The idea for Zamenhof started brewing in 2008. I was living in Moscow, Russia at the time. A journalist friend of mine was taking English lessons with an American teacher during his lunch break. Unfortunately, he only had an hour to spare and thanks to Moscow’s infamous traffic congestion, his teacher was always late, which made things very inconvenient. My friend and the teacher compromised by agreeing to conduct the lessons over the phone rather than in-person. The convenience of this method worked in favor of both parties. In fact, it worked out so well that my friend proposed a partnership that would see us offering the same arrangement to other Russian students looking to learn English.
Things were so simple initially. We were able to find qualified teachers in the U.S. and attracted students in Russia. We hired a secretary to organize the lessons and brought more aboard as our enrollment increased.
While the response was positive, we faced two huge challenges:
1. Organizing one-to-one lessons was incredibly difficult. There were communication issues with timezones, problems with keeping schedule commitments, and constant requests to adjust schedules from both sides.
2. Students had high expectations. They wanted free evaluations or lessons before purchasing a lesson plan, teachers for different languages, a wide variety of relevant content, and the ability to reschedule their lessons.
At this point, we realized that scaling the businesses with our existing infrastructure was unrealistic. It just wouldn’t allow us to keep our prices reasonable and remain profitable in the process. We initially came up with the idea of 100 students per secretary, but had to find a way to provide the tools that would help them effectively manage the demand.
The concept that would become Zamenhof turned out to be the solution to our problems. By bolstering our IT team, we were able to deliver tools that catered to corporate clients and students alike. Schools have access to talented language professionals from regions all over the world. Students have a broad selection of content and flexibility that accommodates their personal needs.
So far, so good. Our clients are benefiting from a tailor-made solution that alleviates technical pressures and keeps the cost of their investment low, while allowing them to focus on what matters most – running their business!