Women in Business – Surviving the First Two Years: “Befriend women who inspire you.” – Interview with Marissa Blaszko

Interview with Marissa Blaszko, founder of Relearn A Language, on her experiences being a woman entrepreneur.

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Please tell us a bit about yourself, and describe your company.

I started my first company in events entertainment because it combined what I loved–art, working with other people, planning events, and marketing. But what I learned through that experience is that my biggest passion is learning, and the best thing on any job for me is having to overcome new and interesting challenges. And because of how seasonal event entertainment is up north, I spent my slow-season winters traveling, meeting new people, and learning new languages.

Because of my travels and love for learning, I’ve mastered 3 languages on top of English (Spanish, French, and Catalan), speak 2 languages conversationally (Portuguese, Polish), and am learning a 6th language (German) for fun in quarantine.

When covid shut our industry down, I was obviously terrified–but mostly thrilled that I would finally have a chance to try my hand at a second unrelated business. I never would have had the time to justify such a career change any other way.

I started Relearn A Language in April 2020 to help English speakers, like me, who had some language earlier in their life that they’ve totally forgotten how to use. Maybe it was a home heritage language, maybe it was something they learned in school, but no matter what–a language they have a complicated relationship with because of how hard it is to say the sentence “yeah, but I forgot how to speak it”.

I help potential language students find tutors, products, and methods that can help them succeed. I’m partially a workshop organizer, partially a networking professional, and partially just an educator and motivational speaker. Using social media it’s easier than ever to find hyper-niche markets if what you’re doing fills a real human need.

The goal of my programs is to make language learning less about the result (normally some nebulous “fluency”) and more about an enjoyable adventure full of music, TV, journaling, games, and hopefully some travel!

What has been the most challenging thing you have faced in the first two years of operating your business? How did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge has been overcoming social media algorithms. Anyone who has a business on Facebook or Instagram knows that they don’t want us to organically get the word out–but my business is run on human connections.

First, I concentrated my energy on making quality, engaging content. Every single thing I have to post has to be either really funny or really educational. Second, I started following people I genuinely wanted to know. I followed them on Instagram, YouTube, on their podcasts, anywhere, and interacted like a real human. This goes beyond just linking and commenting–I submitted questions, took their surveys, gave them compliments, and tagged them when I used their products. It was a lot of giving more than getting.

Finally, once I had a medium audience, I pushed myself entirely into collaborating. I’ve done Instagram lives, Reddit asks, YouTube channel cameos, podcast visits, conference workshops…. anything to help establish myself as an authority.

Please tell us what lead you to the path of entrepreneurship.

I first went into business when I was 23 because of how disappointed I was with bosses and leaders where I was working. I never wanted to own a business–I had gone to art school. But I loved to create great products and great design. It crushed me to watch upper management and owners give 70% effort because they knew they could, and not take me seriously because of my age. So I started up my first business when I was still a full-time employee as “just a weekend thing”.

Starting a second business was the same thing. I saw so many opportunities in the online education market, I couldn’t keep saying no. Building amazing projects is too enjoyable.

What are the three most important things every woman entrepreneur should do, when first thinking about starting a business?

1) Befriend women who inspire you. I never realized how surrounding myself with “employee mindset” friends had been holding me back until I started meeting other women who had my vision and drive. 2) Throw yourself into learning. Software, best practices, markets, and needs change every single day. If you don’t learn to love tech podcasts, marketing YouTube channels, and HR books you’ll be miles behind the competition before you blink. 3) Keep 10-year goals, then simplify those to 5-year goals. Then, break those down into 2-year goals. Finally, make sure your daily actions reflect those goals. It’s too easy to get lost in the details and forget where your business is supposed to be headed.

Are there actionable steps a woman in business should take to ensure that her company is successful in two years?

Treat everyone the way you want to be treated. It doesn’t matter if they’re a customer, client, podcast host, contractor, anyone. You don’t know what their spending power might be. You don’t know when they might put up a viral video. You don’t know when they have a new contract. Keep your relationships amazing so you can build a network that will help you get to where you want to be.

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