Word of Mouth: Organic Language Acquisition

Word of Mouth: Organic Language Acquisition

This time last year, Darcy Rogers was a classroom teacher with a dream she wanted to unleash on the world.

Now the founder and chief executive officer of Organic Language Acquisition is hop-scotching across the continent, scheduled to go hemispheric this fall with Dubai and Oman in her sights.

In a matter of months, the Crater High teacher has expanded her horizons by applying the principles impressed on her during last spring's JeffersonU boot camp training. "It was essential for me, having no background in business," Rogers said. "It was the step that launched us, giving us the reality and tools to get us going."

JeffersonU boot camp, funded by an Oregon Community Foundation grant, provides two months of review and mentoring by business experts who help attendees refine their approaches and goals.

The Class of 2013 — Aquaponic Tek, Domeguys International, Institute for Sustainable Living, Joma Films, Sjanna's Cakery Kisses and Southern Oregon Aquaponics — wrapped up its groundwork sessions this week at Rogue Valley Country Club, giving presentations about their ventures.

Some already are on their way, while others are working out the kinks, looking for financial backing.

"The boot camp covers so many areas in quick, short spurts, from inspiring stories to what worked and didn't work for other entrepreneurs and avoiding traps. But we still make mistakes," Rogers said.

Organic Language Acquisition, or OLA, is an interactive approach to teaching languages, putting students in control of the curriculum as they converse and take on topics they want to talk about.

After spending virtually every weekend on the road last fall, Rogers realized the time had come to take a leave from the classroom and give her fledgling company her total attention.

"I've been teaching for 14 years and love what I do," Rogers said. "It was a really big step, but I really needed to make a full-time commitment."

Between trips to New York, Boston, Colorado, Ohio, Washington, Idaho, California, Florida, Philadelphia, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Mexico, Rogers has compiled a business plan, lined up an accountant and bookkeeper, acquired insurance, analyzed tax hits, created an LLC, and talked to a lawyer.

"All the things I never had to deal with as a teacher," she said. "It's very different having to wear all these hats, marketing, answering email, going on the Internet website and setting up conferences."

The target audience has been teachers who adopt the methods to develop second and third language skills. Rogers or an associate go to conferences and set up workshops, where they're paid to instruct teachers using OLA methods. In the near future, Rogers said, the firm will launch language classes for businesses.

"So far, we've grown purely from word of mouth," she said. "Teachers who hear us at a conference tell another teacher, and pretty soon you're getting calls from across the country."

Reserving the role as CEO for herself, she has hired someone to jointly fill the chief financial and chief operations roles starting next month. Her goal is to have between 10 and 15 employees in five years.

"Right now, we're breaking even," she said. "Which is pretty good for a startup."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or Follow him on Twitter @GregMTBusiness, and read his blog at Edge.

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