Bart and I have told the story about how Savvy Reading started a million times in real life, but I realized I’ve never shared it here and thought it might be fun to tell you about how this business got its start.
After Bart finished his MBA at Duke, he took a job at Intel and in one of his roles, he met Jeremy. They worked together helping Intel build new business and really hit it off. They loved working together and spent a lot of time together, despite the fact they lived in different states (Intel has planes that fly between their main locations every morning and evening so they flew back and forth to work together) and occasionally Jeremy would spend the night at our house or Bart would stay with Jeremy and his wife Amy at their home.
Eventually, Bart and Jeremy both left Intel to work for different start-ups, but they stayed in touch and caught up by phone a couple of times a year.
In the spring of 2020, they had one of these calls and Jeremy told Bart that Amy, who is a reading specialist and has advanced degrees in curriculum design, had started tutoring neighbor kids who were falling behind with schools closed. She was doing an amazing job and was absolutely loving helping in this way and seeing how fired up she about this work, Jeremy, who loves technology, suggested that he could help her make her help available to more students.
Amy said she wasn’t interested – she only wanted to keep doing it in person.
But Jeremy couldn’t get the idea out of his head and when he and Bart got on the phone, he told Bart, “I can’t stop thinking about teaching kids to read online.”
It turned out that this was an ideal moment for him to suggest this to Bart.
Because in February, we’d met with Ani’s 1st grade teacher for the normal parent teacher conference and she’d told us that Ani was falling behind in reading and that it was getting worse as the year went on.
Her teacher told us that Ani was going to start getting pulled out by the student aide each day to practice for 15-20 minutes and within a few weeks, we started seeing incredible progress in Ani’s reading.
And then, a few weeks later, everything shut down, thanks to COVID.
After a week or two of shutdown, Ani’s teacher emailed us and said the school wanted to keep paying the aide and she’d be willing to do 15-20 minutes of reading tutoring each day over Zoom with Ani and a handful of other students to help her get some hours.
Well, that took me about half a second to say yes to – I was THRILLED to have someone else work with Ani and keep it consistent, not to mention that Ani responded so much better to someone else that wasn’t Bart or me when it came to reading practice.
This continued on through the end of the school year and when it was about to end, we asked the aide if she’d be willing to keep tutoring Ani through the summer so she wouldn’t lose her progress and we’d pay her directly instead of the school paying her. She was delighted at the prospect and we were so happy to help Ani keep progressing.
I mentioned it a few times on Instagram and every time, I got a slew of messages asking if the aide might take on other students.
So, when Jeremy mentioned this idea of teaching kids to read online, Bart not only could see a vision of what this might look like, since Ani had been doing the most basic version of it for months, but also knew that there might be some interest in it.
And so within a few weeks, the four of us – Jeremy and Amy, Bart and I – had decided this was an idea worth pursuing and we started building out the first iterations of Savvy Reading.
We spent an incredible amount of time figuring out what grades to launch with, what curriculum to use (spoiler: we ended up designing our own!), how to make it engaging and interesting, and how to find coaches.
And in August of 2020, we did a pre-sale on Everyday Reading, hoping we’d get 10 people to sign up (our stretch goal was 20!). More than ONE HUNDRED readers signed up.
And Savvy Reading has just continued to grow and has now served thousands of readers from pre-K through sixth grade reading levels.
It’s been such a thrill to see how many children Savvy Reading has helped, how many readers have gained confidence and a love of reading, and
It’s been so fun to grow a new business, but it’s really been magic to grow a business that’s helping so many families.
I couldn’t be more proud of what we’ve built and all the incredible things ahead for Savvy Reading – thank your for your support and enthusiasm for Savvy from the beginning.