Bee Bilingual: Building a Startup with a Liquid Workforce
Founder Elizabeth Black of Bee Bilingual shares her advice for starting a business and how the liquid workforce has helped her company grow.
Co-Founder Elizabeth Black explains that “Bee Bilingual is an online language learning service that provides an engaging, effective solution to the lack of K-5 world language programming in U.S. schools.” The company connects native-speaking Spanish teachers directly with students via an online video conferencing platform. All levels of Bee Bilingual’s elementary Spanish curriculum align with the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) proficiency guidelines.
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Solving the Gap in Learning Resources
Black was inspired to start Bee Bilingual during her time working in the Washington, D.C. public school system as a Spanish teacher. “I noticed that there was a gap between my students’ eagerness to learn and the school’s limited resources for language instruction,” says Black. She and her brother created Bee Bilingual to help close this gap.
From Idea to Startup
Black works full-time as a program manager at a D.C. non-profit, working with online learning and digital initiatives. During the evenings and weekends, Black runs and works on improving Bee Bilingual. Black says, “For me, increasing access to early language learning has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my work, so it’s worth the time on top of my full-time job to make this happen.”
In 2019, 100+ students in four public schools participated in Bee Bilingual. In a testament to the impact of Bee Bilingual, the company has a 90% term over term program renewal and won a 4.0 Schools Tiny Fellowship.
Black notes that the one thing she wished she had known when she started Bee Bilingual is “how important it is to brand your program/service consistently from the very beginning. Also, entrepreneurship is a tough but worthwhile endeavor!”
Building a Startup with a Liquid Workforce
Before starting to hire liquid workers, Black had some hesitations as she wasn’t sure how to screen and hire reliable online language teachers who fit Bee Bilingual’s high standards. To tackle this issue, Black developed a hiring and training process for new part-time and freelance team members. Black advises that this is an essential step for all startups to take before activating the liquid workforce. She also recommends that “if you’re working with a global workforce, establish contact using applications that your freelance team is already comfortable using, like WhatsApp.”
Black now relies on Bee Bilingual’s liquid workforce to grow and scale the company. “It’s helped us run a lean startup with talented teachers from all over the Spanish-speaking world while passing along savings to the schools we work with,” Black notes.
Balancing Education, Business, and Life
Black relies on many resources for business advice to help her grow Bee Bilingual. Her favorite blogs are The eLearning Coach, Echoing Green, and LearnLaunch. Black also listens to several podcasts, especially “The Pitch.”
She notes that if a biography is written, the title would be “Nevertheless, She Persisted.” Black hopes that by the end of her career, people will toast to her “commitment to educational equity on a domestic and global scale, valuing her friends and family, and how she approached every day with curiosity and an appreciation for the simple things that make everyday life special.”
Black describes her perfect day as one where “I hop on a plane and travel to a surprise destination with family and friends, all expenses paid!”
Category: Spotlights Founder Stories
Updated: May 19, 2020
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