Lorna Mitchell: How my independent language school startup is helping refugees

Lorna Mitchell set up The Language Studio in Wolverhampton at 24 after using her knowledge of the local area to find a gap in the market.


Laura Campbell of Startup Direct spoke to her about how her business is helping victims of the refugee crisis….

  • Hi there Lorna. Why did you decide to startup your business?

I didn’t have a job. I was on a short term contact at the University of Birmingham and needed employment. I decided to set up and run my own language school. We do classes in Spanish, Italian and French and English as a foreign language and translation services.

  • What size loan did you take out and how did you use this?

We took out £2500 over 5 years and we used this for the initial cash flow injection which funded tables and chairs and marketing purposes. This was really beneficial as it gave me the security that I needed during the first few months of my startup. It helped me to hit the ground running. It has also benefited the service I have been able to deliver to my customers.


  • What initial hurdles did your business come across when it first started up and how did you overcome these?

I didn’t understand the breadth of skills that I would have to have when I started up my business. I didn’t realise how much work is involved in advertising and marketing and how many people you have to know to get your product out there. Marketing requires a lot of work and networking is harder than I thought.

I overcame these hurdles by asking for support and being persistent. I used lots of social media, Google Ads, adverts in local press and networking events to get my language school known.

  • How has your business changed since you started up?

Initially my business was just going to be teaching English as a foreign language. Since starting I have added teaching French, Italian and Spanish to what I offer. There has been so many more pupils interested in this service and so it has raised the profile of the school to a wider audience. I also added translation services to what we offer. After a press release in the local paper Express and Star I was approached by lots of translators and interpreters and so this and word of mouth helped me to expand my business to cater for this audience.

  • Where did you do you see your business in 5 years

I would really like to open another school in another part of the West Midlands and continue to increase the numbers of pupils at my school.

One of the consequences of starting my business is that I have been able to help victims of the migrant crisis learn English, through working with the refugee and migrant centre in Wolverhampton (close to where the school is) on a voluntary basis. In the next five years I would like to expand this as well. I am sympathetic towards the crisis and am privileged that I can use my business to help them. This has probably been my favourite part of starting up the business.