Hera Hub DC is excited to share Startup Stories from our members. We periodically interview incredible business women from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines. Our goal is to share our members’ wonderful stories with the public.
Sarah Gonzales is the owner of Tungsten Prep, a STEM-focused tutoring company for high school students. She has been a member of Hera Hub DC for nine months and this is her Startup Story:
What was the inspiration behind your business?
I spent 14 years serving overseas with the State Department, mostly in conflict zones such as Afghanistan, Israel, and Liberia. I have seen the transformative effect of education on both the individual and a society, particularly in places where simple access to education cannot be taken for granted. All of those experiences helped me really appreciate the gift of education and inspired me to start a business that might help more students reach their full potential and find joy in learning.
Who are your clients and what do you do for them?
Our clients are high school students in the Washington, DC area. We tutor them across all academic subjects, whether Math, Physics, History, or the SAT and ACT. Our main emphasis is working on the student as a whole. If a student is struggling in a subject, we try to address the underlying cause, not just the symptom. We help them develop cross-cutting skills, such as critical thinking, time management and writing skills, because the goal is to empower students to be both confident and self-sufficient.
What are your business’ values? How do they align with your personal values?
My business values and personal values are completely consistent and intertwined. In fact, my personal values were part of the motivation for starting my own business. I am very focused on education as a spring board to opportunity and think it is a great equalizer. I have always been concerned about inequality in the United States and feel that helping students have strong academic education in Math and the Sciences helps position them for better economic and social outcomes. It also helps us as a society compete in global markets. I know that is a lofty goal, but I’m happy to contribute in my own modest way.
How/Why did you choose your business name?
My favorite moments are when students feel really good about themselves and gain a newfound confidence and self-knowledge that they didn’t have before. I wanted a name that captured that inspiration, or light turning on, if you will. Tungsten is the metal filament inside the lightbulb. I also love the connection to Thomas Edison, whom I admire very much. He was skeptical of the idea of “genius,” and always believed that success was a matter of grit, hard work and a willingness to fail. I think that is an important message to pass to students, who often feel overwhelmed by the pressure and competition of the high school arms race.
What is the biggest challenge in running your own business?
The poverty of time. I am a mother of two young children, I tutor, I build the business and I try to find some small moment for myself and my husband. Every morning, I have to think tactically about how to manage my time for the maximum impact. I try to cut through all “the noise,” which is easily distracting, and ask what can I do today to make my business better, help my students more, and deliver more revenue.
What are your/your business’ goals for the future?
To build a high growth educational service company that provides affordable access to quality tutoring services for a wider population of DC area students.
What advice would you give to a new entrepreneur?
Be resilient and don’t get discouraged by the many challenges you face. Accept that while you may be an underdog right now, that also has its benefits. As a small entrepreneur, you can be more nimble than the larger companies surrounding you.