Ana Lomba is a Parents’ Choice award-winning author, a leading language educator, and a tireless advocate of early language learning. Ana has been working with young children since 1999.
She has taken her years of teaching experience and her knowledge of scientifically backed research on how young children learn best to create more than 70 early language products for the home and classroom.
She has taught preschool, elementary, and college-level Spanish courses and held leadership positions with some of the most influential language organizations in the USA.
After graduating with a law degree from her native country of Spain, Ana pursued graduate studies in Spanish literature and bilingual education at Binghamton University, Princeton University, and NYU.
She lives near Princeton, NJ with her husband and three children.
From Spanish Mom to Language Mpressaria
How I Reinvented Myself as an Entrepreneur — Even Though I Knew Nothing About Business — And You Can Too!
I may be a bestselling author and successful language entrepreneur today, but back in 1999 I was a new mom wondering what to do next. The transformation began when I started teaching a few Spanish classes to young children in the back of a friend’s bookstore…
As I write this in the fall of 2014, my son Joe just left home for college. If you have followed me for a while, you may recognize him as the boy in the pirate photo that I often use.
I am happy and proud, but also sad to see him go. We had a special “Spanish” bond…
When Joe was born I knew I wanted him to speak my native language, but we did not live in a Spanish community. There were no Spanish or bilingual schools in the area.
I realized one thing: If I was not home to raise him bilingually, he would not grow up speaking Spanish.
The only solution was to find a job that allowed me to be at home as much as possible.
At the time, I was a Ph.D. student at Princeton University. Since my American husband and I didn’t want to move from Princeton, I started to explore local job options.
I tried a year teaching at a middle school. I had to drop Joe off early in the morning in a local daycare, pick him up at around four, and then spend my evenings correcting homework and preparing lessons. This barely left me time to spend with my son, let alone teach him to be fluent in Spanish.
And then I found out I was expecting again.
When You Start Looking, the Solution Comes to You
By 1999, I had two kids. Joe was three years old and Ani (my second little pirate) was one.
I still hadn’t found what I wanted to do, but I did know one thing: I hadn’t studied so hard all those years and earned my degrees to throw them away! I wanted to find the perfect job for my skills and situation.
Opportunity came knocking in the most unexpected way…
I visited an international children’s bookstore to find Spanish books to read with my children. The owner, a friend of mine, asked me to follow her to the back of the store. She wanted to show me something.
And there it was… my future displayed in front of me!
A group of American parents and Chinese toddlers were sitting in a circle around a Chinese teacher. My friend had adopted a daughter from China, and she had organized these classes for other adoptive families like them.
The Chinese teacher showed flashcards and the students repeated the words after her. Frankly, the class seemed pretty boring, but it didn’t matter. I had seen the light!
“You could do the same in Spanish. I’d be happy to let you use this area,” said my friend.
I could feel my brain spinning. YES, of course I could do this! I had never before taught young children, but hey! I had my own children at home that I wanted to raise in Spanish, so I had to learn anyway. The eight years teaching undergrads at Binghamton University and Princeton University and also the year teaching middle school children would certainly help.
During the next days, I posted a few fliers announcing the classes at local stores and lampposts and waited anxiously to D-Day. I was so excited!
A Hunch Set Me on the Journey to a Lasting Career…
What did I know at that time about business? NOTHING! I was a Ph.D. student in the department of Romance Languages. My marketing campaign consisted of posting fliers.
Yet, within a year of that fateful visit to the bookstore, I was renting space at several locations and also offering my program in two local schools.
And what did I know about teaching young children? NOTHING!
But I knew I could learn – I had been a student all my life, and I had my own children to teach. As a trained scholar, I began reading everything I could find on “early” education.
But it was clear to me that my teaching venture was becoming an all-consuming passion, so I decided to drop the Ph.D. Instead, I received a second M.A. from Princeton, and then threw myself headlong into my new pursuit.
