Patricia “Lee” Bell was teaching 10th-grade English in the 1980s when parents started asking where they could go for SAT test prep. She thought, “Why not me?” and partnered with a math teacher to tutor after school in her home and at the library.
A couple of years later, in 1988, Bell rented a space in Wilton Manors and founded Individual Dimensions in Learning to provide tutoring and test preparation classes. Over the years, she has offered SAT and ACT workshops in-house at private schools, and developed small-group and individual academic enrichment programs. At her peak, Bell had nine classrooms and a pool of 30 teachers.
But then the recession hit, schools began building test preparation into their curriculum, and business declined. Bell had always relied on word-of-mouth to bring in new clients, but fewer students were walking through the door. She tried traditional advertising, with limited success.
“I’m not good at tooting my own horn,” Bell said.
Today the company is down to four classrooms, a pool of 18 teachers and three part-time high school office workers. With annual sales of $200,000, Bell said she would like to serve 50 students or more a week, but knows some weeks she has far less. About 80 percent of her clientele are high school kids seeking test prep.