The Philly Happening Women Series is a reoccurring feature that highlights inspirational female personalities, entrepreneurs, and women making a difference in the City of Brotherly Love!
When Maria Ferzola-Lipiros can’t find a solution, she creates one.
After working as a school teacher in Philadelphia, Maria Ferzola-Lipiros saw a huge need for high-quality one-on-one classroom tutoring. After not being able to find what she was seeking, Ferzola-Lipiros took the risk to leave the traditional classroom and founded TEACH LLC., a rapidly-growing test-prep and academic tutoring organization that works closely with local families, schools, and non-profits. It was the best decision Ferzola-Lipiros ever made. TEACH is in its 6th year of serving the greater Philadelphia community.
Hometown: Moscow, Pennsylvania. (In the middle of nowhere in the Poconos. Our driveway is ¼ mile long and we live near multiple dairy farms. My brother and I used to play in the woods for fun! I have a memory of playing with mice in our backyard in the middle of a snowstorm. Couldn’t be more different than Philly!)
What neighborhood do you live in in the city? Old City.
Family and pets: My husband, John, is the most incredible man. There is no way I would be able to do everything I do without him. He makes me breakfast, lunch, and dinner almost every day. We hope to expand our family soon, because we both LOVE children! No pets yet, but I keep bringing John to the local shelter and know I’ll convince him to bring a fuzzy friend home one of these days!
Education and degrees: I have degrees/certifications in Mathematics, Chemistry, Education and Business from the University of Scranton, Drexel University, and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, respectively.
Description of your business: TEACH is a rapidly growing test prep and academic tutoring organization that has been working closely with families, schools, and non-profits in Philadelphia for the past 6 years. Our mission is to provide personalized one-on-one and classroom tutoring for families and organizations by consistently delivering outstanding educators, an exceptional customer service experience, and superior results so students can gain skills and confidence to achieve their academic and lifelong dreams. We are currently directly or indirectly serving over 1,000 students annually through partnerships with organizations like the Franklin Institute (5 years and counting) and schools like Science Leadership Academy (4 years and counting) and Mastery Charter (we are currently serving all 6 of their high schools). About 80% of our students take our classes for free through our non-profit and school partnerships.
Summarize your career journey and how your business came to be: As a full-time classroom teacher in Philadelphia, I saw a huge need for high quality one-on-one and classroom tutoring experiences for my students both during and after school with only the most passionate, “creme de la creme” educators. When I couldn’t find a solution for my students, I created it. I took a risk and left the traditional classroom to found TEACH in 2011. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
What is it like working for yourself? It is not always easy, but I feel like I was born for the challenge and daily rush of entrepreneurship. I enjoy connecting with schools and non-profits, listening to their needs, and presenting solutions to whatever challenges they are experiencing. It is the most incredible feeling in the world to step into one of our classes and realize, this would not be happening without the collective vision, dedication, and passion of our team.
What is your best advice for entrepreneurs? The only limits to your potential are the ones you self-impose. Don’t let perfectionism get in the way of getting things done. Know your WHY as it will drive you when the going gets tough. Mindset and continuous, purposeful action are EVERYTHING.
How do you keep your balance? I often get pulled in many different directions, and it is easy to say yes to every opportunity. Instead, I hop on the “no” train when I know I need more balance.
What inspires you? The students we serve. Especially those who are grade levels behind and hungry to learn – they deserve the same learning opportunities as any other child, but that is often not how our school system works. I fervently believe education should be a right, not a privilege. When I see inequity around educational opportunities, I am passionately driven to do something about it.
What’s new with your business this year? We’re organizing professional development opportunities for teachers and school leaders which has been incredibly rewarding. We know that work will change thousands of lives. We’re also sponsoring low income students who are interested in taking our classes but can’t afford tutoring. Giving back to the community in meaningful ways will always be a part of TEACH.
What are your personal goals for 2017? Spending more time with my family! Carving out time to read, journal, or meditate every single day.
What songs are on your playlist right now? I’m currently obsessed with “24K” by Bruno Mars. It’s an automatic dance party every time I hear it!
What are you currently reading? Stephen Covey’s First Things First. I love books on business and self-improvement. Continuous growth is a core value of mine that absolutely spreads into TEACH as well.
What are your favorite places to go/things to do in Philly? Franklin Fountain for the Mount Vesuvius when I am feeling indulgent, Amada for modern tapas in a beautiful atmosphere when I want to go back to Spain here at home, Honey’s Sit N’ Eat when I’m craving a delicious (and super affordable!) brunch, and LaColumbe in Fishtown when I need to feel inspired. When my parents come to town, I love exploring Philadelphia’s unique history on foot: Elfreth’s Alley, Christ Church, and the Betsy Ross House are some of our favorites.