As of January 2015, I’m building a new business. It is also a digital publishing business (where we will be creating books, videos, and interactive materials) but in a very different niche. I’ll be putting all my focus on creating courses for the English language learning market in Japan (finally going to put my early 2000s experience in the Eikaiwa industry to good use).
You are invited to tag along as I build this business – in an ongoing CASE STUDY. This business is being built in much the same way as I taught you in the Unplugged & Making Money Workshop, so this case study should be a great accompaniment (and let you see a real-life application). And… it’s all FREE!
The History Behind One Bite English
Two years ago, the early seed of an idea for my business started bubbling up in my head. It all started when I saw a small brochure at a Tully’s coffee shop in Umeda (up in northern Osaka). The brochure was for a course at one of the Eikaiwa (English conversation) schools in Osaka (no, not Berlitz – the company I have a relationship with). The price was quite steep, it meant that students also had to sacrifice a night a week to attend (hard for many of our hard-working salarymen and office workers), and had a number of other areas I thought I could improve upon.
After much pondering, I decided upon a way I could offer a course (now turned into a long list of courses). Once I had a murky plan in mind (which centered around short lessons that a busy salaryman or office worker could do on their smartphone during their daily train commute) I came up with a company name that embodied the idea – One Bite English.
I also designed (and re-designed and re-designed) a logo for One Bite English. Something that would be easily recognizable, that would tell visitors (Japanese with limited English vocabulary, but who instantly recognize the word “English”) what the site is about, and that could be broken into a recognizable element (the bitten circle) for use as an avatar on social media sites (more on that when we get to the marketing phase in a few months time).
Since we would be doing a lot of recording of voices (my lessons require American, Canadian, British, and Australian accents – which I will source from the large pool of English teachers in Osaka) and recording studios are difficult to book, I built a recording studio (the workshop was recoded there) in a small apartment across the tracks. You can see the pictures of the construction on a separate page here.
After building the studio, and then vamoosing to Switzerland for a prolonged holiday of hiking and noshing, I must admit that the project languished for awhile (about a year to be exact). Languished but not forgotten. I spent months researching and tweaking the exact way that my lessons would be operated – in a bid to create the best possible learning experience and provide the best possible products to the English-learning market.
I was also stumped on the delivery method, as I wanted to provide a very professional experience with interactive lessons. I looked at many of the available alternatives, but none gave me exactly what I wanted. Until last summer! I had left my name and e-mail address at Articulate because they announced that they were creating a new software program. Then, at the end of last summer, when I had totally forgotten about Articulate, the e-mail arrived announcing Storyboard 2. OMG! It was exactly what I had been looking for.
So, the plan started coming together (in the words of Lt. Col. Hannibal Smith, “I love it when a plan comes together”). And January was set as the month I would get started on One Bite English.
Building A New Design Studio
Although I have a comfortable office in my home, the guinea pigs and Rieko have commandeered half of it and I work best with lots of “spreading all my crap out over every surface.” Also, in my home office I have Internet and tend to get easily distracted… oh, look, shiney… and a design studio with no distractions (no Facebook, no cute guinea pigs looking for attention, no delivery people ringing the doorbell, no nothing) would be a fantastic way to super-boost productivity (BTW, I get as much work done in 2 hours of concentrated work at my new design studio than I can get accomplished all day at my distraction-filled home.
Luckily, the small apartment beside my recording studio became available (yes, luck does sometimes play a part in success), so I struck a bargain with my landlord and took possession at the end of January. One Bite English had a potential design studio. And, it’s only a 2-3 minute walk from my home (Win!)
So, it was time to revert to carpenter mode. The next day, I borrowed a truck from my favourite building supply store (when you buy a bunch of lumber, or other bulky stuff, they let you drive one of their 1.5-ton trucks… and that is always fun). I dumped a load of lumber in my sparse new apartment.
This is a small, one-room apartment with kitchen (about the size of a storage shed) and toilet (no bath – which got me a great rate and who the heck needs a bath in a studio?). The kitchen will be my storage room (I bought a large set of steel shelves, which I have loaded with file holders for quick access). The room pictured is now my design studio.
The next day, I set to work. Seems my long-ago builder skills are still intact, and I built a large combination of standing desk (where I do all my planning), drawing board with lightbox (where all the drawings for my animated lesson videos get drawn), more standing desk, and a corner sitting desk (where my clunky old Windows machine goes – the only machine that will run my MX Flash that I use for all my vector drawings).
The sitting desk (you can see the kitchen in the background – being used as my workshop during construction)
The three walls of standing desk (I love having lots of space to lay all my stuff out on). At the back is my drawing table with built-in lightbox. BTW, that ugly hanging lamp is doomed.
In the following days, the desks received three coats of latex water-based paint (in the light blue that is one of the company colours).
I also coated the walls with corkboard, as I love to be able to pin up sketches, idea notes, etc. where I can see them and ponder them throughout my day. There is also a whiteboard and old-fashioned blackboard coming (delivered after this photo, but not in use yet).
The ugly (and definitely in the way for a guy my height) ceiling lamp is gone, and I’ve ringed the office with spots.
The lightbox now has a plexiglass cover (recessed flush in the drawing table). You’ll see the animation characters, I’ve already sketched on here and then drawn in Flash, in an upcoming Case Study update.
Here is the sitting desk area, which has received the same treatment. After this photo, this area became home to my Windows beast, and my beloved Macbook Air sits here when I’m in-studio (sometimes for work, but always for the library of tunes on board).
So, what’s next? What will the rest of February see in the building of this business?
I’m mainly in planning mode, and I’ll soon be sharing some important notes to help you with your own business.