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Study Tree丸岡愛美さん
Entrepreneur's Guide

Leap from the Startup Escort Program!
An online individual tutoring service to enhance education in remote islands.


Ami Maruoka

Mar 30th,2024 publication date

The disparity between rural and urban areas is significant across various fields, including education. According to the latest government survey, Okinawa Prefecture has the lowest university enrollment rate in the country. When it comes to remote islands, the situation is even more challenging. Many children in these areas give up on their dreams due to reasons such as lacking mentors and alternative learning opportunities outside of school. However, there are things that can be done to change this reality.

This time, we spoke with Aimi Maruoka, a young entrepreneur residing in Miyako Island, who is striving to broaden the possibilities for children in remote islands.

Connecting beyond the island borders!
An online school deeply rooted in remote islands and Miyako Island.

“Online individual tutoring schools” exist in various forms, from major companies to individual tutors, but “StudyTree, an online individual tutoring school deeply rooted in remote islands,” is a rare presence. Leading the school is Aimi Maruyama, who moved from Yamaguchi Prefecture in 2021. Among the entrepreneurs we have interviewed, she is the youngest at 25 years old (at the time of the interview), and she took action by starting online individual tutoring via LINE, the precursor to StudyTree, when she was 20 years old.

Before delving into her journey, let’s briefly introduce the mechanism of StudyTree.

Students need to prepare a tablet or computer. Classes are conducted using the web conferencing tool Google Meet, which allows screen sharing. The teachers who teach are excellent instructors from famous universities across Japan and those studying abroad. With both students and teachers able to be anywhere, classes are possible, and using the whiteboard function, students can write on problem sets, making the lessons comparable to face-to-face ones.

Assigned teachers create learning plans tailored to the students’ personalities and levels, ensuring a more effective improvement in academic performance than studying blindly.

Study Treeの3つのプラン
StudyTree offers three plans: one for serious exam preparation, one for those looking to establish study habits, and one for those who want to balance extracurricular activities and studies. The plans are simple, and the fees are clear. (Image from the StudyTree website)

Furthermore, students can utilize an online “self-study room” where they can study while connecting with teachers and other students. This room is available three times a week, and on Saturdays, a room in Ms. Maruoka’s home on Miyako Island is opened as a real self-study room. Emphasis is placed on providing support on days without classes.

Scenery of the real self-study room in Miyako Island. “On Saturdays, busy parents can drop off and pick up their children since they have time,” Ms. Maruoka mentioned.

If students encounter difficulties in their studies, they can also ask their teachers questions via LINE. In a sense, StudyTree stands out for its deep connection between teachers and students, and its mechanism for maintaining student motivation is more robust than traditional tutoring centers.

Currently, there are students not only on Miyako Island, Ishigaki Island, and mainland Okinawa but also in Aichi and Tokyo. The company is considering expanding its classrooms, with plans to open a branch on Ishigaki Island next.

Leveraging Existing Systems to the Fullest
The Form of Entrepreneurial Advertising and Business in the IT Age

A decade ago, starting an online tutoring service faced significant barriers such as tool development and sourcing advertising funds for promotion. However, with the evolution of IT, high-functioning tools are now freely or affordably available, expanding business possibilities.

StudyTree’s website, created using “Jinnduu,” allows intuitive site creation through drag-and-drop functionality. Basic information is covered here, with further guidance directing users to the LINE official account. There, “L Step” is utilized to provide more detailed information.

While many may be familiar with L Step, it’s worth noting that it’s a LINE business tool widely used by companies for sales promotion of their products. It allows for scheduled delivery of standardized messages and the display of information buttons similar to a website on LINE.

In addition to scheduled message delivery, L Step offers features such as one-tap aptitude assessments, classroom scenery videos, and glimpses of interactions between teachers and students. Desired information appears on the screen one after another. (Image: From the official LINE account of StudyTree)

The service instills a sense of confidence and trust due to its ability to address inquiries as if engaging in a conversation. Messages keep coming, subtly drawing back attention even if momentarily forgotten. Moreover, the option to ask questions directly through chat adds to the appeal for modern users, who are more accustomed to smartphone interactions than PC usage.

Starting an Online Tutoring School Due to Relocation!
A Tentative Start from Distributing Flyers

Maruoka decided to become an educational instructor while studying medicine at university. It was during a part-time job as a private tutor that she discovered the joy of teaching.

