- In 2013, Tiffany Sorya responded to a Craigslist ad and began tutoring Kylie and Kendall Jenner.
- A year later, she founded Novel Education Group, an academic-enrichment agency.
- Today, the Novel team led by Sorya caters to celebrities, royalty, and high-net-worth families.
Top editors give you the stories you want — delivered right to your inbox each weekday.
Thanks for signing up!
Access your favorite topics in a personalized feed while you're on the go.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Tiffany Sorya, the 36-year-old founder of a homeschooling agency who lives in New York City. It has been edited for length and clarity.
In 1970, my parents moved from Cambodia to France before settling down in Portland, Oregon. They supported me and my older brother in all our endeavors, but the assumption was we'd work for someone else like they did — I didn't even know there was an alternative.
I did well in high school, but my freshman year of college was a struggle and my grades plummeted. But within a year, I went from failing to the top of the class. Everyone wanted to know my secret.
But I hadn't gotten any smarter — I'd just found a smarter way of doing things.
Now I run Novel Education Group, a homeschooling agency that caters to the children of celebrities, royalty, and ultra-high-net-worth families. My company brought in over $1 million in revenue last year. Here's how I built it.
First, I developed a study method
In college, I figured out how far in advance I needed to study for an exam and how much information I could retain over a two-hour study period. By understanding these metrics, I fine-tuned my executive-functioning skills.
My peers began asking me for help, which led to my first foray into tutoring.
I started to experience the satisfaction of witnessing someone struggle and knowing I could help them find a way to succeed. When I realized I could help others, it set me on my path.
After graduating in 2010, I moved to Los Angeles and began tutoring through an agency while homeschooling students on the side.
Then a Craigslist ad caught my eye
In 2013, while browsing Craigslist classifieds, I came across a three-sentence ad that caught my attention because it was for a full-time homeschool teacher for two sisters on a television show.
Without any clue who the sisters were, I applied, and after securing a preliminary interview, which required me to sign an NDA, I soon found myself sitting across from Kris Jenner at her dining-room table.
She was looking for a homeschool teacher for her two youngest daughters, Kylie and Kendall, who at the time were 16 and 18, respectively. Despite their busy work schedules, which included taping "Keeping Up With the Kardashians," Jenner wanted to ensure the girls were keeping up with their studies.
She hired me on the spot, and after signing another NDA, I started a five-day-a-week, three-hour-a-day routine that lasted for three years until both girls completed high school.
We'd typically conduct our lessons at their office or from their kitchen table
On the days the family was filming the show, our sessions would be at the house, so they'd already be on set. Because Jenner made it clear the girls' education was the top priority, filming was often scheduled around school hours.
Even though they were very young, the girls were already working professionals, having jointly written a book and launched their own clothing line. Kylie was also developing her lip kits and Kendall was modeling full time, so we often had to make accommodations to fit everything in.
It was not unusual for lessons to be paused for phone interviews or for hair and makeup to be done while simultaneously studying. I remember reading "The Catcher in the Rye" with Kylie out loud while she was getting her makeup done. We just made it work.
I discovered there was a gap in the industry
A year in, I realized no one provided a one-stop shop for a high-quality accredited school education in a one-on-one setting for families whose lifestyles didn't align with traditional schooling.
In 2014, I launched Novel, which offers customized homeschooling and private-tutoring services for kids in kindergarten through 12th grade.
Our services fall within three buckets: homeschooling where we partner with accredited institutions such as Laurel Springs, which ranks among the top 10 best online high schools in America; remote learning where we work with a student's school when families are traveling to ensure students are able to keep up with their studies; and private tutoring and custom enrichment.
Our services started in person, but as we grew and began getting requests from around the world, we started offering virtual services. When the pandemic hit, it was easy to transition to an all-virtual model, and we haven't looked back.
I now have a team of nearly 20 employees and a network of tutors in 6 different time zones
Our standard 15-hour-a-week homeschool contract costs $7,500 a month. We also do full-time placements where we place teachers in clients' homes for a 10-month period for between $15,000 and $20,000 a month per child. On average, we do about five to 10 of these placements a year.
Additionally, we offer hourly tutoring sessions and pod management, which is the oversight of already-formed small groups of homeschool students, which became popular during the pandemic.
In 2019, I stopped teaching to focus on the business. My last student was the rapper and record producer Dr. Dre's daughter Truly, who completed high school and went on to the University of Southern California.
My tutors currently work with Kylie's daughter, Stormi, and Khloé's daughter, True
Things have really come full circle, but we don't just cater to celebrities. We also work with executive leaders who are required to temporarily relocate.
There are also families who want to pick up and go skiing for two months and then spend a month in the Caribbean. Rather than fight the school to try and make up the work, we partner with the school and keep the students on track by implementing virtual learning, which is a huge relief for the families and the teachers.
There are also kids who don't want to sacrifice their passions or their studies, like an equestrian who rides in the morning and starts school in the afternoon, an artist who studies with us in the morning and paints in the afternoon, and another young woman who interns with a fashion brand as part of a custom-tailored curriculum.
Parents have been reaching out for different reasons this year
This year in particular, we've gotten lots of calls from parents who are frustrated with the progressive movement and level of "wokeness" in their children's schools and who feel their children are being exposed to topics earlier than they'd like them to be.
It's not my job to judge or put my beliefs on any family, but for those who want to exercise more control over what their kids are learning, a personalized curriculum is a good option.
Since 2020, we've also started working with families in Saudi Arabia, some of whom are royalty. While our sessions are virtual, we do travel to Riyadh three times a year to meet with both potential and existing clients, and we host webinars throughout the year to acquaint families with our offerings.
It's of the utmost importance to these families that their children are playing on the same global scale as American kids, so parents are always particularly interested in hearing what kids in the US are learning.
Between ironclad NDAs and demanding schedules that stretch across time zones, we've seen it all
The most over-the-top client request we've accommodated was from an A-list celebrity with two children who asked if we could source a teacher without any relationships, meaning if this person had a significant other, a pet, or even a plant that required attention, they wouldn't be considered for the position.
We were upfront with the candidates we scouted for this role, and after a series of interviews, we found a tutor we were able to place for a year until the children were in a position to return to their school. Due to the caliber of clientele we cater to, we usually don't hire teachers unless they have previous experience working with high-profile families.
In my career, I've only turned down a client request once when I was first launching Novel. We were scouted for two A-list movie stars with six children between them who traveled the world and wanted a team of three teachers, including me.
Despite being offered a six-figure salary, I didn't want to put Novel on the back burner, so I declined. I don't regret it at all because it allowed me to focus my time on building my business.