Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in language education but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Bernard Vasconcelos, CEO of Liberty Language Academy, located in Orlando, FL, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Liberty Language Academy teaches English to international students who wish to travel to the USA and spend some time here while learning the language. We've had over 1,400 students from over 40 different countries join us in the last six years. International students desire not just to learn English but to experience life in the USA. It's not just about having an American experience; it's about having a global experience. When someone leaves their hometown and comfort to go spend some time abroad, they'll gain a new perspective on life. Teaching English is just part of what Liberty does. We enjoy providing international students with a memorable experience of this time abroad they are having. Life goes by quickly, and moments like these - learning English, meeting new people from different countries, traveling, and learning different customs - are unique and contribute to personal growth.
Tell us about yourself
My name is Bernard Vasconcelos, I was born in Brazil, and when I was 7, my family moved to the United States. I had to learn English while going to school and adapt to cultural changes. When I was 18 years old, I moved back to Brazil, where I went to college, started working, got married, and had two children. During those 14 years back in Brazil, I had two fantastic experiences which led me to open up an English school. The first one was in 2004 when I decided to spend the summer in Paris studying French. I was only 21 years old but had a great time, met new people, stayed with a French family, traveled a lot, and matured. The second experience was in 2009; after marrying my wife, we moved to London, where I did a Master's degree in Education. Again, living abroad (for an extended time this time), traveling, making new friends from different countries, and living daily life as an international student was a magical experience for my wife (who studied English) and me. In 2016, we decided to move to the United States, and because I worked in an English school in Brazil back then, I decided to open a school in Orlando, Florida. As I had the chance to have these two fantastic experiences as an international student in Paris and London, I'm highly motivated to promote the same to students who join our school.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I think the first biggest accomplishment for all business owners is staying open. Starting a business is very fun and enchanting. So many ideas and dreams. Staying open is not easy, as so many challenges and difficult moments turn dreams into nightmares. When the business starts generating profit, you've achieved your first major accomplishment! The second biggest accomplishment is building a great culture and brand. When your business brand is known in the local market for representing quality and having your clients appreciate the school they study in is what makes us special. We are very proud of what we do, and when we get a new Google Review, it reminds us that we are making a difference in people's lives.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Building a great team is probably the hardest thing in business. There are thousands or millions of people with different interests and goals in your city, and you must choose a few to work with in a new common interest (the business' interest). Many people will come and go from your company, and you must find a way to motivate the talented ones to stay. Dealing with people requires patience, understanding, caring, and empathy, not just immediate results. I'm proud of the team we have at Liberty. A business is only successful if it has a great team behind it.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Find a field you enjoy working with. Business isn't only about making money; it's about trade: you do something for your client, and they do something for you. If what you are doing doesn't make you happy, why do it?
- Enjoy it. If you spend 8 hours a day and don't enjoy it, then you are wasting your life working. When you enjoy your work, your clients will feel it, and your business will have an advantage. Would you rather be served at a restaurant by a server that is happy or irritated with his job?
- Plan! Don't start something without a business plan. It doesn't have to be a professional business plan, but you do need a plan, and it should involve all areas: financial, marketing, operations, administrative, etc. After having a plan, follow it. Don't be afraid to revise that plan and make changes. Keep adapting until you succeed.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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