Starting a new career can be daunting, but doing so in a new country, two years after becoming a citizen, is a testament to Zineb Outnouna’s passion. Zineb’s business, Atlas Dreams Languages, LLC, has its origins in her birth nation of Morocco. By the time she graduated high school, Zineb had become fluent in Arabic Modern Standard along with the Moroccan and Egyptian dialects, French and English. She subsequently added German and Spanish, the latter which she is continuing to develop, to her language portfolio. After coming to the United States, she began exploring ways to use her language skills to help others. It is from this interest and passion that her business was spawned.
Zineb started the business part-time several years ago and saw the powerful difference that her method of teaching language had on her students. Zack Selekman, a young man whom she met in a Highland Park coffee shop, credits her with opening his eyes, ears and mind to the complexities of the Arabic language. For Zack, reading stories in Arabic allows him to understand the nuances of pronunciation and grammar structure in a more readily accessible manner than any rote repetition of verb conjugations. By translating the same story into English and then back to Arabic, but changing the gender of the lead character, reinforces the differences in the grammar structure for him. Zack readily admits he has learned a lot about the English language as he explores with Zineb the patterns and structures of the Arabic he is studying. He credits Zineb’s teaching style, thoroughness and personalized approach with leading to ‘Aha’ moments in opening new horizons for him.
When Zineb decided to take her part-time business full-time and leave the security of her position as an auditor for the University of Pittsburgh, she sought out SCORE for assistance. Her SCORE counselor, Bob DeGusipe, was instrumental in the launch of Atlas Dreams Languages. As Zineb stated “Atlas Dreams Languages started with a single instructor (Zineb herself) teaching Arabic and French, but thanks to Mr. DeGusipe, the company has grown since December to include nine languages, five instructors, and (has) served over 200 students.”
Bob helped Zineb in several key areas; establishing goals that are measurable, tracking progress towards attainment of these goals, and in understanding the different facets of running a business. With his assistance, Zineb is working on developing and improving her brand with a new logo and website initiative. Her Marketing tag line “Learn a Foreign Language – Connect with the Globe” stresses the importance of having a global perspective in business and life.
The success of Atlas Dreams Languages has as its root the customized approach to each student and the way that each student learns. Zineb uses the analogy of a gym membership vs. a personal trainer to describe how Atlas Dreams Languages differs from some of the other methods of learning a language – Atlas Dreams Languages succeeds because they learn the reasons why someone wants to learn the language, the purpose for the knowledge and the time frame. This helps them to develop a customized plan encompassing all of these factors based upon the way that the student learns. The students learn in a relaxed atmosphere by engaging in conversation with content relevant to what they want to achieve. For example, someone going on a vacation to France would need different content than an engineer working on an assignment. While there may be some overlap (directions, menu and hotels), the engineer would need more technical information to be successful. Atlas’ approach acknowledges that as well as how each student learns. Some students are more visual while others can hear the differences in the spoken word. Thus, speaking, reading, writing and listening exercises are used according to each student’s needs in the context of learning. The immediacy of seeing results and the way information is processed leads to further motivation to continue to develop their skills.
Atlas Dreams Languages is on the road to profitability, but more importantly to Zineb, is becoming a well-respected organization developing and delivering quality language training. In recognition of what Zineb has been able to accomplish in a very short amount of time, she was named one of Pittsburgh Magazine's 40 Under 40 in 2011 and was also nominated for the 2012 Martin Luther King Leadership Award sponsored by CORO.
“My clientele base is growing, the number of languages we offer continues to increase, and the business is on track to meet the numerous goals that Mr. DeGusipe helped me to create in January when I was just starting” says Zineb. She is looking to increase the number of instructors who are available. “The instructors have to be patient, caring and fun”, she says. “I can teach them how to teach by my method if they have the right blend of caring, personality and desire.”
And part of the assistance that SCORE has provided is exploring not only the short term goals of the business start-up but on sustaining the growth through the long-term. Bob is working with Zineb on documenting her business and marketing plans and projections and has counseled her on the importance of evolving from the teacher role to that of business owner. She readily admits that she will need to start delegating some of the tasks of running a business and is looking to work with some professional advisors, along with SCORE, to help her continue to move her business forward.
Her vision for Atlas Dreams Languages is to continue to deliver value through quality one-on-one instruction. Group sessions are in the offing and she plans to tap the corporate market as success in the global economy gains in importance. She would like to eventually expand into a storefront location to support a foreign language homework center for high school and college students. “Parents can usually help their children with math, English or science”, she commented, “but they stumble with helping them with a foreign language.” And her assessment of turning this dream into reality? “Oh, it’s going to happen” she declared with the utmost confidence. After spending any time with her, I would daresay you would believe it as well.
You can view all that Atlas Dreams Languages has available at their newly designed website www.atlasdreamslanguages.com and take advantage of the free consultation that Zineb offers.