TELL ME ABOUT YOUR CURRENT BUSINESS. WHAT ARE YOU DOING EXACTLY?
I run a language school that specializes in supporting international families. We are a small group of teachers who design and deliver personalized online English courses for children and adults that support them in reaching their goals. We want everyone to feel confident and really enjoy using their English.
I also have an online course that helps new parents focus on communicating with their newborn babies. It’s called the Infant Communication Baby Sign Language Course. Using this method is a great way to bond with a newborn and kick start a baby’s language development. Infant Communication is especially useful for multilingual families because it bridges the languages beautifully.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH YOUR BUSINESS IDEA?
I’ve been teaching English as a foreign language for nearly 20 years in several European countries. When we settled in the Netherlands it was a natural progression to set up my own school, it’s very easy to start a business here. I decided to create the baby sign language course after having great success with focusing on communication with my children and developing my own method to maximize communication from birth.
WHAT WERE YOU DOING BEFORE THIS, AND IS THIS YOUR FIRST BUSINESS?
I worked as an English teacher with private language schools, and I still enjoy collaborating with other schools while running my own. Yes, this is my first business, I’ve been growing it since 2013.
WHAT SPECIFIC ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR YOUNG WOMEN WHO WOULD LIKE TO BECOME AN ENTREPRENEUR?
Don’t view others in your industry as competitors. Avoid direct overlap, but find ways to connect with other businesses that serve the same audience as you in different ways. Work to lift each other up. It’s a win-win and much less lonely. Instead of being a single person business, you develop a network of colleagues. Also, start before you’re ready, just get it out there. And don’t bother trying to be perfect, focus on your customer’s transformation, not your imperfect efforts. Oh, and start an email list, so you can build real relationships with your customers.
MY GREATEST OBSTACLE AND HOW DID YOU DEALT WITH IT:
The pandemic has been brutal. Business has slowed down considerably in the past year. Instead of giving up, I decided to stay present and visible. I have fewer clients than usual currently, but I’ve used the extra time to consolidate my online presence and build my school’s community. I’ve focused on building strong relationships with other small businesses. I’m confident that when things stabilize, people will remember who I am and know where to find me.
MY PROUDEST ACCOMPLISHMENT:
Launching my online course, the Infant Communication Baby Sign Language Course. It was a labour of love and took more than 2 years to put together. I love to see the positive impact it’s having on the lives of our students and their babies, it makes me really happy.
HOW I BLEND LIFE AND WORK TO CREATE THE LIFE I WANT:
I’m very organized with my time. Since having my children, I’ve tried to put my family first. I’ve blocked off time for home responsibilities, desk time for work and teaching hours. I have to be disciplined to take care of the right tasks in the allotted times. But this allows me to put work away when my kids come home from school. It’s not always easy, but I don’t want to miss a moment with them! I also schedule time for myself, to read, play the piano, take care of myself spiritually and learn new things to make sure those regenerative activities don’t get missed out of my routine. Now I’m working on including some ‘do nothing’ time in my day, I think that’s an important way to recharge.
I AM INSPIRED BY:
My garden. Audrey Hepburn said, “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” I find joy and peace in my garden. And being out there gives me space to allow inspiration to come and make an impact on other parts of my life.
WHY I CHOSE THIS CAREER:
I wanted to travel, and I like being with people and helping them. My mother used to teach Spanish and I had a natural interest in languages. It just seemed like a good idea at the time. And in fact, nearly 20 years later, I can confirm that it was a great choice for me.
HOW I PREPARE FOR SUCCESS:
I try to systemize my tasks so that I can repeat them more easily and efficiently next time. New projects get broken down into smaller, more manageable chunks, and I try to complete one important thing each day. I try not to get distracted by shiny red business balls that possibly lead to nowhere (looking at your social media!) and work on things that really move the needle. I learn from others, from my network, or I take a course if I need to know more about something. For example, I’ve recently enrolled in a marketing course for entrepreneurs.
DID YOU WRITE A BUSINESS PLAN? WAS IT AN EFFECTIVE TOOL FOR YOU?
No. I knew what to do and that it would work. I wasn’t under pressure because I didn’t have overheads and the only investment I had to make was my time. I was very fortunate to have my husband’s support in this, it would have been much more difficult without him.
ARE THERE SPECIFIC ADVANTAGES, DISADVANTAGES TO BEING A WOMAN BUSINESS OWNER?
This is the hardest question to answer. I think as women we want to have it all and my generation at least has received that message – women deserve to have it all and should get it. Unfortunately, I think that’s a myth and is setting us up to fail. It puts us under unnecessary pressure and stress. I believe women can do anything, but not everything. So, it’s really important to be clear and specific about what you want and then build your life around that. If you want kids, have kids. If not, don’t. If you want to go back to work straight away after having kids, do that. If not, don’t. I wanted to continue working, but in a way that I could spend a lot of time with my children while they were small. Being self-employed and in charge of my time has given me that, and I’m very happy about it.
MY FAVOURITE BUSINESS TOOL IS…
Canva. I’m a creative person, and it allows me to mix my creativity into my work. I love it.
THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE I HAVE EVER BEEN GIVEN IS…
Just keep swimming. Yes, I take advice from fish! Thanks, Dorey (from Finding Nemo).