Case Studies

French language business expands services after funding through Digital Skills

After accessing a grant through DigitalBoost, Scottish Government’s leading digital skills programme, Sandra Kasparek, owner of La Jolie Ronde, was able to invest in new IT equipment and expand her offering to clients.

15th February 2021

During the pandemic, many businesses have looked for ways to improve and invest in their digital capabilities. One of these is La Jolie Ronde, based in Livingston. Owner, Sandra Kasparek, used the grant to purchase a new computer to significantly improve her classes and her pupils’ digital learning experience.

Who you are – an overview of your business?

I teach French to children and have been running my business for around 11 years now, working locally in Livingston and sometimes Falkirk.

My programme is tailored to all age groups, and my pupils range from the age of 2 up to 16 years old. I also offer ongoing classes after my pupils leave school so they can continue their French. I keep busy, running French classes every day of the week except Fridays.

Why did you apply for a DigitalBoost grant?

Business Gateway has been great since the beginning of my business journey. My adviser, Laura, always checks in and I have particularly appreciated that this year, given the challenges because of COVID-19. She ensures I am up to date with new guidance and ensures I’m aware of any potential funding opportunities, which is how I found out about the DigitalBoost grant. I was looking for something that would let me invest in my online capabilities, promote my services online and grow my business.

How was your business impacted by COVID-19?

Before COVID-19, I would teach from the nursery, primary or secondary school. However, when lockdown started, I quickly had to adapt to continue teaching as the country was required to stay at home. Prior to this, I had not taught virtually, but after one of my colleagues introduced me to Zoom, I started using it to continue working. While teaching online is not the same to teaching face to face, the children have been phenomenal and we all successfully adapted.

However, it has been time consuming adapting to the new and difficult circumstances of the past year while also running a business. My business adviser, Laura, has been incredibly helpful with supporting me and feeding me relevant information. I owe her a huge thanks.

What will you do with the funding?

Since lockdown, I was initially using an old laptop which has brought several challenges. My old laptop had poor camera quality and was incredibly slow. With the funding, I was able to purchase a fantastic new computer, with a 32-inch screen, an additional wide angle camera and a more efficient keyboard.

I was made aware of the DigitalBoost grant by my Business Gateway adviser. The grant enabled me to purchase a new computer, which has significantly improved my services and my pupils’ digital learning experience. It has also made it easier to host classes, complete admin tasks, work on my digital marketing strategy and create content for my social channels.

What impact will the grant have on your business?

With my new laptop, the pupils can see me better and more importantly; I have much faster internet speed. This makes it easier to host classes, complete admin tasks, work on my digital marketing strategy and create content on my Facebook page. I also no longer suffer shoulder pain from leaning over a laptop as the computer is the right height for effective working.

The grant has significantly improved my pupils digital learning experience as I have been able to rely on my equipment and ensure I can consistently deliver a high-quality service. I have been able to expand my digital marketing efforts, and have subsequently grown, attracting more customers, with enquiries from potential pupils in the USA and India. The DigitalBoost grant has also helped my mental health as I feel much more positive about the future of my business.

What are you planning to do business wise over the next 6 months?

I run a second business called Language for Fun, where I provide French classes to adults. Although the grant was allocated to La Jolie Ronde, my second business will benefit because I use the same equipment.

We recently created a virtual learning environment for Language for Fun and this has meant I can now expand my offering for adults. I anticipate this will be a focus over the next six months, as I feel that La Jolie Ronde is in a strong position, in part thanks to the grant.

Any reflections? What can others learn? What would you recommend others do based on your experience?

I want to give a sincere thank you to the parents that have supported me over the past year and continued to send their pupils for French classes, despite the new teaching conditions. They have helped ensure the survival of my business.

I would encourage other businesses to reach out to support services like Business Gateway. You can only be aware of so much as a sole business owner, and Business Gateway and their team have been fantastic at ensuring I know about the range of support available. Being a self-employed business owner does not mean you need to work alone and I am confident my Business Gateway adviser, Laura, will always be part of my team.

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