Learning English can be a hurdle that hurts immigrants socially and economically. In an effort to change that, Dr. Joel Floyd founded English for a Lifetime, a school that helps immigrants master the English language for personal, workforce and career development purposes. The most recent winner of Nav’s quarterly $10,000 Small Business Grant, Dr. Floyd will use those funds to help build a computer lab and to continue expanding to additional locations.
Eventually he hopes to teach and inspire a new generation of entrepreneurs.
Dr. Floyd’s love of language arts started in elementary school. He still remembers the pride he felt when he won an essay contest in sixth grade, and the encouragement he received from teachers who told him to keep reading and writing.
After several years of teaching English, he decided to create his own school. He saw how hungry so many students were to learn English and in 2012 he founded English for a Lifetime. He literally knocked on doors in Roswell Georgia to recruit students.
The first year was rough, and he wondered if his business would survive. But he managed to keep going and grow the school.
Then COVID-19 created another crisis and the school was forced to close temporarily. Again, he pulled through and business is growing again.
When asked what makes English for a Lifetime unique, Dr. Floyd describes three key factors:
- “We meet students where they are despite their educational background and / or social status.
- We integrate “critical” pedagogy into teaching and learning. We want students to have voice and choice in their learning while helping them to establish agency and create change in their respective worlds. While students learn academic English, we also challenge them to ask the critical questions, who, what, when, where, and why – so that they can fully handle any situation in American society.
- We do not deny any student enrollment access. Some students may have a (residency) status issue, but we give every student the opportunity to learn the English language despite their status.”
Bootstrapping and Growth
English for a Lifetime started with less than $1000. A relative helped with a loan he has since repaid. He also has a credit card he uses for business expenses and payroll. He found Nav a couple of years ago through an online search and has been using Nav’s resources to help build his business credit and prepare for other financing opportunities.
English Learning for a Lifetime experiences challenges many other businesses face today. Revenue can fluctuate seasonally since summer often means a drop off in students. It’s also been difficult to recruit and retain highly qualified teachers.
Business mentors have helped him navigate challenges. Dr. Floyd says his CPA, Leonard Scott, has provided valuable insights into his business finances. Another important mentor is Todd Hawkins, who runs an electrical contracting school and whom he met early on in his business journey. He credits Hawkins with allowing him to be open about the challenges he’s faced and for providing ongoing advice. He continues to meet with him once a month.
With a passion for lifetime learning, Dr. Floyd continues to learn and grow himself. He studies the latest trends in English language learning so he can bring those methods to his school. During the pandemic, he noticed that a lack of computer literacy was affecting his student’s ability to continue their studies, and knew that would hold them back in the workforce. With the computer lab, his school will teach basic skills such as email to help open up new opportunities for his students.
He also says that many of his students want to become entrepreneurs themselves, and he plans to create a curriculum to help them do that. “I’d like to create and implement a business certificate program to help students understand the theory of American business,” he explains.
2022 marks ten years in business for English for a Lifetime, and it has become a “dream realized” says Dr. Floyd. As he continues to grow his business, he will no doubt help many others realize their dreams too.