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Growing up in Karachi, Pakistan, Syeda Ahmed and her older sister Darakshan Ahmed had a special appreciation for the value of education. Their mother had not gone to school as her family didn’t believe that it was necessary for girls to attend school. Both sisters, however, not only attended school but were also taught at home by peer tutors. Thanks in part to her parents’ efforts, Syeda developed a passion for making learning accessible for all.

In 2020, this passion drove Syeda and Darakhshan to found Tutorsloop, a platform for affordable private tutoring. The venture, which matches high school students with college students, is based on the peer-tutoring model they grew up with in Pakistan. “Back home, getting this private support is easy. It’s available everywhere,” Syeda says. Yet in the Chicago area, where her family immigrated when she was a teenager, Syeda noticed that many people in her community struggled to find affordable options to augment their children’s education.

The sisters assumed that once they built the platform, the business would take off. The duo soon realized, however, that they needed significant funding to cover costs that they, as business novices, hadn’t foreseen. “We did not know all the business aspects, including financing, and so pretty soon, we ran out of savings,” Syeda says.

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