There are many contributing factors that lead to someone wanting to start their own online business. The desire to be your own boss, financial circumstances or even just the pursuit of making money from a hobby you are passionate about. We love finding out what inspired our sellers to start their journeys and recently caught up with Sophie, owner of Parlons-Francais: a French tutoring service offering in person or Skype tutoring from beginner to advanced levels.
What inspired you to start Parlons-Francais.co.uk?
My husband was made redundant and I realised that I could teach French so as to supplement our income. I had no official training but had done it on a voluntary basis with friends and neighbours and they had said I was a good teacher, so I decided to try it. In order to give myself a better chance to be heard and recognised, I decided to create a company straight away, sole trader, but with a business name which would sound more official in adverts. I placed a first advert in September 1999 in the local newspaper, and contacted the local primary schools to see if they were interested in running a French club, either at lunchtime or after school. The business developed slowly from then on. I accepted a job as a MFL assistant in a secondary school, and that got my name heard around.
I imagine teaching others a life long skill such as the French Language is rewarding in itself - What's your favourite thing about running this business?
My favourite thing is when students come back from a trip, business or holidays, saying they got by better than before; and really enjoyed practising what they had learnt with me. That's really the best thing that can happen. Learning a language is slow and hard work; the pronunciation is very important because you can think you say everything right but with the wrong pronunciation, the locals will not understand you, and it's very depressing when you have been learning for a while. I know, I went there when I was learning English at school in France and got blank faces when I spoke to English people. That's why I am so strict on pronunciation, and my students always know, during their first trip, why I was harsh on them.
What advice would you give to somebody looking to start their own business, knowing what you know now?
The best way is to start small because you really learn with your mistakes. There is not point cutting corners and trying to be much cheaper than others; you'll regret it when you can't afford to have any free time and you suffer from a burnout. On the other hand, I have a competitor who always offers lots of "free" services, but they are not free, she includes them in the cost of the lessons which become too expensive. People want to learn the language, not necessarily gets lots of other goodies. So work out your costs very precisely and don't hesitate to adjust your prices when necessary, but not too often either.
You are selling with Bizdaq at the moment, how are you finding this service so far?
I have found the support from the staff absolutely amazing. My advert was seen quite a lot right from the beginning and I got several enquiries, which was very positive. I feel confident that I will sell the business in 2019.
Any other information about your business or sale that you'd like to share?
I think that my business is a very flexible entity for anyone to buy. I have never gone out to make a profit out of it; only a living; and as it has expanded, I have taken on new teachers but always paid them as much as I was paying myself, so the bottom line of profit is very small, but people earn a living. The person who will buy it can choose to teach as much or as little as s/he wants in order to supplement their current income or let the others take the strain of teaching if that's what they prefer. The basic running of the firm which is what I now do, can be greatly automated thus bringing the little commission they make on the teachers' work for very little effort. The website brings in 90% of the new business, and therefore there are lots of opportunities to diversify, into other languages, or language trips abroad, or translating/interpreting. A younger person with 10 or 20 years ahead of them can make it a big thriving business, national or even international. The sky is the limit.
Interested in Sophie's business? Want to find out more?
Posted on December 23, 2018 | running a business, owning a business, tutoring, home based, seller, buyers