The Bilingual Fun Company of South Lyon, Mich., was launched in 2005 and teaches Spanish to children through interactive classes and educational products.
‘Ah ha’ moment that led to launching the business: It came very naturally one day when a fellow mom friend inquired if I could host a Spanish language playgroup for the neighborhood children. At the time, my bilingual daughter was two-years-old and my friend was very interested in exposing her toddler to a second language, too. I actively researched bilingual class opportunities for young children and found very little. After talking to neighbors and friends, I found there was significant interest and a definite need. As a mom and a teacher, this was a very natural choice to start an interactive, play-based language class. The idea started with a once-a-week Spanish playgroup out of my living room for the neighbors. The word quickly spread and I made a business plan, became incorporated and started looking for rental locations to accommodate my growing business.
Ideal customer: Parents of young children. Today’s parents know we live in a global society and they want the best for their children. Starting the language exposure at a young age is the most beneficial, and many parents are very interested and motivated to find language learning opportunities for their young children. The majority of language classes in the U.S. are offered in schools at the middle school and high school level; therefore we have a niche in that we teach to children as young as toddlers.
First customer: My first customers were friends and acquaintances who were excited to try a new Mommy and Me class in Spanish.
Measuring Success: I measure success by growth and word-of-mouth advertising. I started Bilingual Fun with a very small group of parents and within the first four months, I grew to include more than 25 families in classes. I knew my classes were successful because I would receive many inquires and customers, with very little advertising of my own. Positive word of mouth advertising played a huge part in my early successes.
Biggest Struggle: Time management. My business began to grow very quickly, and my two children were babies at the time. I struggled balancing maintaining and growing my business with the daily schedules of a stay-at-home mom with two kids. Now that I have been running the business for several years, I have found my groove. I know how to balance things better, set boundaries, and be productive with the time I have. It definitely has gotten better, but with each growth and change in my business and with my family, good time management will always be a priority for me.
Surprise!: At first, it was the loneliness. Even though I was super busy and interacting with many different customers, the camaraderie of not having co workers was lonely. I quickly branched out and joined networking groups both locally and online. This helped tremendously.
Promoting Business: I share my knowledge and offer my services to groups, blogs and at community events. We selectively participate in and offer free events to schools and community groups. This offers customers a chance to interact with us and learn about our program. This has directly resulted in hundreds of sales, in that many people register for our classes or purchase our products from our free events. Giving people something for free is a great tool to entice them and have them return for more information. Additionally, I offer my knowledge as an expert on various language and parenting sites. It doesn’t take much of my time, and from my posts and input, I have been able to draw visitors and customers to our website, resulting in sales for Bilingual Fun.
What I wish I would’ve known: Someone to train me on QuickBooks from the very beginning! I also wish I would have taken the advice that you ‘really can’t work when your baby is napping.” I tried to work in little spurts when my baby was sleeping and then I was up all night trying to finish up. I should have taken the advice someone gave me and had a sitter for a few hours a week so that I could be productive during daylight hours.
What keeps you up at night (business-wise!)?: My daily schedule. I am always thinking about who I have to speak to, where I have to be, what emails have to be responded to, etc. I am trying to read more and relax each night so that my mind isn’t racing.
Ever tempted to throw in the towel and just get a job?: Never. I absolutely love what I am doing and I am very passionate about the business I have created. I am proud of how the business has developed and I have confidence that it will continue to do so. Even on bad days, I am blessed to be doing what I am doing.
Moving Forward: To use Facebook and Twitter to grow our online presence. Although I use them frequently for business purposes, I would like to develop our FB following and offer more expert tips and services to our readers and target population. I plan on meeting this goal, but carving out specific time each week to dedicate solely to our social media strategies.
Pricing, Getting it Right: Never underestimate yourself, your services or your products. Do market research and do not undersell yourself. Pricing is overwhelming sometimes, but I believe you need to be confident and competitive with your pricing.
Funding: Fortunately for me, my start up costs was very low. I was able to get my business off the ground without outside funding. For the production of our educational DVDs, I obtained a loan from Count Me In. There are many programs and groups that give loans to women business owners. There are also grant opportunities as well. I recommend getting involved with local or online business networks for suggestions and advice. There are so many smart women out there that are very willing to share their tips and advice and help you get connected in networking groups.
A Few Good Tips: My industry deals directly with parents and young children. When promoting, be very specific with the target market. I made early mistakes with promoting anywhere and everywhere I could. Now, I am very intentional about finding the right communities, schools, parent groups, and websites that have the population that is interested in early language learning.
The absolute best part of owning my business is: the freedom to do what I love.
If I had to start over again, I would: have found a babysitter earlier, instead working at all hours of the night.
I never imagined: balancing a growing business and family life would be so difficult.
If standing on a rooftop facing crowds of aspiring or struggling small business owners, I would shout: “Be proud of your accomplishments and be confident in your business.”