards by launching the Campus Immersion Program.
Her efforts were successful, quickly winning bids to partner with several school board clients. SiSTEM began sending tutors to K-12 schools across Texas, including the Houston Independent School District (HISD) and the Fort Worth Independent School District.
While the move into school-based tutoring was an exciting development for SiSTEM, large, government clients like school districts have vendor payment terms set in stone. In the case of Pearl’s clients, most invoices were paid in net 30 days.
“We hit the ground running for the spring semester in January and we had all these tutors and contracts,” explains Valarie Grant, Chief of Staff at SiSTEM. “Then we ran into problems with our invoices not being paid fast enough for us to pay our tutors weekly.”
SiSTEM maintains a strict weekly payroll and pays an above market rate to remain competitive and recruit high-calibre tutors. But while the business was expanding and thriving, the gap between payroll and the contracts’ monthly payment structure created cash flow concerns for Pearl, Valarie and SiSTEM.
“Pearl had an opportunity to do a lot with HISD (Houston Independent School District). She recognized that she needed some sort of solution to accelerate her cash flow so she could take care of payroll.”
– Liquid Capital
The invoice factoring difference
Cash flow gaps can have wide-reaching effects on a company, filtering down through the organization. And for SiSTEM Tutoring, the mismatch between a school district’s invoice payment and the company’s payroll meant that Pearl needed a more reliable solution to attract and retain the best tutors.
Pearl’s options to increase her cash flow were self-funding the payroll gap through her own earnings and savings, taking out loans, leveraging high-interest credit cards or applying for grants. Her business did win several grants, but with an increasing number of tutors to pay, this model was unsustainable to fund the growing payroll.
“We could have received loans and things of that nature, but we just felt like we didn’t really need a loan per se. We just needed quick access to the money that we’ve earned through our services.”
– Pearl Ubaru, Founder, SiSTEM Tutoring
Through a contact, Valarie heard about invoice factoring. Neither she nor Pearl had ever factored invoices before. After evaluating the process and several providers, the benefits of invoice factoring were attractive. Liquid Capital offered a particularly friendly, hands-on, transparent approach where all expectations were laid out upfront.
The Liquid Capital team was available to walk SiSTEM through the process, answer questions as needed, and offer additional support, including recommendations on record keeping, organizing payments and contract terms.
“I selected Liquid Capital because of how they work and the people behind them. After meeting the Liquid Capital Principal and hearing his thoughts and appreciation for what we do, it was a pretty easy ‘yes’ from me,” explains Pearl.
Scaling the business with healthy cash flow
Within two weeks of submitting her application with Liquid Capital, Pearl was able to pay tutors regularly and fund back-end operating expenses such as payroll systems, subscriptions to video conferencing tools and internal payroll.
“All of those things cost money, so thinking about that was a bit stressful. Working with Liquid Capital really did alleviate that stress and it did make a positive difference for sure. It really allowed us breathing room,” says Pearl.
Between March and June 2023, SiSTEM factored more than $400,000 in invoices. Since the spring, they have taken on tutoring contracts with at least 15 independent school districts and two charter schools in Texas. SiSTEM is also part of a co-operative that provides tutoring to different organizations and institutions nationwide.
“Now that SiSTEM has the capital, it’s really just a function of getting the contracts,” says Liquid Capital. “Pearl is doing really well, the school districts really like her, so she’ll get opportunities. Then she just needs to be able to hire people and pay them. Now she has the ability to pay them, we’ve removed a critical block to her growth, without a doubt,” he adds.
“Even though we have an impactful vision and mission, money speaks — us paying tutors weekly, us paying them an above-market rate, really does allow us to bring in the best of the best.”
– Pearl Ubaru, Founder, SiSTEM Tutoring
Ready to grow in Texas and beyond
For Pearl, securing more than a dozen contracts in early 2023 was just the beginning. The team is looking beyond the Greater Houston area — expanding the company’s reach to the City of Houston and states ranging from Rhode Island to New Mexico.
Looking back, Pearl sees her partnership with Liquid Capital as a key opportunity that has ensured her company’s survival and allowed it to prosper and expand.
“I think the biggest thing is always going to be funding, no matter what, so if you can find a way to always have access to funds, that’s really what will make your business thrive,” says Pearl. “Liquid Capital are personable people and I feel like they definitely understand.”