Out of 69 cents, an 8-figure empire – The English school franchise owners have found peace by the ocean

Tímea Vas and her husband, Balázs Szedmák had little or less than 69 cents on their bank account, when they’d made the decision: they’re finally going to start their own business. But neither of them would have even guessed that with years of hard work and commitment, they will soon be the owners of Hungary’s largest English language-school franchise. The couple lives at the moment on the sunny island of Tenerife, with their 3 year-old son, Buda. Timi gladly told us, step by step, how they managed to build an 8-figure business. Why did they move in the first place abroad in the middle of the pandemic? How did she manage to cope as a new young mother with her anxiety and recurring panic attacks? And of course, what’s it like to live on the islands of eternal spring?

Not only in Hungary, but in more than 40 other countries, people are familiar with the name of the language school: “Don’t Panic English”. The idea itself and the fundamentals of the company were structured by Tímea Vas and Balász Szedmák, whilst living in New-Zealand and being out for a casual pizza meal. The couple truly believed from the very first minute, that – apart from mastering a new language – students can gain a different perspective by joining in to their courses. However, never have they thought that one day, their very own lives will also take a turn, thanks to their new emerging business.

Between two slices of pizza, came the idea of the English language school

– I was only 19 and self-employed, when I started to teach English to students, and when I turned 25, I just had enough. I wanted new challenges! I packed my suitcase, heading for the unknown, got on a plane all by myself, and didn’t even stop until I reached England. I got my second degree in Oxford, and – after the Hungarian expat students – I soon started to teach English to the Spanish, Italian, and French students as well – remembers Timi all the way back how it all started, who also found her other-half in the Kingdom.

Timi and Balázs soon came to the realization, they’d been made for each other, which is not a surprise at all: both dreamt of a world, where work could be their passion, meanwhile not putting behind and resigning from another one: travelling. 8 years ago – whilst living in New-Zealand – not only they thought, it was time to tie the knot, but also could have been the right time to start their very own company.

– We have definitely felt that together we are capable of anything. Whatever we set our mind on, we can reach it. Furthermore, we love to explore what new areas might lie outside of our comfort zone. So meanwhile, just casually having a Pizza in Auckland, we’ve thought of the idea of our own company. At the time, we hardly had 69 cents on our bank account.

Neglecting a company is not an option – From meeting to meeting, with a newborn

The online language school, “Don’t Panic English” went live in 2014, had a hit in 2015, and by 2018, it was an up and running franchise. According to Timi, the secret to dynamic growth lies in three important things: discipline, commitment and hard work. It also has to be mentioned, that in the company’s first years, almost all of the revenue went back just where it came from, and the profit was turned into development and improvement.

– The first revenues were used for self-development and self-improvement: we’ve purchased different types of courses, we have studied photography, and spent tons of money on Facebook adverts. We took a lot of risk, but by 2017, our revenue was stable.

But by the time, one area was finally in a steady state in their lives, another one took a complete full turn in Timi’s life. The new family member was on his way.

– My pregnancy wasn’t an easy one at all  – technically, until the 33rd week, I was constantly throwing up and instead of the usual “Morning sickness’, I was tormented by an all-day sickness. I was feeling genuinely very poorly.  Though, in the meantime, I tried to help everywhere I could. In 2017, we started our first offline language school as well in Érd, and 5 days just after giving birth, I couldn’t have the luxury of not working.

With a baby in my hand, I tried to go to all the meetings and fulfill all my tasks. Most of the time, I didn’t have a spare minute to have lunch. But the birth of my son, Buda, really did bring a sense of balance to my life. I started to work less, and soon, family became my top priority.

From Panic attacks to the “Tenerife Therapy”

Not only the birth of her son sent the message to Timi; it’s time to start to slow down, but her health and body also kept signaling: it’s time to make some radical changes in her lifestyle.

– Because of being very highly functioning, I constantly battled with anxiety and panic attacks. I was in a horrible state. The only thing that got me out of it, was a brilliant psychiatrist and my own reflection in the mirror. My body made a statement loud and clear, it was ready to give up. I knew I needed to stop straining myself. Ever since then, I try to make time to meditate and pay attention to my nutrition and what I fuel my body with. I became more self-aware; and I constantly develop myself.  At the moment we are on “Tenerife-Therapy” – says Timi with a laugh.

Timi and her family, in the midst of the pandemic, drove across all Europe, just to get on a boat, sailing towards the Canary-Islands, to finally find that peace and relaxation which they’d always needed. It was a trip of  3243 km on road, and 1300 km on a ferry at sea. Not only Timi and Balázs, but also Buda was very delighted by the Spanish and Canary lifestyle. It didn’t take too long for all the family to fall in love with.

Passion creates all dreams, but a lot of hard work and dedication go a long way

– We’ve really found our peace over here. We are planning to divide our life between the Hungarian origins and new beginnings, meaning, we would spend some time here on the Islands, and some time back in Hungary. Our son has also managed to adapt super quickly and easily to our new life and his new nursery-school. We are raising him to be flexible, adaptive, tolerant and independent. These are all very important qualities to us. We don’t mind if he doesn’t obtain any kind of doctorate degree, as long as he stands with both feet on the ground, which is much more important. On top of that, it comes in handy if he will be able to communicate in more languages.

Timi has a useful thought to close our conversation, which motivated her dearly during the rough times:

I’ve read in a book once, if you manage to create a company where you convert your work to your passion, and you are willing to work hard for it, that business can be a huge success. Well, fortunately, I can gladly justify: the recipe does work! Our team translated the interview into English.

The original interview can be found here: noivalto.hu

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