An Interview with Erin Janklow, CEO of Entrada
While Erin Janklow M’14 was living in Italy in her early 20s, she developed and maintained native-level fluency of Italian. This was possible for three reasons: (1) She was living in the country where the language was spoken; (2) She had a strong desire to learn, and; (3) She had ample resources at her disposal. The ease with which Erin was able to learn Italian as an adult ultimately led her to create Entrada.
1. What is your business and what makes it unique?
My business is Entrada, an employer-sponsored learning platform. Entrada’s TalkBack™ Method enables entry-level, service industry employees to learn a language while working. And it provides employers a way to develop their staffs’ professional skills, while improving the customer experience.
Service industry work is physically challenging and highly repetitive. This combination allows us to provide dynamic and effective English lessons to employees. In 100 lesson days, learners can become fully conversational in English, in just 30 minutes a day. Picture a housekeeper making a bed. While completing this task, she also wears, listens to, and talks back to our audio program. The Entrada team provides learner support, engagement tools, and implementation support to the employer.
Our most recent program launch saw increased morale across our customer’s entire hotel ecosystem, as well as improved confidence in the learners. Employees who previously avoided English conversations with managers began to engage in English conversations after only 14 days.
Our social enterprise provides a unique and effective solution to managing a multilingual staff while also enhancing customer experience, increasing recruitment, and reducing turnover in the industry.
2. What has been your greatest failure so far in your entrepreneurial journey, and what did you learn from it?
One of my favorite quotes is from Einstein, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” While I would be lying if I said this journey has been perfectly smooth, I don’t consider the bumps in the road to to be failures. Each twist has opened a new door to product development that we weren’t previously considering.
Here’s one example: Early product testing showed high excitement at launch, followed by very few days of program use. As a result, our early hotel trials felt like failures. With some time, perspective, and research, we were able to design a program better suited to our learners’ needs. This resulted in our discovering our most powerful differentiator. We now see a 70% engagement rate for our language program, compared to the 15-20% that is common in the industry.
3. Who is your s/hero?
As the saying goes, “inspiration is everywhere,” and therefore, s/heroes who inspire are everywhere, too! Anyone who is true to themselves, and who therefore challenges me to become the best version of myself, is a role model. I make time to connect with these motivators when and however I can, as often as I can.
I greatly enjoy my network of fellow founders. I find that people who are two to three steps ahead of me bring clarity and direction to the next steps I need to take. Similarly, when I mentor those a few steps earlier in the process, it reminds me of the accomplishments we’ve made at Entrada since day one. This combination is crucial for maintaining motivation and for moving forward with confidence. Many of these role models and cheerleaders come from both Babson and the WIN Lab, and I’m grateful to have such intelligent guidance in my back pocket!
4. What are your top three content sources for entrepreneurs, e.g. websites, blogs, podcasts?
No content source has my full allegiance. I rely heavily on a strong support network of friends, mentors, and family who know me well, and their feedback is far more targeted than any article that I’ve read to date. Inevitably, someone will recommend a podcast, article, or book that can target the specific challenge of the moment, at which point I will dutifully listen and take the advice to heart.
At times, these resources can be very helpful, though at others it feels like excess noise. Avoiding the plethora of random advice helps me stay focused on our end goal of spreading compassion via communication.
5. What was the best piece of advice you ever received?
Only one? I’ll give three of principles I strive to incorporate every day:
Approach daunting tasks one step at a time, paso a paso. Often, ideas are big and intimidating, but once you dive in, you realize that it’s all manageable and within reach, provided you are persistent and keep your eye on your ultimate goal!
Ask for help when needed. Nobody can do it alone. Help can be found from mentors, friends, family, customers, clients, airplane seatmates … Really, anyone and everyone is a potential resource, provided you’re open to feedback.
Know your goals and limits. Knowing my most authentic self—-who I am, and who I’m not—-allows me to act from a centered place of inner power. This makes decisions easier and helps me better identify opportunities that are suitable for both personal and professional growth. It also allows me to focus on my top priorities instead of worrying that I’m achieving somebody else’s set of priorities. When moving toward goals that are meaningful to me, I feel empowered to do so with confidence, because I know that I’m on the right path.