Ingrid Broussillon believes learning works best when there’s fun involved. Upon moving to Vancouver, she wanted to improve her English language skills but found herself disappointed at the options on offer. It set her mind racing and led to her founding Griottes Polyglottes, a French language school where classes are based on acting, storytelling and improvisation.
A few short years into her journey, she took a chance and entered the Small Business BC Awards, ultimately winning our Premier’s People’s Choice Award. We caught up with Ingrid to learn more about her fun and fast-growing business.
I was born in Guadeloupe, it’s a French island in the Caribbean. Storytelling is a very important part of our culture and it was a big part of my life growing up. Unfortunately, as I got older, I put aside my love of stories and acting because I needed to focus on my study, find a job – all of those grown-up things.
Eventually, I went to France to finish my study and I took a job working in a big bank for ten years. During this time, I could feel there was something missing. That storytelling and acting part of me that got lost along the way as I became an adult. I knew I needed to do something, so I left my job at the bank and moved to Vancouver to work on my English.
I didn’t want to learn in an academic setting. I wanted to use my love of storytelling, acting and improvisation games to learn English in a more fun and social way. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a place here that I could do that. It got me thinking that maybe this is something I can start, I could teach people my language through living it, acting it out and playing, while also working on my English. That’s how Griottes Polyglottes was founded.
I attended one of the Free Education Month seminars at the SBBC office and I decided to enter my business, not thinking that I would ever have a chance to win! After all, I have a very small and relatively new business that nobody would be interested in.
Once I’d completed my nomination, I didn’t really take it too seriously. I spread the word around my network and I moved on to some other task. Weeks went by, and I began to feel this sensation eating away at me. I thought to myself, ‘Ingrid, you started something here and you need to finish it’ so I jumped back in and pushed hard to get as many votes as I could.
I contacted all of my friends on Facebook, on WhatsApp, on LinkedIn, everyone in my phone book, and all of my friends and family in Guadeloupe and France. It was so nice to check in with them and tell them how I was doing in Canada. Some didn’t even know I had my own business! Whatever I did, it worked, and I ended up winning the award.
I want to tell you something about taking part in these awards. I teach language through active improvisation games. Some people might think that is stupid, or might not think it is a good business idea, but it is my dream. My business is something I created by myself. I didn’t have any experience in entrepreneurship, so when you create something like this by yourself it’s so easy to have doubts and worry that you aren’t doing something worthwhile.
When I nominated my business for these awards, it forced me to start thinking about it in a more confident way. I needed to go out there and convince people this was a good business and that it is working. Just doing that gives you so much confidence. I don’t have a diploma to fall back on, I don’t have people regularly telling me I’m doing great.
Winning the award was the ultimate validation for what I’m doing. It showed that, yes, my idea is a good one. Yes, people are interested in it, and yes, it is worth all the work I have put into it.
Just do it. Don’t hesitate. Get out there and talk about your business and don’t be afraid. You will be very surprised at people’s reactions. I think we fall into this trap sometimes of being too negative about our own business. Let others judge the business and you will almost certainly be pleasantly surprised at what they say.
The Awards are such a great opportunity to reach out to people you haven’t spoke to in a while, make new connections, and introduce your business to so many new people. If you put the effort in you can get so much out of taking part.