Natalie Mangrum: “Honest and Hard Working.”

I hope people look at my story and see a minority and a woman with no capital, no resources, and no entrepreneurial experience climb the ladder of success because she overcame obstacles that got in her way! I want to leave a legacy of integrity. I want people to know I did honest work, honored […]

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I hope people look at my story and see a minority and a woman with no capital, no resources, and no entrepreneurial experience climb the ladder of success because she overcame obstacles that got in her way! I want to leave a legacy of integrity. I want people to know I did honest work, honored God, and did not fall victim to situations or decisions that would compromise my values.

As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Natalie Mangrum.

Natalie is the founder and CEO of Maryland Teacher Tutors, a private tutoring company that hires certified teachers to go into families’ homes and provide academic support to students. In 2015, she founded Maryland Teacher Tutors with 1 teacher and has since grown to 80+ certified teachers and a full administrative staff. Under Natalie’s leadership, MTT has doubled both in size and in revenue every 6 months. Beyond work, Natalie enjoys spending time with her husband and two teenage children, trying out new hairstyles, and learning all she can from people with more wisdom and life experience.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I am so happy to be here! Thank you for extending this opportunity my way. I’m looking forward to chatting! Before founding Maryland Teacher Tutors, my private tutoring company, I was a teacher and reading specialist for Baltimore City Schools. I worked with a small group of students and it was in this role that I recognized the value of one-on-one instruction. My students grew more than 2.5-grade levels over the course of just one semester and I was blown away! That’s when I knew there was something powerful in the one-on-one model, but I felt that this support was lacking for students in Maryland and beyond. In 2015, I founded Maryland Teacher Tutors with just one teacher (myself) and we have grown a ton since then! I love that my job is a combination of my love for business and my love for education.

Can you share one of the major challenges you encountered when first leading the company? What lesson did you learn from that?

One of the major challenges I experienced early on as a new entrepreneur was rejection. It wasn’t just a one-time thing, it felt like it was happening left and right; and to be honest, I wasn’t used to that level and consistency of rejection. My husband often found me in bed in the fetal position in the middle of the afternoon, with the blankets pulled over my head. Entrepreneurship really is a roller coaster ride! There were times when I felt inspired and excited about my journey, but there were also many days where I felt low — really low. Being rejected always knocked me down.

In terms of the lesson I learned from constantly being rejected, I would say that I learned how to push through and keep doing what I believed I was meant to do. I did give myself the time to be sad and frustrated, but I didn’t live in that for long. I gave myself 24 hours to deal with the feelings of rejection and loss, and after that 24 hours, I went back to fighting for my dream.

When a person is constantly rejected and they push through, it really does make them stronger — and that’s exactly what I became — strong, determined, and unflappable.

What are some of the factors that you believe led to your eventual success?

What a great question! Well, I would say that this sort of goes along with your previous question. Because I was rejected so often, I learned perseverance and resiliency and that is a huge factor in why I’ve been successful. There have been plenty of opportunities where I had good reasons to quit. But I didn’t. One of the things that separates entrepreneurs that succeed from entrepreneurs that fail is that entrepreneurs that succeed never gave up, even when they had good reason to! They kept going, in the midst of adversity. That’s what I did. And I’m so glad things have worked out for me.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO”? Please share a story or example for each.

Patience is a requirement.

I am one of those people who wants everything to happen instantly. I’m part of what some people refer to as the microwave generation. Instant gratification is my favorite thing ever! I don’t want to wait in line at Chipotle and I certainly don’t want to wait years for my business to grow and be successful. Nevertheless, that’s what entrepreneurship is about. Oprah didn’t become the star we all know her to be overnight. Neither did Jeff Bezos. Neither did Michael Jordan. Neither did Beyoncé. Years and years of hard work and dedication went into the success of each of these individuals. It’s not going to be any different for me. And it won’t be any different for you. You have to put in the work. And then you have to be patient while you watch the seed you planted grow into a healthy fruitful tree.

Consistency will separate you from other competitors.

Giving up on your YouTube channel after a year because you don’t have the number of subscribers you think you should have is quitting before the magic happens. And if you quit, you’ll never see what your YouTube channel could have become. The same is true of all entrepreneurial endeavors. There is a very high percentage of businesses that never make it. And one of the things that’s true for many of those failing businesses, is that they gave up when the going got tough — while their competitors kept at it. Staying consistent with your marketing, your goal setting, and your hustling will separate you from the companies that aren’t willing to keep at it!

Keep an open mind.

I believe this should be true in all aspects of a person’s life. If you have a certain vision for how your business should look and things aren’t aligning with that perfect picture, be sure to keep an open mind. For me, I thought my private tutoring company would serve a certain market (private school families) and it turns out that’s not who most of our clients are. Most of our clients are public school families who want to avoid paying private school tuition but still provide their kids with enrichment and instruction that will set them apart from their counterparts.

