Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in language education but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Karyn Koven, Founder and President of LanguageBird Inc., located in Los Angeles, CA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
LanguageBird provides accredited world language lessons and courses to middle and high school students, live, one-to-one via video chat. Since we were founded in 2015, LanguageBird has grown into a global community of 3,000+ students, 185+ instructors, and 15 administrators from 40 countries. We currently offer 15 languages from very beginner to the most advanced levels (year 6+ levels), and students from 700+ schools have taken LanguageBird courses to complement their school curriculum, with 30+ schools partnering to use LanguageBird as their language curriculum. Using Project-Based Learning, students master speaking new languages with confidence and explore cultures through self-paced, personalized instruction with expert instructors. We believe the future of education is using technology to connect people for a better understanding of the world, its cultures, and people.
Tell us about yourself
I'm a life-long learner and educator. I have always wanted to work with kids and teach. I started as an English teacher at a comprehensive high school where I also taught writing and journalism. I found myself helping my students with college essays and really enjoyed assisting them with the college application process. I love to be a part of the transition period between being a teen to making decisions like where to go to college and how to pay for it as a young adult. I decided to enter a program at UCLA in college counseling. When I had the opportunity to be the founding faculty of a charter school, I enjoyed working as a teacher, counselor, and college counselor, training and hiring teachers, writing curricula, starting an internship program, and fundraising. I was fortunate to be able to try it all! One of the things I discovered was even at a distinguished school, we were limited as to offerings due to space, budget, and staff. Many of our students were taking Spanish and already spoke Spanish at home. When I tried to put them on software to expand offerings, I saw they were not learning due to a lack of engagement. I thought, what if I could bring very experienced and high-quality instructors to these students via video chat for a more personalized and immersive experience of learning language and culture? I wrote a Spanish curriculum and soon enrolled a few students. They loved it, and it just took off from there. I'm motivated by providing a great educational solution to kids and helping to expose students to languages and cultures they otherwise wouldn't be able to study. I also love that I can provide fantastic teachers all over the world with the opportunity to teach from anywhere!
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I'm thrilled we have had over 6,000 students and we have more than 200 teachers that I'm able to work with and help. I'm proud of my staff and the work we do, and the programs we create to improve language education globally.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
I have been fortunate enough to have rapid growth, which leads to difficult decisions having to be made quickly. Figuring out the best ways to grow and strategize is key and takes careful thought. I'm interested in creating so many things. There is so much potential and many directions we can grow. I think choosing the best and most important options is key and difficult to do.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
The more work you do in more areas, the more you know about the business and what and who you need. Roll up your sleeves and get in it. Test processes and technology. Don't build from scratch until you know exactly what you want and need.
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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