Meet serial entrepreneur Emma, who felt compelled to start her own kids language business after having her first child. Emma took the huge step of starting ‘bambini lingo – The Multilingual Kids Club’ which she has now franchised so other mums can start their own business too!
Here’s Emma’s story…
My name is Emma Boardman Magliocchetti, I’m 42 and married with 1 son Luca, who’s 4 years old.
I originate from Poole, Dorset, where I spent the majority of my childhood training hard in competitive gymnastics. I also did a bit of dancing on the side, and it was my love of performing that led me to gaining a place at a professional dance college in London.
My career as a performer was incredibly varied, from dancing on Top of The Pops, appearing in a movie with Jean Claude Van Damme, acting on several TV commercials, featuring in lots of pop videos and even being chosen to be a member of a German Pop Group during the Nineties!
Working commercially as a performer is never guaranteed or as regular as having a full time job, as all contracts are either daily or temporary. To provide myself with a reliable income I worked the weekends at a couple of nightclubs in London, I was elected to be the entertainment manager at one of the clubs I danced at and it was my flair for organising, producing, styling and creating the entertainment that led me to retiring from my life as a performer and setting up my first company in 2002.
My entertainment agency and event production company grew beyond everyone’s expectations to becoming one of the most awarded and respected companies within the events industry. My rapid and vast growth was also to become my downside, as I was completely wiped out by the 2008 recession. My fixed costs and staff payroll were not lean enough to survive.
During the time of the closure of my first business I felt like the biggest failure in the world! People who I’d thought were on my side completely turned their backs and it felt like a very lonely time. It was during this period that my now husband stepped in and proposed to me – I was astonished why anyone would want to marry a loser, but happily accepted and let him look after and support me, something I’d never had anyone do before.
During this time I launched a few small brands and ideas, but nothing major as I was scared to deal with large sums off money and turned away lots of business opportunities.
I then got married and relaxed more than I’d ever done in my life. When Nick suggested we try for a baby my response was, “why not!”
I wasn’t desperate for a child but thought it might be a nice thing to do…
I got pregnant straight away and then drifted through the pregnancy in a slightly vomity, but chilled bubble. I had a few ongoing event clients that had never left my side and during my mid-trimester I started receiving some exciting event proposals. I felt like I could’ve run the country during this stage of my pregnancy, there was an impelling sense of urgency about everything as I knew at some point soon our lives as we knew them were going to be completely different.
I wasn’t sure of the best way to deal with the large event enquiries I was receiving so, I enlisted the help of a couple of my favourite girlfriends from the industry. We created The Lovely Party Company and through this brand, agreed to work on some of the events that were pouring in.
We had a fantastic few months and my ever growing bump was quite a sight squeezed into a sparkly evening dress, whilst I rolled around being bossy at lovely places such as The Savoy and The Mayfair Hotel! (I honestly thought I was putting the guests off their dinner!)
With the baby due in February I started to feel a lot more lethargic and less inclined to be working at all.
Luca was born on February 18th 2012 , not at home in the water pool with our private midwife as planned, but by emergency C section in The Royal Surrey Hospital, with our lovely midwife cheering us on!
I disappointed my business partners in the party company, by announcing to them that I didn’t want to work in events anymore, I sold my shares and let them continue without me, it felt as though a new woman had been born, as well as just a baby.
Being a new mum was an eye opening experience as I hadn’t had very much experience with babies before.
I couldn’t get my head around the fact that everywhere I went, he had to come too.
The new baby days seemed endless and I was envious of my husband who trotted off to work, with a seemingly unchanged life.
I navigated my way through the first 6 months, but started becoming quite an ungrateful housewife, I felt as though I was having a serious identity crisis and needed something to change, fast.
We decided that getting a live-in nanny would give me the flexibility to spend as much time as I needed with Luca and also would give me some much needed time to myself.
Share a bit more about your business and how you first came up with the idea.
I started bambini lingo when Luca was 6 months old. We had just taken on a live-in nanny as I was finding 24/7 childcare a bit tedious. The nanny was Italian as this is my husbands dual nationality and I wanted Luca to be as natural as daddy with languages, unlike me! I’d done the rounds of all the mummy/baby activity classes in the area and didn’t feel very compelled to join any of them.
