How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
It was way back in 2012 when I first moved to London with almost no English skills at all. I was anxious and scared every time I had to strike a conversation to get things done. I used to wear my headphones everytime I walked around London so that nobody will ask me for directions or anything like that.
I worked hard in the first few months trying out different things to learn the language. It was not an easy task, but in six months, I was able to get a firm hold of the language, learning it the hard way, all by myself.
My passion for languages made me find an opening at a Language School as a Marketing Manager. Over the years, I shifted across schools to become the Marketing Director in charge of leading a big international team.
During that time, I met at least 50 new students a week, amounting to about 2400 students annually who needed to up their English language skills.
These students faced similar problems just like me, trying to find the right learning to become conversant.
In my case, I was lost because I had zero guidance or any access to information on what course to follow or what school to enroll. I would have become a better English speaker faster than six months if I had the correct guidance.
So I wanted to make sure nobody else suffers the same fate that I went through. That was when it hit me – what if I could build a platform to get all the language courses in one place to make life easy?
Any new student who wants to learn English or any other language can find easy access to any course, read up on content, and start learning.
When I was a part of these language schools, I heard several stories from students who enrolled. Most of them were facing struggles mentally because of their proficiency.
Understanding the struggles of the students and my battles from 2012, I put forward the concept of Volangua.
How did you raise funds?
When I thought of this whole thing in my head, I realized that I needed to do this, and If I wanted Volagua to succeed, it required my complete attention.
I had a job with a stable monthly salary for the longest time I knew. I enjoyed working as a marketer, but I had to sacrifice my 9 to 5 job for something bigger.
It was scary at the start, but I knew I had to do this. I quit my full-time job, drew up an elevator pitch for my idea.
It was not even a proper pitch to an investor, just the project brief, my passion, and the impact of the team behind it and I got amazing feedback from investors who loved the idea.
What is Unique about your Business?
I wanted to make sure that anyone who didn’t even have the slightest idea about how they could learn a language gets all their answers.
To do that, we needed to have a few of the best schools that provided these courses on board.
My team and I reached out to several schools, and I have to say the response was terrific. I have to say working as the marketing manager for 7+ years helped me with this because I had good relationships built with major schools across the world.
In a few months, we had 1000+ schools registered, willing to use our platform. These schools were not just from the UK only but 65 different countries.
And what we’ve done is made everything simplified. You don’t need to go through pages of PDFs one by one – a few filters brings you all the information at your fingertips.
What was your biggest mistake?
I can tell you that there were several hiccups along the way, and we learned from every mistake to become better.
But one of the biggest mistakes we made was we spent a lot of time working on building connections that we forgot about marketing and sales.
We had a great product, but we missed the trick on getting it across to students who wanted the service. I think it was my biggest flaw not to understand that marketing was necessary; we assumed that people would just come.
In the first two weeks of launching, our traffic was just triple figures. The next two, even worse.
That’s when we decided to take a look at marketing and sales planning, one thing I hadn’t planned too much.
If you were to do it again, what would you do differently?
There are several things, to be honest; first off, to create a better financial plan.
Before starting, I laid out a budget for 12 months, but that figure was nowhere near the actual because there were several new developments.
And, one more thing – increasing our timeframe by at least 12 months. The tight deadlines took the life out of my team and me.
What are your goals?
As of now, we have a decent platform with 1000+ colleges. With the new normal, everyone is taking learning online, and we are now to provide this option for the language learning schools and online tutors on the platform.
This way, we are innovating our platform to be a language marketplace and a language learning platform – that’s a giant leap.
Also, we want to make the platform be the top of the mind option if anyone says language learning.
Like we go to Airbnb to search for a rental, I want Volangua to be the place that anyone would go to get information and tools about language learning.
If you could time travel back to day one of your start-up, what would you tell yourself?
Do not do everything by yourself, delegate and don’t act with blind optimism, and do your due diligence.
How did you build your team?
I wanted people who shared the same vision as me and, most importantly, those I can trust. I tried to do everything by myself, failed, so I wanted team members who would give the same energy.
I am happy to say I picked people’s right set, and they are more like my second family.
What kind of culture exists in your organization, and how did you establish it?
I believe in freedom, giving people general guidelines, and I hate to micromanage.
I want all my team members to come up with innovation and contribute towards strategy. At Volangua, no one’s opinion is inferior, and everyone gets to voice out their opinion.
I think that is what keeps my team going because everyone is treated and regarded equally.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
I’ve had a few remarkable moments, such as the 1000th sign-up, but I am more excited about what’s to come – the launch of our mobile app.
Covid19 took us on a whole new path, we were running head over heels to keep the business running, and we took a call to adapt and change the way we work.
We came up with the app concept – to expand our platform to an online learning destination.
I am more excited because this will be a product of countless hours and sleepless nights put in by my team because they all believed in the company and me.
What Motivates You?
How has being an entrepreneur affected your family life?
Many of you may think that becoming an entrepreneur is a pathway to freedom, but anyone who has taken this road will safely say that it is entirely the opposite.
You think you want to break free from the 9 to 5 only to embrace a 9 to 9 shift, sometimes even more hours.
It is a challenge to build your business while maintaining your family. I was raising three children – my business and the two kids at home, and trust me, I’ve been through hell.
But I think I have to credit my family for understanding my commitment and always standing strong.
That was my greatest strength that kept me going.
How many hours a day do you work on average?
It fluctuates slightly, but I am happy to say I have become a part of the 5 am club.
Waking up at 5 am has been the best thing for me since it gives me enough time to slide in an early workout, make breakfast, and catch up on reading.
All that happens early morning, and then I work until 6.30 pm.
During the 6.30 pm to 9 pm window, my focus shifts to my family. I distance myself from all work and focus my attention on my kids.
After they go to bed, I reopen my laptop and reach out to anyone I missed and catch up on my little projects, where I provide advice and mentoring for selected company boards.
What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage it?
Failure. It has been my biggest fear, and it has been what has kept me going.
I try to forgive myself and be grateful for what I have accomplished, but I have to admit that it is a work in progress.
I often fear that I might end up inadequate, which has kept me from doing more, which has sometimes made me feel exhausted.
If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
Look out for a mentor – someone to learn from. I self-learned most of what I do now, and things would have been different-better if I had someone mentoring me.
How do you define success?
It is the satisfaction that we get by reaching our aims, no matter what obstacle is thrown at you. And I believe that the path of success is a continuous journey, and we will always have roadblocks.
But with time, we learn to find better solutions and become better and solving whatever is thrown in front of us.
Who has been your greatest inspiration?
Richard Branson and Gary Vaynerchuk.
What business-related book has inspired you the most?
Losing my Virginity by Richard Branson
If you were to write a book about yourself, how would you name it?
“It’s a girl!” The most important thing someone has ever said to me, and it has happened twice.
Do you have any siblings?
Yes, I do have a little “genius” sister who is also in Marketing but focused on Influencer Marketing in the Fashion industry. She is still in university but has helped us a lot and has been an essential part of making this project possible, which I’m grateful for. She will have a great future for sure.
Finish this sentence…ever since I was a kid, I _wanted to live in London.