NetworkMilan is always happy to talk to people who have started their own business – especially entrepreneurs that are finding innovative and unusual ways to teach English (such as Lorna Allen of Live and Learn Homestays Ltd, who we interviewed last year). Today, we feature another homestay provider: EduVacation - a small, privately-owned English language company that offers full immersion courses in the Cotswolds region of England. (They also arrange English learning tours to Cape Town, South Africa.) The company was founded and is managed by Dean and Sue Erasmus, a married couple who are both qualified English-speaking school teachers with extensive teaching experience. (Both Dean and Sue love cooking and students can look forward to a barbecue – depending on the often-unpredictable British weather, of course!)
In this interview with NetworkMilan they describe the services they offer and explain why EduVacation is very different from studying at a typical language school. They also talk about their experience of welcoming Italian learners to the Cotswolds and discuss the unique benefits of being immersed in an English-speaking environment when you are learning the language.
Dean and Sue also agree to share their experiences and insights of running a business. They talk about what motivates them and describe some of the challenges they face as entrepreneurs. And they have some useful advice for anyone considering starting up a company.
Most speakers of English as a foreign language have the basic skills to read, write and speak but lack the confidence to do so freely. Learners of English as a foreign language are often under pressure to learn English for various reasons and the process can become a negative experience. EduVacation uses a holiday format to provide a relaxed and friendly environment with lessons and activities designed to encourage our guests to feel at ease when practising their English language skills. Our courses are designed and presented to improve our guests’ fluency and confidence in the English language.
What services do you offer?
As an owner managed business, we are very flexible with regards to our courses and can tailor make a course/holiday to suit the requirements of corporate and private clients. We welcome prospective clients to contact us to discuss their specific needs.
We do, however, offer standard courses. These courses are designed according to the relevant English proficiency levels of each participant and group. They include:
Standard weekly English learning holiday in England:
• 6 nights with accommodation in Cotswolds holiday cottages including 3 meals a day
• Up to 40 hours of English lessons, related activities and daily cultural outings to popular Cotswolds tourist sights
• All coursework and the services of two qualified teachers
English learning tours to Cape Town, South Africa:
• All-inclusive, guided tours combining a 7 day holiday with a tailor-made immersive English programme
• All meals, accommodation, daily sightseeing tours, English lessons and activities, all entrance fees, transport, services of a knowledgeable guide and English teacher
Extra services can be offered or incorporated into our courses including:
• Corporate training
• Introduction to working and living in the UK
• Business English and skills
• Student summer courses
• Weekend conversational courses
All our services are explained in more detail, by the way, on our website (www.eduvacation.co.uk) including examples of the themes and activities for our standard courses.
Firstly, we offer fully immersive and all-inclusive English learning holidays:
- We understand that it is very difficult for people to find the time to attend language courses in a different country so we decided to combine our courses with an all-inclusive holiday so that our clients get value for their money. The courses are suitable for groups of friends, family, colleagues or students.
- We want our participants to hear, speak, read and write as much English as possible during their EduVacation course/holiday. We therefore instruct, teach, discuss and chat in English and encourage our participants to do the same. We want them to enjoy their experience and have a positive attitude towards learning and practising their English skills.
- Our guests are accommodated in beautiful holiday cottages that we rent according to each group’s requirements. This means that, although the group is fully immersed in the English language and culture, they still have their own time and privacy in the evenings after the final meal or activity.
Secondly, we own the business: we are hands on managers and we present the courses ourselves:
- Our guests and participants get our personal attention during their whole experience
- We know exactly what service and level of professionalism our guests are experiencing as we provide it ourselves.
- It is in our personal interest to provide a memorable experience for our clients
- We can be flexible with regards to our clients’ requirements and needs
- Sue and I both have a TEFL qualification. We are also both qualified school teachers with second language training experience.
- I speak 3 languages including Italian and understand the challenges involved in acquiring a new language.
- Both our sons are studying a variety of European languages and we understand exactly what they are experiencing.
- We are well travelled as a family and have encountered many different cultures.
- I have spent 15 years in corporate management and therefore I have a wealth of experience in training and business.
Why would someone who reads NetworkMilan be interested in booking a course with you?
Dean: I spent many years working in a corporate environment and travelling globally for business. I was constantly reminded by colleagues and clients of the need and importance of learning English as a foreign language.
EduVacation aims to provide an environment where our clients are encouraged to be confident and feel at ease when practising and improving their English language skills with teachers that understand the challenges that this involves.
EduVacation provides courses that a group of colleagues could attend or a family that want to improve their skills together. Our courses are suitable for a group of friends, a couple or a group of students. I also speak Italian and believe this would be helpful when dealing with Italian clients with basic proficiency levels and in general.
What experience do you have in dealing with Italian clients?
