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Meet Jenni Kephart and Erin Lawrence of Unlocking Potential in Pasadena

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jenni Kephart and Erin Lawrence.

Jenni and Erin, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Jenni: After college, I was working as a behavior therapist for children with autism and started doing SAT tutoring on the side to make some extra money. I quickly excelled at tutoring and tried to go out on my own because of the limitations I saw working for a company, but I couldn’t make it on my own.

Erin: I had a background as a teacher in private and public schools and had seen great results working with students by targeting emotional factors like beliefs they had about themselves as learners.

We started Unlocking Potential in 2009 and have been working with families all over LA ever since. We have developed an innovative curriculum for the ISEE (Independent School Entrance Exam) that includes math and verbal lessons, but also includes attitude lessons designed to open up students’ perspective about their learning and preparation. We have also created and taught problem-solving (creative math) classes that have completely transformed the way students view math.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Our partnership has been vital in facing these challenges–we cannot imagine having done this without each other’s support! One of the main tests we help students prepare for (the ISEE) is an INCREDIBLY challenging test, and the quality of material on the market is very sub-par. We basically had to write most of our own content from the very beginning because we couldn’t find any materials that truly could prepare our students for the test. While many schools and families have immediately embraced us and our philosophies, some people have dismissed us for long-established test preparation companies with a more traditional view. Innovating in education isn’t always the easiest, because teachers and schools can sometimes favor “tried-and-true” formulas or tricks instead of really digging in to help students create deep and long-lasting connections in an educational environment that is supportive, creative, and fun. Erin and I have been through several iterations of our curriculum and we continue to challenge ourselves to deepen and improve our offerings. This takes A LOT of time and energy! We also pride ourselves on having THE BEST instructors that are not only brilliant with the content, but are emotionally supportive and able to instill confidence in our students. It takes something to find and develop this level of instructor.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Unlocking Potential story. Tell us more about the business.
Unlocking Potential offers in-school classes, after-school workshops, private in-home tutoring, proctored practice tests, personal coaching, and consulting services (including teacher training/development). We have built a strong clientele focusing on innovative test preparation solutions for middle school and high school entrance exams such as the ISEE and HSPT. Our mission is to provide a customized experience for each family and school that identifies and targets individual needs, enabling us to implement the most effective program for each client. Most companies don’t directly address emotional factors that have a huge impact on performance.

In addition to comprehensive coverage of testing material, we utilize simple techniques and exercises to minimize anxiety and improve perspective, allowing increased access to performance. We are most proud of our amazing customer experience and personalized attention we provide to each and every family. We not only have the BEST curriculum and instructors out there, we also truly care about each of our families and take the time needed to make sure everyone has the best experience possible.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I don’t know that I believe in luck per se… but I believe that if you do the right things and operate with integrity of action and intention, it seems that more favorable conditions seem to show up. As we started our business, we shared our vision with a few of our friends who just happened to have opportunities at their schools opening up for ISEE classes, and we were able to immediately start at two schools, jump-starting our business. I believe that being passionate about what you do and surrounding yourself with like-minded people makes you more likely to have the right conditions align at the right time–some call it luck, but I call it alignment.


  • 10-week ISEE workshop: $795-$895
  • 5-week HSPT workshop: $395
  • Tutoring packages ranging from $200 to $1360 ($100 to $85 an hour)

Contact Info:

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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