Like many college students, Brenaea Fairchild, pictured at right, picked up a few extra bucks by working as a tutor. But unlike most, she turned her part-time gig into a business with 10 tutors, all run from her Princeton University dorm room. Now, two years after its founder graduated, B-Fair Tutoring is still going strong and has turned to serving a new market: students of limited means who would otherwise be unable to afford tutoring services.
B-Fair works with Foundation Collegiate Academy, a charter school in Trenton, to provide tutoring to its students. She hopes to expand the service to other community groups in Trenton, as well as charter schools in other cities such as Camden and Newark.
Fairchild grew up in Trenton, where her mother, a human resources executive, sent her to Stuart Country Day School. She noticed many differences between herself and the other private school students, as well as between her and her Trenton friends who attended public school. Unlike many other Stuart students, Fairchild did not have any tutors herself, except for a few weeks of extra Spanish lessons.
“My mom provided for us very well, but she was paying for me to go to private school and she had no extra funding,” she says. “There were people there who had horseback riding lessons, dance classes, and thing on top of thing. I was thinking more students should be able to have those types of experiences.”
She also saw how lucky she was to have gone to private school compared to her friends back home in Trenton, who were held to a low standard of achievement. “One day I was talking to a friend, and she said, ‘Oh, I have a 15-page research paper due tomorrow. I haven’t started it yet.’ I said, ‘What are you going to do?’ She said, ‘Oh, it’s all right. I’m just going to copy and paste it.’ I said, ‘You’re gonna fail, you’ll get kicked out!’ She said, ‘No, I’ll at least get a C.’ This is a girl I know who is very bright and intelligent and ambitious, but because of how the education system was designed, was held back academically and was never even taught the skills of how to write a research paper the correct way. She was sold short.”
Fairchild says she always knew she was interested in education and even tutored her fellow students in Spanish. “When I came into college, I knew I wanted to keep working in the field of education,” she says. A “Princeternship” — a mini internship — helped clarify her career ambitions. She briefly worked at the U.S. Department of Education and another at a charter school management organization.
She realized she wanted a more “boots on the ground” job in education, and didn’t wait until graduation to begin her work. She began tutoring private clients and was so successful at it that after one semester she “had this revelation that I could serve more students and have a larger impact in the educational world if I had a team of tutors,” she says. She founded B-Fair in January, 2014.
“I was managing 10 people within the first few months, pairing them up with families,” she says. “If I had to do it over again, though, I would have gotten a little more mentorship.” Fairchild says she spent a lot of time researching things like accounting practices and how to set up the company legally, which an experienced businessperson could have helped her figure out easily.
But despite the excitement of running a new and successful business out of her dorm room, Fairchild still wasn’t satisfied with the direction B-Fair was going. She was working with well-off Princeton-area families who could afford tutoring services for their kids. Fairchild wanted to bring tutoring to less privileged communities.
A year after founding B-Fair, she attended a talk by a charter school head. The two connected afterwards, and the Foundation Collegiate Academy offered Fairchild the opportunity to work with the school’s students. “That was a huge answered prayer,” Fairchild says. “One of my biggest missions is to bring individualized tutoring to places like Trenton where most families cannot afford it. If I had to get to the crux of what B-Fair tutoring does, it is to bring this individualized experience that people of higher socioeconomic status can afford to those who cannot through community organizations and schools.”
Fairchild graduated from Princeton with a degree in history, minoring in Spanish. Until two months ago B-Fair was a home-based business. The business has opened an office at 34 Chambers Street, where Fairchild holds training sessions for the tutors. In addition to general training, Fairchild teaches her tutors best practices for managing students with learning disabilities such as ADHD and gives them instruction on cultural sensitivity, especially on dealing with implicit biases of race and economic status, since the tutors often come from different backgrounds than the students.
Fairchild plans to expand B-Fair and is currently working on a contract with another community organization in Trenton for the upcoming school year. “I have a passion for urban education,” she says.
BFair Tutoring, 34 Chambers Street, Suite 016, Princeton 08542. 609-608-0240. Brenaea Fairchild, owner. www.bfairtutoring.com.