Dean: My love affair with Italy started almost 30 years ago when I spent a scholastic year in Italy as an AFS Intercultural Programs exchange student. The organisation is known as Intercultura in Italy. I lived as part of an Italian family in Ostia Lido outside of Rome and attended a year of Liceo Scientifico. I was completely immersed in the Italian culture and language for 10 months. We are still in constant touch with my Italian family and I had the opportunity 8 years ago of introducing my wife and sons to all the family on a holiday to Italy. Since then we have had numerous holidays to Italy and my love for the country, its people and culture is shared equally by my family.
As a business, what opportunities and challenges do you face? (especially in the current economic climate?)
Our biggest challenge as a new business is marketing and presenting our company, services and concept to potential clients. This can become very expensive with no guarantee of ROI (Return on Investment).
Our concept is also quite different to the majority of English learning methods used in the UK, e.g. formal English schools and lessons, and it takes time for people to understand what we offer and how it is beneficial to their English learning journey.
The current economic climate is also a stumbling block to a business model such as ours as people and companies still understand the importance of learning English as a foreign language but are looking at ways to cut their costs. However, one of the reasons we structured our courses as they are, is so that people wanting a fully immersive experience can get value for their money by not only having a full day of lessons and activities but also an all-inclusive holiday as well at very competitive rates.
What motivates you as entrepreneurs? Why did you choose the language education sector?
Dean: Anybody that is making money from a consumer whether it be private or corporate, should be striving to offer the best service, product and experience if they hope to be or continue to be a success.
Working for yourself enables you to be fully responsible for the success or failure of your business. Your personal effort will relate to your personal gain. I have always wanted to start my own business and particularly with my wife as we have different strengths and talents that we believe complement each other.
Being self-employed, especially, and establishing a business and concept from scratch, takes a lot of courage and faith. I have always given 100% to the roles I have previously held and felt that if I did the same for my own business, I would make a success of it. It also eventually gives you the opportunity of finding a good work/life balance.
I have been fortunate as I have worked as a teacher and also in the private sector in sales and marketing management. EduVacation gives me the opportunity to use my skills and experience in both fields for my own company. Working internationally and for multi-national companies and clients, I continually saw the necessity of learning English amongst my colleagues and clients and the idea for EduVacation was born from this experience.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs and startups?
Dean: Many people say that you should not give up your job to start your own business but do it as a sideline until you are established. This is good advice but not always practical. I tried but realised that if I wanted to make a success of EduVacation, I had to give it 100% of my time and effort.
My advice to entrepreneurs would be the following:
- Research your sector well, both locally and internationally.
- Try not to jeopardise your family and their well being by taking a huge risk with your assets – we are still experiencing a very unstable economic climate.
- Take a calculated risk.
- Believe completely in your business and concept.
- Put in 100% effort into making it a success.
- Don’t be proud – use contacts.
- There are so many cost effective ways of building your business from website building to social networking sites.
- Use all the negative experiences in your working life as learning opportunities for your own business.
- Use any available time that you now have to pursue other opportunities that you have never had time for e.g. designing a product, writing a book or course, consulting, charity work, etc.
Dean: 9 years ago, I was working as the International Sales and Marketing Manager for a company in Cape Town. I applied as a contestant on a reality television programme on South African national TV. The programme, the Sanlam Money Game, was to promote entrepreneurship and was sponsored by one of South Africa’s leading financial services groups. [Editor's note: The global Sanlam group includes Sanlam UK, a wealth management fund.]
The competitors were subjected to a comprehensive and rigorous selection process and assessed on everything from confidence, intellect, enthusiasm, ambition and the ability to express themselves. The focus was on outstanding entrepreneurship and thinking as far outside the box as possible.
Contestants were given an amount of money, dropped off somewhere in the country they were unfamiliar with, given three days to survive and make as much money as possible with their starting capital with a cameraman and monitor following them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Each week 3 contestants competed against each other – with the winner taking all. There were very strict rules including not dealing with any known contacts and certain trading challenges included.
I won my week and was in the top 3 money makers when the season ended resulting in a grand finale with the top three money makers competing against each other with double the starting capital and various extra challenges and rules. I ended up winning the final and being named the SMG Entrepreneur of the Year on national television and the prize being allowed to keep the profits made during trading. I believe that my success was due to excellent preparation, hard work, persistence, treating people with respect and keeping a sense of humour which are all traits I can carry over to EduVacation.
My only regret was that it was not in the UK or elsewhere as the hype at the time would have been a lot more lucrative I am sure!
NetworkMilan: Dean and Sue, we really appreciate you taking the time to tell us all about EduVacation and your experiences as language entreprenuers (and TV star, Dean!). Thank you. We would like to wish you all the best and hope that you enjoy continued success with EduVacation.
Interview by Robert Dennis
If you would like to discover more about the benefits of a full-immersion English language course – as well as a Cotswolds (or Cape Town) holiday you’ll always remember – then visit the EduVacation website: http://www.eduvacation.co.uk/
You can also contact Dean and Sue Erasmus at EduVacation by phone, email or skype:
Tel: +44 (0) 1451 822 307
Mobile: +44 (0) 7810 442 470