Bosnian2go – Knowledge of Bosnian language to go
Over the years, the team of Foundation 787 has had the opportunity to present to you a great number of amazing entrepreneurial stories of young women from Bosnia and Herzegovina. They have always been an inexhaustible source of inspiration for many entrepreneurs, but also for those who intend to become one. In this week’s 787 entrepreneurial story, it is our pleasure to present a successful young entrepreneur Azra Polimac-Bajrić, founder of Bosnian2go, Bosnian language school. We talked about the interesting path of the first language school specializing exclusively in teaching Bosnian as a foreign language.
Azra shared with us how everything started and which was her main motivation to set this school in motion.
The Bosnian2go entrepreneurial story began in 2016, but the idea itself had come ten years earlier. I have always known that one day I want to have my Bosnian language school for foreigners. Although the founding of the school was delayed, I was happy because, in the meantime, I was able to gain experience and form a specific client base. That is ideal thing to do prior to starting your business, since it alleviates the financial aspect, and your business beginnings are not in that so-called “minus”. My main motivation was primarily love for my language and the desire to help foreigners living in B&H to feel better through learning our language. One of the main reasons for such thinking is that I lived in Spain as a child during the war, and one of the first things we did there was taking the language classes. This really helped us start living a somewhat normal life in those areas and conditions. It’s always nice being able to introduce your language and culture in the best light to people coming here. We do not only teach them the language, but we also try being at their service and showing our hospitality, which people speak of so often.
What does Bosnian2go offer and who makes the B2g team?
I am extremely happy and proud of the fact that the Bosnian2go team is made exclusively of women. We collocate the individual and group lessons, as well as Skype classes. I’m exceptionally happy to see that all women work the same way in our team. We all enjoy this job, because the only way to do the job in the right way is to really love it. What we get in return is invaluable and those are friendships we make with our students. We remain in contact with them for years after they leave our country, and we often visit each other. We are the only school in B&H that specializes in teaching Bosnian as a foreign language. That does not mean that we are the only ones doing such a thing, but we are the only ones doing this exclusively. At our classes, we focus on conversation, not on a classical system of lectures, which involves a lot of grammar learning. What makes semesters of learning for our students even more interesting is introducing something that will give them an insight into our culture and our way of thinking and living. Recently, our students had the opportunity to learn to make and drink in the right way a proper Bosnian coffee. Also, we talked about what are the customs when someone gets invited to a Bosnian-Herzegovinian wedding. These are all things that no one knows when they come to another country, and it is always nice to show respect and interest in customs and culture of the country you’re now living in.
Our courses are all symbolically called “I just want 2…” and this is recognizable in the very name “Bosnian2go”. I have to say that this time we have a record number of students attending these classes. In addition to standard courses, we also have two additional courses called “I just want 2 sing” and “I just want 2 drama”. Through these courses we teach them Bosnian language through music, so when they go out with locals, they can pleasantly surprise them by singing lyrics in our language. Also, we want to present our Pop-rock scene and show them how regionally important B&H has been in the context of music from the 70s and 80s. In the “I just want 2 drama” courses, instead of composing sentences themselves, they are given some from movies and TV commercials in advance. They easily remember them without even being aware of it.
Also, I’d like to add that I’m really proud of our Bosnian2go flash cards. They include a combination of English and Bosnian, and serve even better and more effective learning. We created different card sets, some contain only phrases, some are grammatical, some contain verbs, nouns, etc. What is interesting about them is that they had come before the company was founded. Bosnian2go got its name thanks to these cards, because we designed and put a logo for Bosnian2go on them. The idea that you can “take” a language everywhere with you was our main inspiration. Due to that turn of events, our name and design were already easy to recognize by a few students even at the very beginning of the school.
What do you consider to be key factors for success in the entrepreneurial world?
Absolutely devoting yourself to what you are doing and believing in it, even in the moments when nothing seems to work. Also, finding new solutions that can only be a different way of presenting your ideas, which we tend to practice frequently in order to be competitive in the market. The most important thing is the support of people around you, and this support is the result of your persuasion of those people that what you’re doing has potentials. When one does what he really loves, there are very few chances that he will fail. When you start your own business, a 24-hour dedication to it starts as well; responding to emails right away and even if they’re coming in late night hours, because if you do not respond right away, someone else will. You end up losing a client, perhaps even two, since you’re also losing their potential recommendation, if they’re satisfied with your service, of course.
How do you reach your clients?
The most important thing in this business is so-called “word of mouth” marketing. We’re working with foreigners, and no matter how open-minded they are, they quite often seek information from their colleagues first, even before googling it, and they rely on opinion of people in their closed circles. In addition to that, I find social networks a very important tool in today’s business. They are a great mitigating circumstance and an efficient way to reach out to people. Thanks to them, besides announcing our new courses, we are able to show how they actually look in practice.
What are your impressions from the Women Entrepreneurs Bootcamp, in whose implementation Foundation 787 was involved, and where you won the third place for your business pitch?
Unfortunately, I came late to the boot camp and I wasn’t able to understand what exactly I am asked to do, since I wasn’t there from the beginning. Then again, even in such circumstances, I was overjoyed with the third place. I think the most important thing one can take from any similar event is networking and getting advice from someone who has already gone through what a young entrepreneur is about to encounter. Those entrepreneurial stories deliver a lot of content that can be applied to each business, and for this reason I believe that these events are very important. However, I think that Sarajevo and B&H, unfortunately, don’t offer as many similar events as they should. We have to constantly emphasize entrepreneurship and provide more space for successful stories to be heard.
Azra shared with us that she never doubted in her decision about opening her language school, and with the unselfish and constant support of her husband, sisters and parents, she successfully mastered all the challenges, even at the beginning, when the Bosnian2go story seemed as a completely “crazy” idea.
“I somehow believed that everybody who came to a foreign country needed to learn fifteen basic things, so we’ll be there to teach them those things. Since then, there are more and more foreigners, Sarajevo is the capital city of a country with a very specific political structure, so I think that this business is steadily growing.”
What is your advice for young people who want to start their own business?
Go for it! First, it is important to have an idea and to do your market research, before you even begin with the implementation of the project. Then, it is important that young entrepreneurs do what they love and what they know they can do. I think it takes a lot of years of experience to make the business a successful one. In essence, there aren’t many reasons to hesitate about opening your business, especially for people who think they have no other option, but they have to be fully prepared to dedicate 24 hours to their business.
What are the future plans of the dynamic Bosnian2go team?
We like to take things slow, but surely. That’s how we started and it turned out to be a good practice. I think that is very important that one does not bite more than he can chew. For now, our goal will not be business expansion, because I think that someone really needs to be the best in what they’re doing and that’s quite enough. But, we will work on expanding our business in terms of larger number of clients and providing bigger space for them, as well as expanding our team. However, the most important thing at the moment is that our existing team is satisfied and happy at their workplace.
One of the projects that we have been planning to launch for a long time is teaching Bosnian language to our children living abroad. Those children are the ones whose parents left during the war or they are younger generations of children born abroad who have had the opportunity to listen to the language at home but never formally learn it. We have a great desire to organize language learning camps in countries around the world, to locate places where a lot of our people live and where interest and need for those camps is recognized. Now we have a lot of young people coming back to our country and wanting to renew their relationship with their language and their country. In addition to our love for what we do here, we also strive to promote our language and culture, as well as keep them from the oblivion of children outside the borders of our country.
We hope that Azra and her team will realize this great idea in no time! You can learn more about the courses and work of the Bosnian2go team at http://bosnian2go.com/