Director of Accent Language School, Anna Lisa Detassis’ candid interview with host Jenny Kendall-Tobias at BBC Radio Guernsey on 18th July 2016.
Anna Lisa is one of many “Mumpreneurs” working on the Island, juggling family responsibilities with business commitments. So how does she do it? What spurs someone on to take up such a challenge? How does running a business fit in with family life?
Did you have a discussion with your family before buying the business?
I had a discussion with my husband about the process, what it involved and whether he was on board. You really do need your partner’s cooperation before you proceed with any venture.
What was your husband’s initial reaction of you wanting to buy a business?
He thought it was good for me, as we have both worked in multinational businesses and he also understood that it was time for me to get back to an interesting role.
Why do Mums want to continue with their career after having children?
Women often have to sacrifice their career for the family, but it can take its toll when women want to do more. You have to do what makes you happy, it is an individual decision.
Born into a traditional Italian family where the culture is for women to stay at home. However, Anna Lisa’s father started a successful business selling Access Security Control systems in the 1960’s that later became an International business.
What did you do before being married?
I moved to Germany working in advertising, before moving with a small team to Kazakhstan, where I stayed for four years.
I was the only English speaker so was delegated lots of responsibility and gained solid Management and Marketing skills.
Here the culture was vastly different but there was a large expat community.
Then we moved to USA where I completed an MBA to improve my qualifications.
Can you remember you first day at work?
Yes. When I took over Accent Language School there was a small team of 2 people but I knew them well, having been a Teacher at the School for some time.
I really started from Zero.
I had to do 2 things, take a step back and assess the overall business, while being completely hands on and finding the time juggling 3 small children.
Perhaps I could have had more help, but we came to Guernsey to spend more time with our children now aged 14, 12 and 9 years old. They are all at school now, but still have afternoon activities that I need to attend.
What would your advice be to Mums to people thinking of embarking on a business
Getting the balance right.
Think about the implications of running a business, think about lifestyle, your partner, your children. What are you prepared to sacrifice?
At the start I worked 24 hours a day and suffered from anxiety of having the responsibility of paying employers/teachers on time and suppliers etc. I had never had that before.
How do you Juggle Holidays and having 3 children?
The first year we had no holiday, which is to be expected.
I am into the third summer now and the children go to family in Italy for the summer holidays, spending time in camps.
Having a great circle of friends helps too, need a network of people to support you, I have people all year round to help out and reciprocate.
Who are your students and where do they come from?
All over the world to study, students on island, local people, foreign workers improving their English.
Foreign student learning English, stay in host families. It’s much better for students to live with family and experience a way of life.
Is it hard to find host families?
It can be, but we have many good host families.
How do you get host families?
Mail outs, primary school and bit of radio. It enriches local children lives. Networking, word of mouth, friends of friends, network of people.
Have you had any funny moments over the years?
Unforeseen things with the students. Managing the children flights, weather, late and non-arrivals..
Where do you advertise globally?
Spain, Italy, Germany but mainly France due to the proximity to France.
You also teach Japanese?
Yes, we enjoy the language, small classes, lots of fun but we learn more about Japanese culture than you normally would. I attended the classes too for fun and to learn more of the culture.
Is there a trendy language now?
How did you feel when the British voted to leave the EU?
Shocked. I thought they would vote the other way. I don’t think the UK fully joined the EU i.e. keeping currency etc. They maintained their independence.
I haven’t researched it, but the average person is shocked and seems to have wanted to stay. Having Visa’s to go to the UK might be a problem.
These are clips from the full interview that can be found on the BBC Radio Guernsey website.
You can here the whole interview BBC Radio Guernsey starting at 39.45.