Beverly Stewart never wanted to be the area’s best-kept secret. That’s why the founder and CEO of Back to Basics Learning Dynamics Inc. added layers of services to the tutoring business she started at her kitchen table in 1985.
Three decades later the table-based operation has burgeoned into a multimillion-dollar company that operates its own private school and offers a spectrum of language- and education-based services. Clients include adults, children, school districts, nonprofits, and large companies, including heavy hitters like DuPont, the state of Delaware, and Christiana Care Health System.
With a 30 percent increase in revenue from 2013 to 2014, Stewart is celebrating the 30th anniversary of Back to Basics Learning Dynamics — and the secret is very much out.
“The good thing about Back to Basics is that we have a lot of different services and income streams,” said Stewart. “We’re a jack of all trades but continue to add services.”
Two large contracts, one with Christiana Care and the other with the Christina School District, significantly added to the bottom lime, but Stewart said they also validated that Back to Basics was poised for big projects.
Still, pursuing state contracts meant giving herself a pep talk.
“We’ve been doing translation and interpreting for corporations and in school districts,” said Stewart. “So I thought, well, we’ve gotten our feet wet — maybe I can go after some bigger ones.”
The company’s menu of services is exhaustive and includes translating and interpreting 16 foreign languages, tutoring in more than 60 subjects, services for furthering adult education, and occupational and speech therapies to 11 school districts.
It’s a trajectory that was put into motion years ago, when Stewart recognized growth and variety would drive her business. She examined opportunities for additional markets early on, looking at the potential for services for adults that range from computer skills and business writing to test preparation for PRAXIS, GRE, and GMAT.
“If I’ve seen a need, then I’ve gone after that need or heard about something and thought, wow,” said Stewart. “The wheels are always turning.”
Contract business has been the focus for Stewart for the past six years and it comprises more than 80 percent of her business. Back to Basics has worked with clients like the DuPont Company, Astra Zeneca, and Fuji Film for years, teaching foreign transferees English and preparing American employees for roles overseas.
Stewart said Christiana Care seemed like a natural next step — the contract includes interpreting services, integral to patients navigating the Affordable Care Act.
Stewart said one of the greatest lessons she’s learned as CEO is to get out of her own way.
“This is my baby, I birthed it, and I’ve helped it grow,” she said. “I’ve seen it stumble and seen it thrive, but I also know when it’s time to pass something off to a qualified person on the team.”
That team includes 81 employees and 161 subcontractors. Translating and interpreting services make up the bulk of the subcontractors, who also include speech therapists and clinical psychologists.
Demand for languages like Pakistan-based Urdu, as well as for tutors who can help high school juniors prep for the SAT and midlife professionals get proficient in Excel or brush up their writing skills, has generated a following.
Charles Baldwin, founder of the Delaware Military Academy and former president of the Charter School of Wilmington, said third-party services like Back to Basics are crucial to the financial picture of charter schools.
“For the charter school community, it’s much more economical to pay for services as you need them,” said Baldwin, who contracted with Stewart at both schools for tutoring services. “The thing that Bev’s got going for her is that the people that she recommends are so well vetted that they’re great professionals.”
Stewart said she wants to be a one-stop shop for charter schools, but she’s also very focused on the Back to Basics K–12 Private School.
Back to Basics Learning Dynamics also includes a full-fledge private school at its Augustine Cut-off location. The school, in operation for 28 years, offers one-on-one instruction and a rigorous curriculum for students, who may stay for one to three consecutive years — until they either transition into a traditional school or graduate.
“It’s more nurturing,” according to Stewart, who said the school enrolls up to 15 students. “It’s so unique and it helps kids through the next level.”
Stewart said she tells people that her business is limitless and that she’ll continue to reinvent and expand her services.
“I am proud. I love it every day,” she said.