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My Private Professor Empowers Through Education

Giving is built into My Private Professor’s business model.

The Irvine-based online tutoring platform makes education accessible to youth experiencing homelessness or who are in foster care by donating 10% of proceeds from each paid session to educational resources for underserved communities.

My Private Professor also provides free weekly tutoring to students living in emergency shelters and transitional housing through partnerships with nonprofit organizations Illumination Foundation and South Asian Helpline and Referral Agency (SAHARA).

Sona Shah, CEO of My Private Professor, founded the company eight years ago with the goal of closing the education gap.

“Studies show that education is a game-changer for upward mobility,” Sona Shah, CEO of My Private Professor, told the Business Journal.

My Private Professor, one of 79 companies featured in the Business Journal’s 2023 list of Companies That Care, this year provided hundreds of hours of free tutoring valued over $20,000, according to the company.

Business Demand

My Private Professor’s staff of 200 tutors teach virtual, private tutoring sessions for grades K-12.

The organization saw high demand for its services during the pandemic, which upended many children’s education with the sudden closure of schools.

In an effort to capitalize on this demand, the company reached out to local employers—such as Orange-based MS International Inc. (MSI), a distributor of flooring, countertops and other products for the home—and offered its tutoring services for working parents, both helping the parents who were now responsible for overseeing their children’s education, and helping children who might be struggling to keep up.

Manu Shah, founder of MSI, is ­Shah’s father-in-law.

Employers like MSI paid My Private Professor as part of the partnership; those employers then offered free, personalized tutoring as a company benefit.

“We expanded our clientele to companies, some with thousands of employees, and got to provide our services to a larger volume of people,” Shah said.

Nonprofit Partnerships

On the nonprofit side, My Private Professor noticed a particular need among students at the Boys & Girls Club of Long Beach.

“We saw that a lot of students were struggling, and the learning gap was a challenge,” Shah said.

As a response, My Private Professor hosted virtual writing bootcamps in K-6 levels at no cost to students to get them up to speed.

It another initiative, My Private Professor helped fundraise money for teachers at Tustin Public Schools Foundation, where Shah serves as president of the board.

The company also spearheaded a lifelong learners fund at Orangewood Foundation, a nonprofit helping current and former foster youth pursuing higher education by paying for their expenses.

Quality Education

My Private Professor has a team of tutors from various top-rated colleges such as University of California, Berkeley, Columbia University and Stanford University.
One thing that sets My Private Professor from other tutoring companies is its pairing process.

Most platforms have an algorithm that pairs a child up with a tutor based off compatibility.
Instead, My Private Professor allows potential clients to view every tutor’s information on its website with their availability and videos explaining their teaching style.

“We want the parents and the students to be in the driver’s seat,” Shah said.

Switching Careers

Shah started out as an attorney before finding My Private Professor.

She earned her Juris Doctor degree from UC Berkeley and went on to spend seven years practicing business litigation for global law firm Bingham McCutchen LLP and MSI before eventually switching career paths.

She decided to leave the fast-paced world of law in search of work that aligned more with her values.

“At some point, I realized that being driven at your job isn’t the same as being purposeful,” Shah said.

Shah rediscovered her passion for teaching while tutoring people for the Law School Admission Test.

Education has always been at the center point of Shah’s life, who has been tutoring since fifth grade.

“All the signs were pointing towards teaching,” Shah said. ­­­

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Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung joined the Orange County Business Journal in 2021 as their Marketing Creative Director. In her role she creates all visual content as it relates to the marketing needs for the sales and events teams. Her responsibilities include the creation of marketing materials for six annual corporate events, weekly print advertisements, sales flyers in correspondence to the editorial calendar, social media graphics, PowerPoint presentation decks, e-blasts, and maintains the online presence for Orange County Business Journal’s corporate events.

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