Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in education but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Bryan Mo, Co-Owner of Panda Mandarin Language Programs, located in Toronto, ON, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
We are a Mandarin language school based in Toronto, Canada, and we offer fun and engaging in-person and virtual after-school, weekend, and camp programs focused on kids 12 and under. We're not a traditional language school where kids sit at desks and memorize and repeat words/phrases. We empower kids to learn Mandarin in a way that is exciting and practical, where they feel proud to learn the language and want to come back week after week.
Our students come from a diverse set of backgrounds and can come from Chinese heritage, mixed heritage, and even non-Chinese backgrounds altogether. Our teachers also come from different backgrounds but are fluent in Mandarin and English, specialize in childhood education, and share our vision of connecting our students with Chinese culture in a warm and welcoming environment.
Tell us about yourself
My wife, Yollanda, and I got started with Panda Mandarin because we were searching for a program just like ours when our daughter was just 2 years old. We couldn't find one that met our criteria and was near our neighbourhood in Midtown Toronto. We also weren't thinking of starting a program, but our local school gave us the opportunity to do something, and within a week, we created a brand, a program structure, marketing material, pricing, and a sign-up process. In January 2015, we had our very first Panda Mandarin class!
I was actually working in corporate at the time at a global insurance company, and my wife was on leave from the school board. Our skill sets complemented each other really well to get Panda Mandarin off the ground. While Yollanda is now focusing on her own entrepreneur coaching business and Girl. Strong. not-for-profit, I am actually currently working on Panda Mandarin full-time because I believe in our school's mission and vision and to bring to children all over an opportunity to learn Mandarin in a way that will make a difference in their lives, as we were able to with our daughter and our first group of students.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
For me, this is two-fold. Starting something totally from scratch and being able to make it grow and thrive. The second would be seeing all the lives of children who we’ve been able to help and bring the enjoyment of learning a new language or connecting with a new culture/world they would not have been able to.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
The hardest thing, but also empowering, is that you’re ultimately responsible for your team and the success or failures that might come. Having been in corporate, I love being able to set the direction and have a say in what we do. But that also means you also have to constantly be thinking about or worrying about every single aspect of your business, even areas you know nothing about.
For me, that could include employment regulations, possible childcare legislation, or even health and safety regulations, especially with COVID still around. We need to understand how this affects our business and how we deliver an amazing learning experience for our students and an enjoyable work environment for our teachers.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Being an entrepreneur means being willing to take risks and not being afraid to try things in order to grow and survive.
- Understand your strengths and weaknesses and find people who will help complement you, so you have a well-rounded team instead of having more people exactly like you. A diverse team will help take you further.
- Have a plan and set realistic goals for yourself, so you and your team can focus. There are so many things that a small business requires that you can easily get sidetracked. Sometimes it’s inevitable, but a plan will help keep you moving in the right direction and hopefully forward!
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Have fun and be kind!
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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