Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in language education but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Ashley Weselak, Founder of Reel American English, located in Depew, NY, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I am an English teacher, and I teach students all over the world - Chinese, Kuwaiti, Brazilian, American, and more! Most of my international students are quite fluent in English and are seeking entrance to American or British universities, so we focus on reading complex literature and writing essays. As these are private classes, they can be quite expensive! So, I am currently launching some English groups to help make English learning more accessible.
I work with public schools in the USA and meet with students digitally during their electives in school. These students often need supplemental support in their English classes. Due to COVID, we see a gap in learning, and many students are not reaching their grade level standards. I often work with their classroom teachers to see where each individual student needs support (phonological awareness, reading comprehension, using context clues, organizing writing, etc..)
Finally, I work with American students after school to support executive functioning. This involves helping students manage their time, develop study skills, and overall build confidence to advocate for themselves.
Tell us about yourself
I've always loved to read and write, so English was my favorite class as a student. I entered university because of this passion, but it wasn't until my work with refugees that I recognized the power culture has over our interpretations. I was teaching Of Mice and Men and was focusing on the standard lesson - friendship. But, one of my Burmese students was stuck on the mistreatment of Crooks, and it reminded me of my own annoyance over Curly's wife's name - Curly's wife. I recognized that literature is meant to be interpreted by our own personal experiences and place in the world. As a woman, I wanted to discuss her lack of identity in this classic novel. As a newcomer to the USA, my student wanted to discuss the suffering of a black man in the USA. I realized then that literature could give space for these discussions, and I shifted my focus to empowering students to make their voices heard.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Lately, it has been my reading classes with 3rd graders! These students are new to the USA, and their parents have a basic level of English. Due to COVID, most of their instruction has been online. Their parents have shared it was difficult to administer the English lessons at home because they themselves were not yet fluent. So, these 3rd graders are still reading below a 1st-grade level. I work with them three times a week, and it gives me so much joy when they are able to read new letter combinations and words. Having a strong reading skills at a young age is vital as it allows them to excel in other areas as well. If a student cannot read a math problem, how can they demonstrate their math skills?
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Marketing has been my biggest challenge! Most of my work has been through companies and schools, so I am now trying to reach more students on my own.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Go slow! It is a long journey, and you may be frustrated at times about slow growth. That is natural. It takes time to build trust with your customers.
- Believe in your product. Always remember why you have this business! Whenever I feel overwhelmed and want to give up, I think of how much my programs and classes have helped others in the past.
- Take time to relax! You don't want to experience burnout. Schedule some time away from your business, and you will come back refreshed and with more creativity!
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.
Turn your craft into recurring revenue with Subkit. Start your subscription offering in minutes and supercharge it with growth levers. Get early access here.