Just a year after he graduated from the University of Hong Kong, Calvin Sun Siu-wah had already established a tutorial centre under his own name. He has, he says, fulfilled his childhood dream of being a teacher.
Sun, who graduated with a degree in Business Administration and Law from the University of Hong Kong, found it hard to choose between Law and teaching. He has a genuine interest in both. But he finally made a decision using the economic concept of “opportunity cost” – if he chose law, he would find it much harder to give it up and become a teacher later.
Impressed by his Biology tutor Simon Chiang, who is a famous private tutor in Hong Kong, Sun learnt that effective presentation and clear explanation of the syllabus could benefit students directly. Based on his own experience of tutoring his younger schoolmates when he was still in secondary school, Sun says he developed a teaching method that enables students to learn faster.
In his final two years at university, Sun worked as a part time English tutor in a small-scale education centre. In appreciation of his outstanding teaching, his boss offered to sell him one of the branches of the centre in 2004. Though he was not expecting this sudden offer, Sun agreed without hesitation and turned it into his own business.
He managed to raise $200,000 from his own savings and loans from family and friends. In the first year, he did not make any net profit because he had to deal with administrative work and human resources, which were new to him. But after only a year, the operations became smoother and more stable.
As he has become better known in the industry, Sun has attracted several invitations from big chain tutorial centres to join them with offers of deals up to several million dollars. But he has turned them all down. “There are a lot of limits of being an employee. I cannot do what I want because I would have to consider the company’s policy,” says Sun.
Sun says that joining somebody else’s company would mean he might have to deviate from his own ideas about teaching. “I would not be allowed to be as close to my students as I am now,” he says.
Another reason he cites for choosing self-employment is that he wants to avoid what he calls the “meaningless” of the competition between tutors in the same company. Nobody knows better than him what his strengths and desires are, he says. And with five education centres bearing his name at the age of 31, he seems to know how to use those strengths to achieve his desires.