Tuesday, May 3, 2011

PLPT GEMS: Meet Joanne Wallington

PLPT GEMS Presents
Joanne Wallington
Lawyer. Business Owner. Dedicated Mother

Tell us about your background and how you came to be a lawyer and entrepreneur?

I'm a lawyer by trade. I have the law school loans to prove it. I went straight from law school to a corporate law firm where I struggled for years to find a work/life balance. After six years, I finally decided to put my time and energy doing something I truly enjoyed doing that allowed me to spend more time with my children. I found out about the Lango opportunity while I was searching for Spanish classes for my daughter. And I never looked back!

Please share with us the first five steps you took when you decided to start your own business.

1. I conducted my due diligence. Corporations conduct extensive research before they invest in a new venture or purchase a new company. I did the same thing before I chose Lango. I looked at my market, the competition, the risks, the capital needed to start up among other things. Then I decided it was worth it to pursue this opportunity.

2. I spoke with my husband about it. I would have done this first, but there would be no point if my due diligence revealed that it was not worthwhile. He was on board also. This is major since he's far more risk-averse than me.

3. I spoke with the company and asked A LOT of questions. I considered the opportunity for about 4 or 5 months before I committed. While I was considering, I also applied for other jobs in the federal government, but I kept thinking about Lango. One thing that provided me comfort was that there was no pressure from Lango to get me to sign on.

4. I developed a business plan. I had to read thousands of business plans as an attorney, so I wasn't thrilled about drafting one. But this was a necessary evil to keep me focused, and occasionally remind me to stay on target with my plan.

5. I set really low expectations. I started my business at the height of the recession. I had to spend time getting comfortable with the possibility that my business may fail miserably. And I set a monetary figure of how much I was willing to invest before I made the decision to walk away. Fortunately, I have never hit that number, and I recouped my initial investment at the end of my first quarter!

What are the biggest challenges to be self-employed?

The unpredictability from session to session. I offer classes in ten-week sessions. Some sessions are busier than others. It is very scary waiting for the start of each session since I never know how full classes will be.

How would you describe "a day in the life" for you? What is your favorite part of what you do?

The morning always begins with getting the children ready. I have to take my daughter to school, get my boys dressed, make sure everyone is fed, and hopefully feed myself.

Once they are situated, I usually either start work on Lango matters (phone calls, emails, follow-ups) or do legal consulting when Lango business slows down.

Around 4 p.m. I am back in Mommy mode and I am usually preparing dinner, helping my daughter with homework, trying to play with my busy boys.

After 8 p.m. if I have an ounce of energy left in my body, I get back on my laptop and work some more. My favorite part of what I do is definitely the flexibility of my day.

How do you find balance between family and work?

I wish I could say that I have found the way to have COMPLETE balance between family and work, but I have not. One great thing about working with children is that I can spend more time with MY children. Also, my flexible schedule allows for me to attend more school field trips and extracurricular activities.

How do you stay motivated and overcome doubt, fear and negative thinking?

It can be tough, but I often remind myself that I am already blessed beyond measure if I don't make another cent. I have three beautiful children, and a fantastic husband. And generally, when I start worrying about cash flow, a new session is right around the corner.

What advice would you offer to others who are searching for their purpose or are afraid to take the first step towards their dreams?

You cannot be afraid to step out on faith. I think what made my decision that much easier is that I knew I would also only become more miserable being a corporate attorney and mother of two if I continued working at a law firm; so pretty much anything was an improvement. But calculated risks often pay off. So don't be afraid to take them.

Name someone who has inspired you and why.

I am inspired by my Aunt, Sue Ellen Goodson. She not only opened a daycare center while she was a single mother of 3 children, she maintained her business and offered children (including myself) a high-quality early childhood educational experience for over 30 years; that kind of commitment to educating children is largely absent with this generation. I hope that in 30 years, I can sell my Lango business and retire as she did.

How can people connect with you and/or get more information about Lango?

Lango is a national program so you can find out if there are classes near you by visiting http://www.langokids.com/, and entering your zip code where it says "Find a class". If you're in Prince George's County, you can visit my website directly by going to princegeorgeslango.com. We offer classes year round in Spanish, French and Mandarin and awesome Spanish summer camps in July and August. If you mention you learned about us on PLPT, you can receive 10% off of one week of camp, or a session of classes!


mahogany thoughts said...

what an inspiration! may the blessings continue to flow your way miss joanne :) ~nsf

GG said...

As a working mom with three kids, I'm so inspired by Joanne! Thanks so much for sharing with us, chica :)

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