Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Marlena Jorn and I am the founder of Marlena Jorn Tutors. I offer private, one-on-one German lessons to both children and adults. I currently have a website and a Facebook page. I teach my lessons through Zoom and PowerPoint, and after every lesson, I provide the student with the PowerPoint with my voice attached to it so they can practice the vocabulary/grammar between lessons.
I currently have three students, and I am currently working on building rapport and a solid clientele. Throughout my own education, I have seen a decline in the availability of the German language. I aim to reverse that and make German available to anyone interested.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I have been learning German since I was twelve in 2007. I first went to German-speaking countries two years later, and after stepping off the plane back home in Chicago, I knew that I wanted to devote my life to it. After college, I worked exhausting service jobs. In March, I finally leapt off the edge and applied to teach German on Outschool. I was accepted, and I have been teaching there since with a 4.7/5 rating!
There will be many discouraging moments, many "No"'s. This is completely normal and part of the journey for many entrepreneurs, including myself. Keep pushing yourself, and you will get through the tough times!
With six months of teaching under my belt, I finally felt that it was time to branch out to something of my own. I contacted some people who I knew were interested in learning German, and we began private Zoom lessons. I created my website this October, and Marlena Jorn Tutors was born. I knew this was the right time after being contacted by a family asking me to teach three of them privately. I saw that as my opportunity to finally take that leap.
I feel that I am experienced enough to run my business because I have been teaching for six months with overwhelmingly positive feedback from both students and parents. This feedback gave me the confidence that I needed to feel that I can do it on my own. My current students are all extremely pleased with our lessons, and their German has all improved dramatically. This has also improved my confidence in my teaching and my faith in my business.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
The closest that I have to design my product is by creating PowerPoints and games. I set multiple main topics and objectives for each lesson. I go through this each with my students before and after every topic. This helps both me and my students determine what they understand and what we need to review. As for my games, I make games such as We're Wird Millionär (Who Wants to Be a Millionaire) and Jeopardy on PowerPoint.
I also create fun games outside of PowerPoint, such as Bingo sheets for my group classes and matching games. Before presenting my PowerPoints and playing my games with real students, I run them by my close friends and family to give feedback on whether or not the activities are engaging and fun enough for my students. Cost-wise, I purchased a domain and webpage, and I am currently working on research for legal details.
Describe the process of launching the business.
My total launch lasted for about two weeks. I spent the first week talking with my students, discussing payments. I also took them all through the first round of lessons to gauge their thoughts and to gauge their interest in retaining me as an instructor. Every lesson went well, and the work on my website began.
I spent the next week working on my website. I spent several hours each day adding and revising. Before publishing my website, I sent the draft to several acquaintances, including people who worked in the advertisement, fellow teachers, and those who have owned small businesses before.
I do currently have a GoFundMe running to cover some expenses including better equipment and anything regarding legality. It currently does not have any donations, but I am hoping it gets me somewhere. What I learned from the process of beginning my journey is that it is so much work, but it feels so worth every positive review and seeing my end-products like my website and Facebook page.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
I am currently working on Facebook ads, but I have not launched any yet. I am in contact with someone who has previously done advertising, as well as a friend who is a professional in the advertising field. They are giving me advice on what to do and how to go about everything.
This is the first free ad that I posted. I made it for free using a helpful website called Canva. This website has templates for all sorts of advertising/marketing materials. I really like using this and I have created an ad and an infographic on why people should learn German (both seen below). For additional word-of-mouth advertising, I also ask my students to spread the word about my services.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today, I am still working on gaining profits and advertising. So far, I am making a fair amount through my lessons, and I should break even shortly. I have yet to launch my first round of ads, so I am currently unsure of ad revenue. My website has gotten around 200 clicks, so for me, that is extremely successful. My Facebook page that I started a few nights ago has 6 likes. I am very new to the business-owning industry and inexperienced, so I am still overwhelmed by each click/follow.
So far, word of mouth has been my most successful method of advertisement. All of my students are connected through each other, so that has been what has worked for me. To further the spread of my business, I plan to make business cards and flyers to put up in businesses with community boards.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
One thing that absolutely took me by surprise, and it may sound dumb now, is how much effort goes into putting everything together. I was not expecting to spend a week working to finalize the first draft of my website (although that may just be a reflection of my web page design skills… I’m more of a Picasso than a Monet).
I also learned what a large community there is online for people like myself. Within the first day of setting everything up, I found several Facebook pages for people with small businesses, people just starting, and even women with small businesses. Those pages have really helped me with networking, offering advice from more experienced business owners, and overall spread the word about my services.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
I currently use WordPress for my website. I like WordPress a lot because it allows me the freedom to design my website how I like it. Also, the prices are pretty fair. I was able to stay within budget and have some money left over for other areas that I needed to focus on.
For my actual classes, I use Zoom. I like Zoom because my students prefer to have their classes recorded, which I absolutely love too. That way, neither of us are scrambling to remember important things that were said throughout the lessons. I always make sure to send my students the Zoom recordings as well, which helps them retain what we have learned throughout the weeks.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I am an avid fan of The Try Guys on YouTube, and one of their members, Zach Kornfeld, recently started his own business. He took his fans through the entire journey of starting a business, all the good and bad. Watching his final video about the process, where he encouraged people like myself to just jump in was actually really inspiring. It was one of my big motivators for finally doing this.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
What I have learned is that it takes an insurmountable amount of patience and dedication to doing something like this. Make sure you have a solid support group that motivates and encourages you to keep going through every bump in the road. Try your service/product out with a control group of trusted individuals that can give you raw, honest feedback to better your business for the official launch.
If this is something that you are passionate about, don’t quit. There will be many discouraging moments, many no’s. This is completely normal and part of the journey for many entrepreneurs, including myself. Keep pushing yourself, and you will get through the tough times!
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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