Edinburgh entrepreneur turns small start up into global success during lockdown

A local business owner has gained international success by setting up an online community for Japanese learners.

By Shona Elliott
Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 7:00 pm
Owner of Nihongo Connection, Jess Brown, 42, from the West end of Edinburgh .
Owner of Nihongo Connection, Jess Brown, 42, from the West end of Edinburgh .

Jess Brown, 42, from the West End of Edinburgh set up the immersive Japanese Conversation community, Nihongo Connection, in 2014 at a coffee shop in the Capital.

The community met once a week in the city and held monthly in-person events which aimed to improve learner's Japanese conversation through immersive events.

But when lockdown hit the city in April 2020 in-person events became impossible and Ms Brown had to move her business online to avoid closure.

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Jess Brown loves helping people chat in Japanese

The quick-thinking entrepreneur began offering online courses in Japanese for complete beginners.

Like many other online learning providers Ms Brown’s community experienced a massive surge of interest during lockdown and her small start up gained in a flurry of new learners from around the world.

Now able to reach a larger audience the language expert is busy teaching a growing group of international learners from as far afield as California and even Japan.

Ms Brown said: “I knew that, in order to save my business, I would need to make a big change. That’s when I changed my business focus and decided to offer online courses for complete beginners to learn to actually speak the language.

“I have been welcoming hundreds of new followers on social media and 114 new clients since lockdown began.

“I really thought I was going to have to look for alternative work and close my business, but since offering beginner classes, it has really taken off.”

The business owner attributes part of her success to the pandemic which she said has encouraged many people to learn a new language.

She said: “Many people are looking for a welcome distraction from the pandemic."

Language-learning app Duolingo reported a 300 per cent jump in new users during the first lockdown.

Delighted with the success of her online community Ms Brown said it’s been rewarding to watch it grow.

She said: “To see my online community members from all over the world, chatting together in Japanese, is just amazing.

“I love helping others chat in Japanese and witness them getting excited about their next trip to Japan.”

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