As a Business Administration student, Darine el Houfi (23) was already tutoring students to help fund his studies. He used his experience to set up a tutoring company with a special focus on pupils from families who are struggling financially.
By now Stichting Leren voor de Toekomst (Learning for the Future) has grown into a nation-wide organization for tutoring, guidance and coaching. The young and highly driven entrepreneur explains what it’s like to combine ambition and ideals.Have you always pictured yourself as an entrepreneur?
„Yes, I enrolled in the business administration programme at VU Amsterdam with the goal of starting my own business some day. My childhood was marked by poverty and I envisioned a future for myself with more resources."
At the same time Leren voor de Toekomst has become a very idealistic company.
„It took me seven years to get my secondary school diploma instead of the standard six. This was partly due to the fact that I grew up in a poor family and had fewer opportunities. My company was born from the pain that my classmates could afford expensive homework classes and tutoring and I could not, while I desperately needed some extra support because I didn’t get it at home."
What did you believe you could add to the existing pool of companies offering those services?
„What sets Leren voor de Toekomst apart is the personal connection with pupils. I was shocked to discover that other companies send a different tutor to the children every week. We operate based on a long-term vision. We also employ people who serve as role models for pupils. Guys from Amsterdam West tutor children from Amsterdam West and girls from Schilderswijk help pupils from Schilderswijk. We also tag along to parent-teacher conferences."
Why is it so important to go to parent-teacher conferences?
„Because the gap between education and certain groups is just too big. Many people from a non-Western migration background have trouble understanding the difference between the secondary school levels HAVO and VWO. We try to help these parents who do not speak Dutch very well during the ten-minute parent-teacher conferences. This helps them find out what their child gets up to at school. Teachers on the other hand also discover that parents are definitely interested but may be embarrassed because they don’t know certain things."
In the past two years, Leren voor de Toekomst has grown into a company with employees all over the Netherlands. How does an organization change through such exponential growth?
„As a start-up entrepreneur you have to be a jack of all trades. You do your own admin, recruitment, budgeting, etc. And later you create a team with specific expertise. I currently employ a young man who studied fiscal law and a fellow student from VU Amsterdam who has a Master’s in Marketing. We also have a young lady who completed her primary school teacher training programme and is now completing a Master’s in educational sciences also at VU Amsterdam."
„As an entrepreneur, you have to be able to let others take care of certain things, but you must keep your organization’s mission and vision in mind.The disadvantage to this expansive growth is that I no longer know everyone. I have always been a people person. It has now reached a point where I don’t know my employees’ and pupils’ names. That bothers me sometimes."
How does it stay fun for you?
„I still tutor kids three to four times a week myself and that is something I want to keep doing. I also love seeing my colleagues grow. Last year one of my guys was struggling to find his place, but now I see him come up with amazing strategies. Another guy used to stutter a lot in the beginning and struggled to finish a sentence, but now he tells a story easily. I absolutely love seeing that."
Have you been sitting on an amazing idea for a start-up but need help getting it off the ground? This is your chance! Convince the jury of the Kuyper Challenge that your idea has what it takes to become a success, and win the seed money and coaching you need to get started. Read more