I’ve never looked back. My profession has become an essential part of me. I truly feel this is my calling.
…But I Quickly Learned that Starting a Business Is For Dreamers Who Can Act
You may think that I was lucky to find my calling in such an unexpected way. However, as much as I love fairy tales, I am not a person who waits for kissing frogs or fairy godmothers to do their magic.
Yes, I am a big dreamer, but I work hard to make my dreams come true.
One of my favorite proverbs comes from scientist Louis Pasteur, regarding his years of painstaking research, “Chance favors only the prepared mind.”
It’s because I was actively looking that I found what turned out to be my calling.
More importantly, I acted on my gut feeling.
Then, I worked hard to bring my passion to the next level.
When you are looking for something, sooner or later it will come to you, even if it is in surprising ways. During the years, I have experienced this many times. You never know when it will come, but it is up to you to act – and then work to give your dreams a chance.
If you are a dreamer but you are not prepared to act and work, then you should not go into business.
A Business Can Be So Much More Than a Commercial Enterprise
Many years and many reinventions have taken place since I first started my company.
I am middle aged now. My son Joe is in college. Ani will leave in two years. My youngest, Marina, will always live with us – she is a special child with many developmental and medical needs.
But my business has meant more to me than just a money-making operation…
- My business has made me grow. I never thought I was able to do the things I do. I was incredibly shy and introverted growing up, but becoming an entrepreneur has allowed me to overcome my shyness. I feel like I’m a different person today.
- My business has made me think differently about many educational problems. As someone outside of the traditional educational system, I am able to use the outsider’s perspective to come up with practical solutions to the limitations of the traditional education’s status quo.
- More importantly, my business has provided me my own space to create, to experiment, to be completely free. When Joe and Ani were young, I needed that space. When Marina was born and I had to spend so much time in hospitals, I needed that space (badly!). Now that my older children are leaving and I take care of Marina, I still need that space and always will.
Many times I have told my friends, “I am so glad that I have my business.” And it is true. I am incredibly fortunate and consider myself a pretty happy person.
My business is my art and even my therapy. I love that it is so meaningful too. And if that was not enough, it also provides a very nice income that keeps growing year after year.
I have learned that less is more. When I focus and simplify things, I actually achieve more and with less stress. So now I just focus on the important things. That’s it.
Because I have traveled this path myself, I know that it is possible.
My work is a road map so that you won’t have to go down so many different paths before you find your way.
I want to help you begin on this path. Are you ready?
You Can Start Your Own Business Too!
We’re going to be starting a new Mpressarias Club to help you start and run your business. Check back for details.
Time is of the essence. Carpe diem!
Nicola Scrancher Wilks says
Hi Ana, your story is very inspiring – thank you. I qualified as a primary school teacher about 15 years ago after doing a 1 year PGCE course and have always been interested in learning languages. I studied in France as part of my degree course (a very long time ago now) and I’ve lived in different parts of Spain, firstly teaching English as a foreign language in Barcelona, then worked as primary school teacher (teaching 4 year olds) in a bi-lingual school in Seville.
I haven’t taught since 2007 and have been working in an Admin role at the BBC. The part when you said “I hadn’t studied so hard all those years and earned my degrees to throw them away!” really rang true with me. My daughter is only 5 years old and I keep thinking about re-training/going back to teaching. I’m going to read more about your products and definitely act on my gut feeling!
Ana Lomba says
Thanks for reaching out, Nicola!
ana lado says
Ana (my family is from Galicia)
Silent Period: I have seen so much evidence that what is thought of as a silent period is sometimes just the result of the target language speaker NOT knowing how to teach someone who is encountering a second language for the first 100 hours. At my family’s intensive accelerated English program – we have no silent period past the first hour. Our teaching methods for absolute beginners lead to success from day 1.
I teach at Marymount University and would love to quote you in some of my workshops.
Can you email me? email@example.com
Ana Lomba says
Sure! Thank you for your comment and I will write to you.