MADE in Lake County is a paid partnership.
Welcome to MADE in Lake County! MADE introduces you to the people and stories behind local Lake County businesses. Today it is our pleasure to introduce you to Ann Dunn. Ann is the Owner of Fun Fluency language classes for children.
Fun Fluency is a local Spanish school that teaches immersion Spanish classes to people of all ages, from toddlers to adults. At Fun Fluency, students learn Spanish naturally through movement, play, games, songs, rhythms, snack time, art projects, and acting out/listening to simple stories. Fun Fluency uses the TPRS (Total Physical Response and Storytelling) Method, which focuses on long-term retention, not just memorization. This storytelling approach is fun and extremely successful in teaching communication skills. They teach high-frequency vocabulary and grammar structures found in everyday speech and communication. Students learn to speak quickly, and grammar is taught in context without rote memorization. Fun Fluency creates an immersion experience for students while always ensuring understanding and comprehension.
Fun Fluency offers after school preschool programs, after school elementary programs, homeschooling groups, classes at the Grayslake Park District, and in-home classes. We spoke with Anne to learn some more about her business:
What was the catalyst that started your business?
I am passionate about teaching Spanish and igniting that same passion in all of the kids that we teach. Learning a second language, especially at a young age, has so many benefits and really sets our kids up for success as they grow. Being bilingual in the world we live in opens up endless doors of opportunities. My joy in this work comes readily as I feel it is my calling to enable others to become bilingual English-Spanish speakers.
With all that passion, after having my first daughter, Emma, in 2006, I knew I wanted to stay home with her and be her primary caregiver. At that time, it did not financially make sense on paper for me to leave my high school Spanish teaching job and stay home. But, I decided to take a leap of faith, quit my job, and stay home with my baby. As much as I loved being a mom, my brain’s desire to engage in challenging work and my love for the Spanish language didn’t dissipate just because I quit formally teaching in a high school classroom. Instead, this nagging urge grew inside of me to pursue a way that I could continue to be the stay-at-home mom that I wanted to be for Emma while also allow me to continue to teach others Spanish.
With my drive to teach Spanish, I reached out to the Lake County Homeschooling network. I started out teaching two homeschool families Spanish around my kitchen table. Since that first year, my business has grown to more than 200+ students around Lake County and beyond. I am no longer the only teacher for Fun Fluency. We have welcomed two talented native speakers to helps us keep up with our growth.
How difficult was it to get your business up and running, while being a stay-at-home mom and caring for your child, managing a household, etc?
We were blessed to grow our Spanish school by word of mouth only. Many people have told friends how much they loved our classes, so the demand for classes grew larger than I could take on. It was then that I hired my first native speaker to teach classes as well. I am also blessed to have my wonderful mother-in-law, who watches and plays with my two daughters on the one day a week that I teach the bulk of my classes.
What is the best thing about your job?
I absolutely love to teach Spanish and see others, especially young kids, have fun and achieve success while learning. I feel so fortunate that my passion is my work and that my work enables me to ignite my creativity while also contributing financially to our family’s budget. Another great part of my job is the flexibility and the ability to put my family first. I love creating my own schedule and finding ways to work not around but with the needs of my family. Lastly, I couldn’t leave out the joy that being my own boss gives me. This role lets me experiment with new ideas and discover much more about what being an entrepreneur is all about.
What do you do to recharge?
I recharge by turning off my computer, cutting off access to my email, and silencing my cell phone. I then try to just be present at whatever it is I’m doing. Whether it is playing with my kids, taking an early morning run, or connecting to my friends who have been such supports for me, I need windows of time where I’m not connected electronically to the rest of the world.
What is your inspiration?
My children are a huge inspiration to me. I want them to see that their mom pursued her dream of having a business and was successful. I also want them to see that if they want to stay home with their kids yet need to earn income, they can do that by thinking outside the box and putting their passions to work.
What is the most important thing you want our readers to know?
Just like children learn their first language, they are able to learn a second language naturally and through immersion. Our brains are made to learn languages naturally from birth. There is a time period linguists call a “window of opportunity” for learning languages in which children can learn through immersion with little or no translation needed. Research shows that this window of opportunity is strongest at birth and goes down with each year of life. Don’t miss out on this window for your kids to learn Spanish!!
What is your favorite part about your job?
I love to create for my classes — whether it is writing a new story for our classes, writing a workbook, or creating a new song or game. I get a great kick out of uncovering ways to keep our curriculum moving forward and at the cutting edge of research-based principles and good fun. I also love all the kids, parents, and teachers I get to work with. I am smiling right now as I visualize one of my classes full of happy kids learning and having fun and happy parents in the background who are amazed about the amount of Spanish their kids have acquired so quickly.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Knowing how to manage my time is difficult. There are times when both my kids are at school, and I have a window of 2 hours to myself. I struggle knowing if I should do laundry, make dinner, complete a lesson plan, answer business-related emails or just enjoy the few moments of peace and stillness in my day. All things are important! But knowing which need is most pressing at the moment isn’t always an easy choice.
Another challenge is separating my business life from my personal feelings. There have been times when I feel someone stole our idea or disliked something we did, and as a woman who generally leans towards being more sensitive than hard-nosed, I take it very personally. I am learning that business is business, and you cannot please everyone.
How long have you been in business?
How did you come up with the name?
I came up with the name by playing around with words and ideas and then running them by good friends.
Is entrepreneurship for everyone?
I think anyone with a good idea, backed up with a solid plan for action, armed with the resources to start putting at least the initial pieces of the plan into formation, starting one’s own business can be a real possibility. The word of caution I want to share is: to be successful, I believe, you have to believe wholeheartedly in your product, mission, or objective. If you believe in what your business will be based on and if you are passionate about it, your innate enthusiasm will be infectious to those around you, both potential consumers as well as any potential people whose support you will also need to get your business off the ground. An effective entrepreneur considers the impact his or her new career goals will have on the important people and family members in their lives and will seek these individuals out for help, both emotionally and constructively, for support, advice, and as a reminder that work isn’t life. Work is what you do around the life you love to live.
As a mompreneur, how do you approach risk taking? And how does being a mom factor into your decisions?
I have to be smart and evaluate each direction our business is going and how any particular action might affect both my business and my family. It is a fine balance between actively moving my business forward with new ideas and growth while at the same time evaluating how that growth will affect my time and family.
Meet other local businesses that are MADE in Lake County!
Disclosure: Fun Fluency is our featured Business of the Month. This series is part of a paid promotion partnership with Little Lake County. If you are interested in featuring your locally-owned business in our series, please contact the sales team.