The first weekend the nanny was on duty I went for a lovely uninterrupted daytime nap and had the most vivid dream about an amazing language learning brand for children called bambini lingo The Multilingual Kids Club. I woke up feeling more alive than I had in months and went straight onto 123-Reg and bought the domains for the brand. I then set up the social media pages and messaged my NCT friends to say we were starting baby Italian classes if they’d like too come along for a trial session next week.
I coaxed our nanny into teaching the classes, she wasn’t very keen, but I waved some money at her and she agreed.
The first class we ran from my living room was a disaster, I had written the class content myself and it only lasted 10 minutes – I offered the mums a glass of prosecco to pass the time.
I knew that I needed more content, substance and expertise to make this idea work, as just enthusiasm and an Italian nanny wasn’t enough. I contacted a very dear girlfriend who happens to be an expert linguist, I told her my idea and offered her 50% of the business if she could write the schemes of work and learning content. Simone was delighted to come on board and within 4 weeks she’d produced the first 6 months of material. Together we worked on the songs and unique creative content for the brand. With Simone on board, we translated the programme into French and German and then added Mandarin and Spanish to the timetable.
With a fully comprehensive programme we were now fully in business. The initial classes were all run from my home, which created a wonderfully comfortable and controlled environment. I recruited the teachers for the other languages and within a few months we had requests to run classes at children’s centres and play cafes across Surrey.
Fast forward to 2014, Luca is now 2 and he has a place at a very exciting school in Surrey. The only thing we weren’t sure about was spending the next 16 years living in a place we’d only moved to because I was pregnant. We wanted another level of excitement to our lives and both decided that Mallorca would be fun to try out for a year or 2.
We moved to Mallorca in July 2014, I continued to run bambini lingo remotely for a year but found it logistically challenging to run from overseas and considered selling or closing it down.
The demand for classes didn’t get any less but I still made a decision to stop the classes as it was not financially viable with all the extra help I had to pay to keep it going, we kept only the tutoring contracts and nursery contracts running. Without the demand of the classes to run I focused on finding a buyer for the brand. We did find one, but she failed to complete the sale agreement on time, instead of losing her completely we decided to offer her a franchise instead. We explained there would be a time lapse while we got our legal franchise package sorted but would start the ball rolling.
Then, out of the blue, we received an offer of investment from a lovely lady in Surrey who was very excited by the brand and it’s potential and wanted too become a silent investor and shareholder.
With the new investment in place we were able to complete the franchise package and bring our franchise business to life.
It really is amazing how quickly the ball can get rolling as we picked up our first two franchisees within two weeks of each other.
Today we have 6 franchisees with several more gearing up to get on board.
What have been the best and worst things that have happened since you’ve been in business?
The best thing about me being in business as a married mum is that its removed the resentment I had towards my husband who continued to breeze about his life as normal once Luca was born.
I love having some financial independence as I found it very difficult having to always ask my husband for money for absolutely everything. The first successful business I owned was when I was young and single with zero family commitments, I selfishly worked 24/7, fully focused without anyone disturbing me.
I find it hard to reach the same levels of focus I had back then and feel as though I need to develop discipline of steel to overcome the ongoing family distractions.
If you could go back in time, would you change anything?
I would have launched the company with the newly created “Tic-Toc the Travel Clock’ as the main mascot character, instead of having random duck and bird puppets for the first couple of years of classes that didn’t actually have anything in common with the key bambini lingo concept! DUH
How do you fit in running your business with your family?
I have to do my work in blocks of time and take advantage of any moments I can grab. Luca is in school every day here and my husband commutes to and from Mallorca for business, this gives me priceless me time to focus on my company. During holidays we send Luca to various summer schools around the area, he is 4 and prefers being with children of his own age. There is an abundance of families here with similar age children who also run their own businesses so we often borrow each others children for play dates and vice versa.
What 3 words would you use to describe your ‘business self’?
Energised, Fulfilled, Inspired
What 3 business tips would you pass onto other mums who are running a business?
1. Support each other – when I first went into business in my 20s it felt very cut-throat and competitive with not many people around I could trust – however there is now an abundance of women in business networks and support sites that can give you access to wonderful platforms to network and showcase your business.
2. Be flexible – Don’t think you can work the same way as before children, it’s not going to happen, you get used to the habit of turning your business head on and off like a light switch!
3. Congratulate yourself – you have the best of both worlds and its a wonderfully rewarding place to be.