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Meet Manu Shahi of Homework In a Cafe

Today we’d like to introduce you to Manu Shahi.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
My journey started 12 years back when I entered the education industry. I opened up a franchise for teaching kids Math and Reading, called Kumon. With ten years as an instructor, coached kids on how to study and approach math and reading, I realized that the struggle was not with the subject but the fact on how to learn.

The parent conferences that were supposed to be about the child’s progress in math and reading ended up as private conferences on motivation, time management, working memory and study skills. Every day I saw a disconnect between parents and kids as they were entering the pre-teens years.

The number of sports activities and other commitments went up and ‘PDF.” (as Stanford Challenge Success calls it-Playtime, family time and downtime went down) Parents were going from one class to another, minivans looked like fast food joints with unhealthy food. If I wanted to talk to the parents, they were always on their phone either on a work call or trying to finish other stuff. That is when I realized that the mantra is “Connect before we correct the dots.”

At the same time, having a teenager at home, I saw that they needed someone besides parents that they could connect with, look up to and validate the parental talk. I started my journey towards my new dream by making a goal to figure out how to motivate the kids. At that time, I used to listen to Zig Ziglar. My first step was to get certified as a Ziglar Legacy Trainer to learn tools to motivate the kids.

Being a trainer was not enough, but it gave me the fuel I needed to start the journey. I went deeper into this area by focusing on just teens and getting to know them on a different level. I got certified as an Academic Life Coach which helped me understand why they lack motivation and how to help them with those issues. The point was not to work for them but give them tools that work for them.

The next hurdle I faced with the teens was that they would tell me what you wanted to hear. And they were very good with that skill. I started to read more about the teenage brain, its functions during those years. Meanwhile, in my city, I saw a big increase in the stress amongst parents, depression in teens and frustrated families. I felt that there has to be a solution to this cause just giving them tools was not enough.

In one year, we lost four teens in my daughter’s school to suicide I still don’t know the cause, but I knew I had to do something now. At that moment, I decided to sell my Kumon Franchises and go fully into helping teenagers. It was a massive step for me as a woman and as a business owner. To give your baby to someone else was not easy for me. My families at Kumon trusted and supported my decision as they knew that I would do something to help more kids.

I was blessed to find a buyer who was my assistant and gave my business in capable hands. While I at that point, decided to go deeper into life of a teenager. Books, podcast, webinars, and seminars – I attended as many as I could to learn and link a teenager, its brain and academic motivation.

At the same time, my daughter graduated from high school, and we became empty nesters. My husband changed his profession of 24 years and joined his family business in India. So at that very moment in my life with my one baby off to college, my other baby that was my business in new hands and husband who traveled 80%, I had time and motivation to keep me up late hours. It was me, a mission and a dream to help teens.

Someone at that time gave my name a meaning- MANU- Making A New u. It was at the coffee shops where I would study, and I saw so many teens coming in to study in groups. They had fun with friends, having coffee, finishing homework and checking snap chat quite often I would say. It was at that point I realized if I could bring my middle school teens who are home alone, not sure what they were doing, who came from a teacher-directed environment to self-directed, could benefit from “Homework In a Cafe.”

A place was they could meet with friends in a supervised place, have mentors who could help them with homework and projects, talk about issues that cause them stress, and they could enjoy the cup of coffee or gelato with a friend. Maybe I could be a difference maker.

As the coach, my job was to observe their executive functions and come up with an Individual Learning Plan for them that helps them in school and after school. In this journey, I realized that only when we face adversity, challenges in different forms, we don’t rise up to the level of our expectations but fall down to the level of training. To keep training yourself every day to get up for a new day was my challenge and strength.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Curvy roads make experienced drivers. It was never a smooth road for me to the cafe. It had its challenges, and hiccups like any business new do.

The top three challenges that I know I enjoyed was:
1) Being a single woman army- It was me, my idea and my brain as the soundboard. I am blessed with great friends who supported me with this but end of the day I used to crawl up asking myself- where is this road taking me tomorrow. But since I had the destination in mind, the fun was and is in the journey.

2) Gathering all the material that actually works for kids. They are not interested to learn about their brain and what goes on during the teen years. They just saw the cafe, friends, and homework. So even though I was working with teens but my customer was the parents. So I had two parties to sell the idea for them to enroll.

3) Getting up every day and reminding the WHY I got into this was my strength. The financial aspect was always something I had to think of besides being offered funding by two companies that I refused. I was on a mission to help kids. It was an idea little ahead of its times. I saw that I was the point where teachers, parents, and kids would connect in some form.

Please tell us about Homework In a Cafe.
The name of my company is Homework In a Cafe. We are an after-school program that has collaborated with a few local coffee shops to bring in students to do their homework. Unlike other tutoring centers, we offer a diagnostic test to evaluate the study skills and executive functions. We look into their evaluation done by students and parents themselves too.

The kids learn from mentors and peers at a coffee shop and attend online sessions once a week to learn new strategies that they can apply towards school and life. Goals setting, time management, planner and backpack management we work on the executive.

We also give them tools for soft skills that help them with homework, project planning, and subject area. We also offer one on one coaching on skills and tutoring for the subject as needed. It is one stop for the parents and a connector for the middle school to make friends.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
At this point, I would say I have no regrets as every dot connected me to the next one. Every experience made me learn or develop further on and strengthen my program.

Only thing I wish I could go back and include would be asking every parent to connect with their child and understand them more by giving them time.


  • One on One Coaching session ($120 hour)

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Germaine Photography

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