Forget Passion. This Tutoring Business Grew out of a Mother's Desperation

By Heath, Thomas | The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV), October 3, 2017 | Go to article overview

Forget Passion. This Tutoring Business Grew out of a Mother's Desperation


Heath, Thomas, The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV)


By Thomas Heath The Washington Post

Entrepreneurs have told me hundreds of times that they are in it to pursue their passion.

Julia Ross started her tutoring business out of desperation.

She had three surgeries in her late 20s, derailing a career that had just begun to blossom. She had been punching above her weight as an employee with the General Services Administration, where she briefed the treasury secretary's staff and exchanged Post-it Notes with then-Office of Management and Budget Director Leon E. Panetta.

She had left government for a better job at US Airways but was forced to quit because of a bout with a disabling disease.

The surgeries spurred the then-29-year-old mother of two to become a resourceful businesswoman.

"I had to make an income," said Ross, 52. "My husband and I were making $50,000 apiece when I went into my first surgery. So I cut our income in half. It was rough."

This isn't a column about a brilliant entrepreneur who made a ton, stands at the head of an industry and commands a Gulfstream IV. It's about a tough mother who got her back up and preserved her family and everything that goes with that.

She graduated from the University of Virginia, where she also earned a master's degree in urban planning. She was eventually struck by Meniere's disease, a disorder of the inner ear that can be debilitating and can end in a wheelchair.

The surgeries began in early 1994, and by summer she had an operation on her skull.

To add to the family income, she became a counselor to foreign au pairs who were just a few years younger. "I got to use my languages and hang out with international students, mostly from Europe and South America," she said.

"I did it for four years. I needed the money. We had two kids, a single-family home in Springfield," she said. "I remember the first time the checks made a difference: I got to go clothes shopping for my 2- and 3-year old at the same time."

The tutoring started gradually around the same time as a way to add a few dollars.

A neighbor who was a reading teacher was working with a fifth-grader. She recommended that the boy use Ross for math help.

Ross hopped in her GM Saturn and drove over to the family's home for the $25 session.

Other kids heard and started to contact her. …

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