“As I watched the children’s grades improve and their smiles grow, I realized I wanted to continue this work,” Maruoka states, reflecting on that time in her life.

She changed her career path and joined a local tutoring school, nurturing the dream of “one day owning her own tutoring school.” In 2021, when she visited Miyako Island to inquire about her mother who had relocated there, she was deeply moved by the abundant nature and decided to relocate herself. This led to her resigning from her job at the tutoring school and naturally transitioning to start her own tutoring school as her next venture.

study tree丸岡さん
Maruoka explains the “self-study room tool” screen. Her gentle tone is indeed fitting for a teacher.

“Because of the pandemic and uncertainty about how long I would stay in Miyako Island, I decided to try the online format,” Maruoka explains on how she started the online individual tutoring school, which would later become StudyTree, on LINE. Up until then, she had heard many students’ express concerns like “I can’t balance studying with my extracurricular activities” or “I lose motivation to study every day.” She wanted to create an environment where they could persistently pursue their studies. Initially, it all began with just two students from Miyako Island, introduced through her mother.

Knowledge, Companionship, and Obtaining Grants:
The Start-Up Program by ISCO

When asked about the turning point in her business, Maruoka-san mentioned the ISCO (Okinawa IT Innovation Strategy Center) Start-Up Support Program called “Okinawa-type Open Innovation Creation Promotion Project: IT Start-Up Assistance.”

This program provides support and grants for business startups, and Maruoka-san emphasized its importance. She stated, “Through this program, I was able to learn the fundamental aspects of business development, such as hypothesizing, verifying, encountering obstacles, and considering concepts and strategies for implementation. It was a significant turning point for me.”

A commemorative photo with fellow participants from various regions such as Ishigaki Island and different parts of Okinawa during the participation in the ISCO program.

The system for the online study room mentioned earlier came about through encounters and experiences during this program.

“I was asked by an engineer who was participating if there was any service I wanted for an online cram school, and during our chat, we agreed on a very affordable price for its development.”

Additionally, the engineer further developed this system, releasing an online learning service called “Doko Demo Jishu Shitsu (HANATABA Co., Ltd.)” that utilizes ChatGPT. They have also conducted fundraising from venture capitalists and investors to further develop the business.

“Expanding the potential of island children”
is the driving force behind Maruoka’s aspirations

Listening to Maruoka’s story, one might wonder where she finds the time to do it all—it’s truly remarkable. In January 2024, she successfully organized the first-ever Startup Weekend (SW) event in Miyako Island, showcasing her entrepreneurial spirit.

What is Startup Weekend?
Startup Weekend is a startup experience event held worldwide. Participants form teams based on their ideas and spend three days over the weekend learning how to turn their ideas into viable businesses. By Sunday night, they create practical prototypes or demos. They then present their projects in a final presentation judged by actual entrepreneurs and investors.(

“I wanted to organize this event in Miyako Island because there wasn’t anything like it here before, and I wanted to do it for the kids. What made me really happy was that a team of junior high school students who participated won a special award. It seems like they’re still working hard to turn their idea into a business.”

The commemorative photo of the first Startup Weekend held in Miyako Island. Since it was an event unknown to the island, it was challenging to explain it to others and get them to understand.

It seems that the purpose is not only to teach study but also to provide various experiential opportunities for the children on the remote islands.

“Children are delighted to be able to talk with teachers from all over the country and overseas through StudyTree, feeling connected to a ‘bigger world they didn’t know existed,'” says Maruoka-san with joy. However, one thing she finds regrettable is that local high school students underestimate Miyako Island, blessed with magnificent nature, as ‘having nothing here.’ She hopes to implement initiatives to help people born and raised on the island recognize its charm in the future.

Currently, Maruoka-san is also affiliated with an organizational development company in Kanagawa, which she got connected with through people she met at Startup Weekend in Yamaguchi Prefecture. She smiles as she mentions, “I’ll be flying there next month.”

“If you want to show children a broader world, if you want to expand their possibilities, you have to expand yourself first! You must challenge yourself in completely different worlds!” Maruoka-san speaks with a dignified smile. The day when her presence significantly changes the future of children on remote islands is not far off.

Interview and Japanese Text by Narabayashi Minako


Date of Establishment
August 2022
Ami Maruoka
Learning academy for middle and high school students utilizing online tools.
Head Office Location
48-2 Higashionakasone, Hirara, Miyako City

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