Designing a People-Focused Creative Language Business — Noémie Clarke
I am French. I have been living in the UK for nearly 20 years and now live in London with my Kiwi husband and two boys.
In October 2015, I launched Eclectic Minds. I had been working a lot for other training courses and thought things could be done differently.
I am now fully in charge of what I am doing and feel more empowered.
I really want to learn more about how you came to build a business that would give you this feeling of empowerment. But first, can you tell us a bit about your backstory. How did you first get started teaching French?
I always wanted to be a language teacher, so it came quite naturally. My choices led me to the right places. I started tutoring while at university and became a French assistant in the UK. From there, I stayed in this country and trained to become a secondary teacher, while studying in parallel for the French qualification as a FLE teacher (French as a foreign language). Both qualifications opened doors which enabled me to teach kids from the age of 5 to adults of a certain age. Ten years into my career I decided to focus on adult learning.
So you got quite a bit of experience working for schools before you started your own business. Can you tell us what your business looks like now?
Eclectic Minds is a platform which offers language classes, for adults. The idea is to purchase a number of sessions and to use these when and where suits you.
The concept is to demystify language learning: it can be flexible, it can work around you, it can be enjoyable.
It is now also open to teachers to use as a way to offer group classes which are generally complicated to organise for a freelance teacher. We are building a community of like-minded professionals whilst facilitating logistics.
We are building a community of like-minded professionals whilst facilitating logistics.
Eclectic Minds sounds like such a creative language business. It seems like what you’re doing is solving a common problem of both the language students and the freelance teachers. From my experience, that’s exactly how you can create an offer that people will want to purchase. Though, what would you say is the one thing you’ve done to get your business to where it is now?
Learning loads and meeting loads.
I did not have a clue about business per se when I launched. I had common sense that I had to fail-proof the concept to make it survive the first few years.
Meeting a whole bunch of people has helped so much: from the teachers I work with, to the clients who help improve the concept, and the fellow entrepreneurs who understand the difficulties and hurdles.
When I look at what I have achieved, I see faces.
Meeting a whole bunch of people helped so much…. When I look at what I have achieved, I see faces.
That warms my heart that you say that. I think that so often business leaders talk about tactics and strategies to get more eyes on a product. But, at the end of the day, it’s people that make a business thrive. Speaking of the people, clients of Eclectic Minds meet at pubs and coffee shops around London. Why do you think that it’s important to take your client out of their offices?
Taking people out of their homes or offices is a conscious way of forcing them to change perspective. A neutral place helps to switch off from work for one hour. It puts the body and the mind in a different environment to help to have a proper break in the day.
Taking people out of their homes or offices is a conscious way of forcing them to change perspective.
It also helps with connecting with your area, discovering places you might not have noticed and behind these places, are people. Connections all round!
I can also imagine that this puts people more at ease. I know that language learners can achieve at higher levels when they can feel like themselves. I like this idea. So, it seems like you’ve found a product that people want to buy. What have you found to be the best way to attract new clients to your business?
Facebook helped a great deal to start with. The people we target are the generation who still uses this social media! Facebook is a social network I was already using then, and therefore, it felt more natural to advertise on relevant groups and communicate on this platform. I always had a pixel on the website and learnt slowly the ins and outs of online marketing.
Along the years, I added more social media to share what we do, when it felt relevant.
Things have now evolved and now, new students join quite organically through word-of-mouth.
Thanks for telling us what worked well at first and what works for you now. If you could go back in time, is there anything you would change about your teaching career?
I don’t think so. I find it fascinating to think that everything led up to this. I am very happy to be where I am standing.
It does sound like you’re running a business that people would want to be part of. Is there anything else that you’d like to share about yourself?
I find entrepreneurship to be a very comparable path to language learning in the sense that it is a constant journey and enjoying the process is the key to success. I have also found that the objective is quite similar: if not to be in touch and contact with others, what is the point?
I find entrepreneurship to be a very comparable path to language learning in the sense that it is a constant journey and enjoying the process is the key to success.
That’s an excellent realization. I’ve actually found that too, that in both learning a language and running my own business, I’ve learned so much about myself. Okay, so if others want to connect with you online, how can they do that?
Email: noemie [ at ] eclecticminds [ dot ] co [dot ] uk