Who’s the biggest educator in this area? Is it Bonita High School? The University of La Verne? Perhaps, DeVry in Pomona?
It just might be Xamaze Tutoring in San Dimas, owned and operated by Stephen Samaniego, a University of La Verne business graduate in 2000.
At last count, the former super salesman and marketing executive for the Los Angeles Clippers has tutoring contracts with about 150 school districts throughout California.
When it comes to business and student achievement, the ball has been bouncing Samaniego’s way for a quite a while.
“Since 2009, we’ve been growing at a roughly 20% clip,” said Samaniego, seated behind a broad desk in his upstairs San Dimas executive suite.
His success shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. He’s always been a hard worker and a global thinker.
“When I was a kid, I always had something going on,” Samaniego said. “I had a lawn mowing business, a car wash business, I painted numbers on curbs.”
Even as child, he didn’t have the luxury of taking time off. “I was raised by a single mother, and we were really poor,” said Samaniego, who grew up in the San Fernando Valley. “My mom knew that my best shot at being successful was through education, so she hammered home that message all the time.”
Somehow, she arranged for him to attend elite academies, where he rubbed shoulders with rich kids and the sons and daughters of celebrities. “She wanted to expose me to that other life that was out there,” he said.
That included his mom taking him to a fine dining restaurant, the opera, or some other lifestyle event outside his normal purview. “Her message was always the same,” Samaneigo said. “This is what you can achieve.”
In the late ’90s, Samaniego enrolled at the University of La Verne as a business student, but his old work ethic didn’t desert him. In his sophomore year, he landed an intern gig with the Los Angeles Clippers and its sales and marketing office. The team invited him back every year for good reason. “I set several sales records,” Samaniego said.
Meanwhile, on the University of La Verne campus, he also started a tutoring service for extra spending money. His grandmother loaned him $100 to print some flyers to pass around town. He landed one student, then another, and soon he was asking his friends who had expertise in chemistry, calculus and other subjects if they could help him handle his overflow.
“Oftentimes, I’d just walk into the chem department or whatever and ask students if they wanted to earn a few extra dollars tutoring,” Samaniego said. “That’s the beauty of having a small campus. You get to know a lot of people, and everybody in college is always looking to make an extra 40 or 50 bucks.”
At some point, he figured the tutoring business would fizzle out, but it never did. As such, between the Clippers, school and his tutoring business, he knew something had to give.
“I was working until about 5:30 p.m. downtown, then I stayed for the game, which started at 7:30 p.m. and ran until about 10 p.m.,” Samaniego said, recalling that hectic, time-starved period of his life. “When I finally got home around midnight, I resumed my tutoring job, doing admin work, following up on emails. I’d work for a couple hours, get a couple hours’ sleep, wake up 6 a.m., and start all over again.
“It was getting out of control.”
To regain control, Samaniego decided to leave the Clippers, to the shock of his family and his friends who couldn’t believe he was willing to give up a glamourous job with an NBA franchise whose roster at the time included Elton Brand, Darius Miles and Pooh Richardson.
His decision was made more difficult by the fact that there were no entrepreneurs in his family. “I didn’t really have any mentors. The mindset was go get your education and go to work for somebody,” he said.
His Clippers lost out to his first passion, education. “I struggled with the decision, but I knew I had to go for it.”
And go for it he did. Focused on one thing, he quickly grew Ace Tutoring into a formidable business and far-reaching enterprise.
Indeed, he went out and contacted the same company that helped Chuck E. Cheese and Wetzel’s Pretzel’s grow into national franchises. Soon, there were 10 Ace Tutoring franchisees paying him monthly royalties.
“They were all doing well until the recession hit,” Samaniego said.
Suffering large revenue losses, he closed some of his other outlets or his franchisees closed them. He was at another fork in the road.
“I knew I didn’t want to maintain mediocrity, so I rededicated myself to focusing on our original company,” he said.
To improve cash flow, he also decided to pursue goverment contracts, which were actually expanding as part of the goverment stimulus. School districts across the nation have the responsibility of meeting the educational needs of low-proficiency learners struggling with learning disabilities (autism, ADHD, dyslexia, etc.), language barriers and other disadvantages and impediments, enumerated under Title 1 (Improving The Academic Achievement Of The Disadvantaged).
Samaniego had to be come a student again, in the sense that he had to master the serpentine intracacies of competing for goverment business. By cracking the code, however, he could compete for tutoring contracts in California.
Samaniego did more than crack the code. Today, he is at the forefront of tutoring innovation, using a phalanx of tools, from one-on-one, in-home tututoring to online tutoring, featuring videoconferenceing and interactive whiteboard technology with instant messaging access to tutors. Also, online tutoring sessions can be recorded so the learner can replay the instruction over and over, if needed.
“It’s really an innovative time for education,” said Samaniego, who has equipped his more than 300 tutors with company tablets. “There’s so much technology, along with new standards and a new generation of teachers eager to support this new platform of learning.”
That’s how he has been able to leverage new economies of scale. School districts in San Francisco or San Diego have to meet the same educational standards as the school district serving La Verne and San Dimas. Thus, he can develop and apply his effective instructional programs practically anywhere, producing the same “xamazing” results.
Meanwhile, demand for his services continues to grow. Although many school districts have had to tighten their belts, by increasing class size, eliminating classes and dropping extracurriculars like tutoring altogether, they are not relieved of their responsibility of meeting the needs of their disadvantaged and low-proficiency learners.
At the same time, Xamaze has become a rich and specialized resource for accelerated learners, especially those students seeking to stand out and gain admission to the nation’s elite colleges and universities.
At the heart of Samaniego’s success, of course, is his local San Dimas administrative team and his statewide army of tutors, who have been rigorously screened.
“Many of our tutors also have graduate degrees, are currently employed as teachers, or hold teaching credentials,” Samaniego said.
His tutors work not only with students, but also with their parents and teachers in crafting a customized curriculum that will promote optimal learning.
“We know what it takes to raise a child’s grades and test scores,” Samaniego said. “But our connection with our students runs a lot deeper than that. Our goal is to empower them with the skills necessary to succeed this year, next year, and for the rest of their life.”
Samaniego may not be selling luxury boxes for the Clippers anymore, but with his company now ringing up revenues in the seven figures, he can certainly become a buyer. He’s on the other side of the sales counter now.
The expecting father, now 36, has moved on from the NBA to an MBA (magnificent bank account) — all because of his passion for learning and education.
Fortunately, for local residents, Xamaze Tutoring is based right in their own community. To learn about all the services it provides, please visit its website at www.xamaze.com or call 909.394.0823. Xamaze is located 448 East Foothill Blvd. Suite #204 in San Dimas.