Another example of keeping an open mind might look like taking advice that you don’t necessarily agree with from someone who has a successful business. I’m not suggesting you do something that goes against your value system, but I am imploring you to consider how open you are to taking suggestions from others. You don’t have all the answers. Try something new and see what happens!

Try things constantly. Stay innovative.

Always be willing to adapt, re-route, and consider innovative ways to provide the same product or service. When COVID hit, MTT went from being a tutoring company offering hourly supplemental support to a tutoring company offering homeschool and micro-school options for families who did not feel the virtual public-school model was effective for their children. But we innovated even before COVID. Whatever our parent market needed; we found a way to provide it. We are constantly looking to improve our current services and add new ones, so we often ask questions on our social media, send surveys to parents, and stay abreast of trends in education for informative purposes.

Heed the wisdom of those who have gone before you.

Successful entrepreneurship never happens in a vacuum. You need people around you — and not just other entrepreneurs. You need a community of supportive friends and family who have strengths in a variety of areas. I don’t only talk business with other business professionals. I talk business with my parents, my friends, my therapists, and my religious affiliates because I believe in having a holistic approach to all things. I don’t compartmentalize. Seek out opportunities to learn from people within your network, but also people who are different than you!

What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Hire people. And don’t tell me it’s too much money. That’s an excuse. If you can find money to go out to eat, order from Grubhub, get a pedicure, or go on vacation, you can find money to invest in yourself and your business. You can either hire someone or end up in the hospital because you’re over-stressed. Everyone has a side hustle these days. If you need someone to maintain your website so you can free up some time, hire someone to do it. If you need someone to help you filter through leads, hire someone to do it. If you need someone to help with your accounting or your books, hire someone. One person is not meant to do it all. And honestly, hiring people early on is a great way to prepare for scaling the business down the line.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I’m really grateful for a family friend of ours whose name is Aaron. Aaron has an uncanny ability to keep it real and encourage you in the same breath. He helps me stay realistic with my goals, but he also reminds me of the gifts God has given me and the character traits that make me who I am. For example, I remember reaching out to Aaron when I was honestly considering shutting MTT down. He listened to all the reasons I listed for why I didn’t see it working and he agreed that many of those reasons were valid. He then proceeded to show me the history of the business, the ways the company had grown (outside of money because we weren’t making any) and encouraged me that if anyone was capable of growing this company in outstanding ways, I was. And he listed the reasons he believed that about me — namely that I am a hard worker, a problem solver, a competent professional, and more resilient than anyone he’s ever known. I still think about that when I am having a really hard day.

What are some of the goals you still have and are working to accomplish, both personally and professionally?

One of the major goals I’ve had for myself professionally over the past year is expanding into other states. Unfortunately, COVID really messed with those plans. Didn’t it mess with everyone’s plans though? I realize that COVID has affected everyone one way or another and that makes me feel a lot less alone in this particular struggle. I’ve just been taking it one day at a time and trying not to put too much pressure on myself. I’m not at all in control of a global pandemic. That’s God’s business — not mine. As far as personal goals, I’m trying to spend some time learning myself and picking up some new hobbies. One of my weaknesses is that I work a lot. Surprise, surprise, right? Since I am prone to overworking, I really try to do things I enjoy and take time for myself. One of the practical ways I’ve been holding myself accountable to that is going to the pool with my family and leaving my phone at home. That way, I can’t check emails or respond to messages — which is something I am inclined to do.

What do you hope to leave as your lasting legacy?

I hope people look at my story and see a minority and a woman with no capital, no resources, and no entrepreneurial experience climb the ladder of success because she overcame obstacles that got in her way! I want to leave a legacy of integrity. I want people to know I did honest work, honored God, and did not fall victim to situations or decisions that would compromise my values.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would enhance people’s lives in some way, what would it be? You never know what your idea can trigger!

What a great and timely question! Roughly 6 months ago, I did just that! I started a movement called Own Your Story Movement for those who want to become published authors! It came about because I wrote and published a book in late 2019 called Owning It: It’s My Story and I’ll Share If I Want To. The book is a mini-memoir of my life, the obstacles I’ve faced and how some poor decisions and unfortunate circumstances caused me to learn some difficult, but necessary life lessons. I got vulnerable in that book and it sparked a movement for other people who want to share what they’ve been through and how it made them the person they are today. I’m a big believer in people opening up their lives for other people to learn from! You can find more information by checking us out on Instagram @ownyourstorymovement or visiting my personal website,

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram: @marylandteachertutors


Twitter: @MDTeacherTutors

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