The independent news organization of Duke University

How one Duke student built a tutoring company serving more than 200 clients

Daniel Hepworth working on administrative tasks for the Massapequa Tutor during his fall break this past semester.
Daniel Hepworth working on administrative tasks for the Massapequa Tutor during his fall break this past semester.

When sophomore Daniel Hepworth found himself in high school helping students in the library for nine hours straight sustained only by granola bars, he knew he needed to make a change. 

So he began The Massapequa Tutor, a tutoring business that Hepworth manages remotely from Duke and plans to run full time after he graduates. Based in his hometown of Massapequa, N.Y., the business offers in-person and virtual instruction for class help alongside AP, SAT and ACT preparation. The company employs more than 20 tutors and serves more than 200 clients. 

Hepworth, as the company’s CEO, spends an average of 10 to 12 hours per week on the business, which he said is “growing rather exponentially.” He attributed his company’s success to its use of student tutors.

“For many students, receiving tutoring is like going to the dentist. We make tutoring exciting and engaging through our use of student tutors, who can relate to our students while also achieving results,” Hepworth said. 

Hepworth mentioned that his favorite part of running the tutoring business is “the a-ha moment, where [the material] finally clicks.”  

“It’s a positive feedback loop, where learning something becomes exciting,” he said. “I do it for that a-ha moment.”

Hepworth started his business as a junior in high school, and he expanded it to include multiple tutors his senior year after demand for his services became so high that he was unable to fill all requests. 

It all started when a family friend asked Hepworth to help their daughter in her geometry class. A self-described “shy and introverted person,” Hepworth was reluctant to agree. 

After swallowing his doubts and agreeing to tutor that first client, Hepworth realized that, thanks to his experience as a peer tutor and as his high school’s speech and debate captain, he enjoyed teaching and helping others.

The first family referred him to others, he said, leading to more clients during the fall of his junior year, at which point he created Facebook and Instagram pages to publicize his services. By his senior spring, Hepworth got to the point where he would be in the library for nine straight hours, “without time for lunch or dinner,” he said. 

At that point, Hepworth realized that it was too much to do alone. Although he didn’t have the time to tutor everyone who requested his services, he wanted to make sure their requests were fulfilled. So he began to recruit among his peers, allowing him to sustain his new business over the summer. 

“Going into college as a [first-year] was a bit of a noble experiment in seeing if we could keep this business running,” he said. But his first year at Duke turned out to be when the company “really took off.” 

After recruiting Long Island high school students, mostly seniors, Hepworth began building the business’s infrastructure. With the help of sophomore Jimmy Xiao, whom Hepworth met in his first-year dorm, the company built a website, switched from Venmo to a PayPal system and launched a scheduling app. 

Xiao, an electrical and computer engineering major from Salt Lake City, Utah, is now The Massapequa Tutor’s chief technology officer. He manages the company’s payment system, along with the rest of its technological infrastructure.

“Dan has given me a role that is very executive, and I get to help make a lot of business decisions, so I think this has really increased my interest in running businesses,” Xiao said. He also shared that his experience with the business has inspired him to pursue the innovation and entrepreneurship certificate.

Xiao added that the company’s success can be attributed to “caring about the tutors,” which translates into helping clients too. 

Although he does not see himself working for The Massapequa Tutor full time, Xiao said that he plans to continue his involvement throughout his time at Duke and can see himself continuing with his current “more restricted part-time role” long-term.  

Xiao and Hepworth declined to share specific numbers related to the company’s finances, but Hepworth said that the job is “rather high-paying” and pays “significantly above what [tutoring] chains pay.”

In the near future, Hepworth plans to focus his efforts on recruiting, which he says is the company’s biggest weakness right now, as he has already recruited heavily at his alma mater high school and another school in his area. 

“We got to the point where we’re pretty much in a bottleneck where we need to find more talent on Long Island to expand,” he said. 

Hepworth added that he hopes to eventually expand his business beyond Long Island. As such, the executive team is considering changing the name of The Massapequa Tutor to a more geographically inclusive one.