Colchester Language Academy – A Colbea Success Story

Lorena Zambrano started Colchester Language Academy in 2013. In 2017 she was named ‘Tenant of the Year’ in the Colbea Business Awards. We spoke to Lorena about her experience starting a business.

What is your business story?

I started Colchester Language Academy in September 2013 after working in academia at the University of Essex for almost 10 years. I was already teaching Spanish to children and I noticed there was a gap in the market, as there weren’t any schools in Colchester offering languages tuition. So I started offering, not only Spanish, but also English lessons and later on other languages such as French, Italian and now even Turkish. The language teaching business depends a lot on demand and, despite a low level of awareness of the importance of language learning, Colchester Language Academy is growing.

I needed a location to use as classroom, and a friend mentioned COLBEA. So, I came and met Valerie (Colbea’s Tenant Services Manager) who was super helpful and friendly, and I moved in to unit 16 to run the school from here. I have been very lucky, not only for the central location we are in, but also for nice building, the supportive Business Advisors like James Cracknell and Trevor Edwards and, more importantly, for the reception staff – Jane, Fee and Liz – who are the key to this building being a great place, and a fantastic working environment for both small and big businesses.

When I say that Colchester Language Academy is growing, I mean growing. We have expanded in the languages services sector by offering translations, interpreting and transcription work for both academia and businesses. Last year we had the opportunity to manage a big transcription project were we transcribed over 400 audio interviews in Spanish, English, French, Italian and Arabic. This was very challenging but at the same time very rewarding. We employed about 20 people, both freelancers and on contract, nationally and internationally to work on this project.

We also have been selected by prestigious educational institutions, again nationally and internationally, to receive students for internships and to learn in our academy in the areas of language teaching and translations; to mention just a few, UNIBA (University of Barcelona) and University of Oulu (one of Finland’s largest universities). We are also accredited by The Children’s University.

How did you first hear of Colbea?
A friend recommended it to me (she was attending the ‘Small Steps, Big Changes’ course for female entrepreneur – the forerunner to ‘In the Market for Success’). She mentioned the offices spaces and the business support, training courses and networking meetings COLBEA offered. I didn’t think twice about finding more.
When and how did you first use Colbea?
I was just looking for an office space, but since I learn about the other services; first, I became a tenant and then took advantage of the business advice initially talking to James and then to Trevor. I have not other way to describe their support but as highly valuable for my business.
Which Colbea have been most useful?
Business Advice, the best for me.
Did you have any previous experience in running a business before you started Colchester Language Academy?
I used to run a different type of business back in my country offering promotional material to local businesses. Although that experience helped me, managing a business in England is completely different. It is not just about selling and customer services, it is all that is behind it; paper work, admin, accounts, payroll, regulations, legal framework and, of course, marketing.
What is the best thing about starting a business?
For me independence is priceless, I may earn less money now than when I was an employee but I don’t regret it at all. I’m in control of my time and my earnings, I don’t work Fridays as it’s the day I spend with my children. That is something you can do if you work for yourself. My business offers me the freedom to be with my family whenever I want.
What advice would you give to a new entrepreneur starting a business?
First of all, don’t be afraid, go for it. Sometimes we get scared to start a business for the risk of not having a decent monthly income; it may be challenging, but all in life is, at the end we achieve what we want if we work hard.  For sure, and based on my own experience, starting a business offers a priceless opportunity to earn the amount of money you want working less hours.
'Has Business Advice helped you grow your business?'
A lot! Most recently Trevor has been helping me on an expansion plan.”
What’s the biggest sacrifice you have made for your business?

There have been quite a few sacrifices, but who doesn’t make sacrifices when work for themselves?

It breaks my heart coming home in the evenings when my children are already asleep. I became pregnant just few months after starting Colchester Language Academy, so my biggest sacrifice has been bringing my children to work with me. I could not take any maternity leave; on the contrary I had no choice but to bring my son to work and even teach while he was sleeping on top of the table, so I could keep an eye on him. He was such a good, well-behaved boy that he became the youngest employee of the school through the love of all students and colleagues.

What are your future plans for the business?
We are planning to start offering language sessions for younger children; at the present we receive students only from the age of five, so hopefully in the future we will be able to cover all ages.
Will you continue to use business support moving forwards?
I will undoubtedly.