Mel Rogers – founder of Online Class
I used to drive the bus for the Charity that brought children from Mogilev Region of Belarus to Monmouthshire, Wales but driving a bus was not my profession.
All of my adult life has been associated with business. Initially I worked for the Caterpillar Tractor Co and then a German company O&K involved with selling and marketing heavy earthmoving machinery for road building, quarrying, and open-cast mining projects. I was lucky to visit many countries including Ghana, Switzerland, Germany, the USA, Ireland and France in a commercial environment.
At about 35 I thought it was time to start my own business and since I have initiated two companies – both associated with civil engineering and construction.
So, on to Belarus, and Online Class.
Investing in a new business is a risk, in whichever country you are located – it is no different in Belarus.
The product has to be valuable to an audience and there needs to be a market for the product.
I am not a teacher, but I know that a good teacher can be the difference between enjoying a lesson and hating a subject.
I hated History lessons with a passion!
I went to a Grammar School (like a Gymnasium) and our history teacher was Mr. Hutchings the Head of the Department – undoubtedly he was the most qualified of the department, but I (and others) did not enjoy his lessons. About six months before an important examination Mr. Hutchings fell and injured his back. We were all devastated (please understand British sarcasm). He was not due back in school before our exams.
In the UK there are ‘Supply Teachers’ who are not allocated to a school yet, but are available to do short term contracts – enter Mr. Maurice Braithwaite!
Maurice Braithwaite was around 1.98m tall, 115kgs in weight a nose that had received some blows and marks to his face. Instantly, we all recognised that Maurice Braithwaite was not a teacher to play games with! If he said homework was to be on his desk by Monday at 9.00am, we recognised at 8.45am would be the latest!
But, and it is a big but! He had the wonderful skill of making history interesting, he explained why things happened, what was the result, who it affected and how it relates to the time we were in.
I learned that not all teachers were the same and that the diploma did not tell everything about them. I learned that great communication skills were very important, a personality to relate to students and an enthusiasm for the subject were infectious – history became one of my favourite subjects. Thank you Maurice Braithwaite!
What has that got to do with Online Class?
I am the investor in the company; I have invested around $45,000 (maybe more) in cash and many hours of time.
Going back to reasons to invest:
1st There needs to be a market! Whether you like it or not, English is a Global language and used extensively in commerce, for travel, watching movies and for general communication. My observations were that companies and individuals recognised that being able to communicate in English was a big advantage.
2nd Within a market, if you have a ‘unique selling proposition’ then you can offer something different that enables your clients to have an advantage.
During her frequent visits to the UK, Ira (my wife) took the trouble to visit schools, see how education was taught in the UK, learn an alternative approach to learning and most of all observe the reaction of the students – it had a change in her approach to teaching. Making the students part of the learning instead of ‘repeat after me and remember’ improved results and improved students” enjoyment!
For Maurice Braithwaite now see Irina Rogers – a teacher with great communication skills, infectious personality and endless enthusiasm.
Online Class is a mirror image of the teaching philosophy of Irina!
The two components are together – a market eager to improve and a brand of teaching that delivers what the client really needs.
My judgment was that Online Class, and most importantly, my wife was a business risk worth taking.
We do not look to the biggest provider of English lessons in the Russian speaking countries! The biggest is frequently not the best.
Our target is to be the best provider of English lessons and give our clients a great customer experience that they will enjoy.
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