Matthew has always had a knack for starting new ventures. Before starting UsefulCharts he co-founded Beacon Hill Academy, a non-profit school in rural Sri Lanka, which he helped run for nearly a decade. “I love working for myself and having the freedom to be creative while at the same time, helping others,” he explains.
Starting UsefulCharts as a hobby four years ago, Matthew used it as a way to share some of the materials he had developed while teaching in Sri Lanka. The feedback he received was so positive; it encouraged him to make more.
When starting his business, Matthew initially sold small laminated study guides. But he quickly noticed that what people wanted was posters. So he changed his business model and continues to benefit from that change in direction. “You have to be willing to change your plans once you figure out your market,” he says.
To NASA and Beyond
He discovered that there was a real need for visual-learning material, and what started as a hobby quickly turned into a part-time job, and then into a full-time business. His chart-based posters now help students, teachers and homeschoolers the world over. His Timeline of World History poster is especially popular, and has on several ocassions reached Amazon.com’s Top 500 items.
And it’s not just teachers and students who are using Matthew’s posters. NASA discovered one of his charts and featured it on their website.
He finds his greatest inspiration is from art. “I see myself as an artist,” he explains. “But whereas it is usually quite difficult to make a living as an artist, because my art is ‘practical’, I’ve been able to turn it into a business”.
Looking to the Future
Currently balancing his business, with a young family and studying for a PhD in Education, Matthew is a busy guy. Probably one of the reasons he is looking forward to eventually hiring new employees and expanding his one man operation in the future.
Matthew believes his willingness to take risks, to adapt and to produce materials that are unique are his greatest strengths. That and his passion for education. It’s that passion that he thinks is important for all entrepreneurs. Something that is echoed in his advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, “Don’t do it unless you love it.”