In this special issue, we talk to Rosanna Fiorenza, winner of the ‘Rising Star’ award from LEO Dublin City’s Women in Business Network.
On today’s itinerary, we discuss the passion of teaching, making a business out of education and following your dreams with the co-founder of Travelling Languages, Rosanna Fiorenza.
Established in Dublin by two Italian entrepreneurs, Rosanna Fiorenza and Salvatore Fanara, Travelling Languages is a school that changes the way languages are taught, by immersing students in culture (www.travellinglanguages.com).
Rosanna, firstly congratulations on the ‘Rising Star’ award from LEO Dublin City – where did you first develop an interest in teaching?
I’ve always been interested in languages and education, and teaching is the perfect combination of the two. To pay for my studies when I was younger, I was a support teacher for primary school children who stayed at school in the afternoons because their parents had to work. I also did support lessons such as Maths, Physics and English for secondary school students. Teaching is a passion; it’s so rewarding to see your students improve and to thank you for your patience of teaching them. Initially, I wanted to study foreign languages at University but I ended up doing Economics. However, this gave me a good basis to start my own business.
Where did the idea for Travelling Languages come from and how was your first year in business back in 2011?
My business partner (who is also my boyfriend) and I both wanted to do something that could match our passions: travelling, learning and meeting local people who could explain the real life of the country to you. During our life in Ireland, we met several people who came here to learn English or to travel, and most of them were disappointed at some stage. Some were disappointed because they did not meet many Irish people during their stay; others were disappointed because of the food on offer. In particular, language students were disappointed because they did not get to visit anywhere outside of Dublin. In one way or another, they did not enjoy Ireland as they should have! We were both sure there was a way to change this and to get them to experience the real Ireland while improving their English and this was the idea behind Travelling Languages. The first year was hard work organising the journeys, the logistic behind the language courses and contacting agents who cover most of the sales in this market. We also got in contact with Fáilte Ireland and ACELS at the very beginning as we wanted to build a quality programme, not just a meteor that would quickly disappear in a short period of time. We ran the first travelling course in July 2012 and we closed the year with about 60 students.
What makes Travelling Languages different to other language schools?
We guarantee that every student only speaks English during their stay (24 hours a day, 7 days a week) and they interact with as many local people as possible.
Every activity is organised so that they learn the culture in a “hands on” way and they get to practise the language.
After all, learning a language is not just a matter of learning a sequence of rules by heart, but understanding the culture that is behind it.
Have you had any ‘breakthroughs’ in business?
Managing to secure an EU-funded contract at the end of 2012 enabled us to rent our own school and to offer a more complete portfolio of courses.
Students can now study longer, combining our travelling programmes with a more traditional stay in Dublin, or they can opt for a course and work experience where they can not only study at school, but more importantly keep practising their English while gaining some work experience in an Irish company.
You’re from Italy originally, so were there any extra challenges in setting up a business in Ireland?
It’s easier to set up a business in Ireland than in Italy. However, there are some challenges that foreigners face. For example, getting legal advice is quite different and expensive too. Also, finding a good accountant was not easy, referral in these cases is usually the way to go, but we did not have many contacts to ask.
The Local Enterprise Office Dublin City has always been very helpful for training and for giving that bit of help that you need, especially at the beginning.
What does 2015 hold for Travelling Languages?
We received recognition from ACELS in 2014, which is the stamp for quality teaching in Ireland so there are new and more exciting roads to cover.
We are offering a family programme to give both parents and children the opportunity to learn English while enjoying their holidays; we are going to open new school and routes in other countries such as French in Belgium and Spanish in Spain.
We are also focusing on markets like Japan, South Korea and Russia… but that’s a seed that will grow in 2016!
How has the Local Enterprise Office (LEO) Dublin City supported your business so far?
My partner enrolled in the “Start Your Own Business” and “Sprint Start” courses and from then, we followed their mentoring programmes.
We also received grant aid as a start-up and as a growing business and I’ve enrolled in the “Accelerate programme.”
What entrepreneurs do you admire most and why?
There are several people I admire as entrepreneurs: Walt Disney, Richard Branson and Coco Chanel among them. They all have one thing in common: they loved what they did and they had a dream that they wanted to come true.
What advice do you have for other female entrepreneurs, who may be thinking of starting their own business?
If you are really passionate about something and you think you can solve somebody’s problem then you should do it. There is a lot of support, especially for women who want to get in business. It is definitely more rewarding than exhausting, but you need to have a positive and learning attitude.
What are your ‘top tips’ for succeeding in a competitive industry?
• Study your market and learn from others’ mistakes, as there is a lot more to understand from mistakes than there is from success.
• Always focus and pursue your vision: that is where you are going.
• Prepare a business plan, but don’t get too upset if it doesn’t match reality, it probably never will but writing it down will help you to get back on track when you feel lost and overwhelmed.
• Never compete on price.
Our thanks to Rosanna Fiorenza for taking part in this interview.
For more information around the courses on offer through Travelling Languages, please visit www.travellinglanguages.com or find them on Facebook at facebook.com/Travellinglanguages or on Twitter at twitter.com/TLanguages