Rent the Runway operates the largest dry-cleaning facility in the world. For many of its 1,200 employees, English is not their first language. Their days are spent doing exhausting and repetitive manual labor, and, because of Entrada ESL, learning English.
Entrada’s TalkBack® Method enables entry-level, service industry employees to learn a language while working. This technology improves the workers’ earning potential, leads to independence and increased confidence, and also builds a path for companies to develop staff internally. In turn, there is improvement in the customer experience as well as operational challenges.
Learning the Language
Erin Janklow’s interest in the power of breaking down language barriers started when she studied abroad in Italy as an undergraduate. “I first got off the plane with rudimentary Italian language skills,” said Janklow. “After less than one year of living in the country, I was fluent.”
She saw an opportunity for adults to learn a new language with the correct tools and resources.
Janklow went on to work for TripAdvisor. In her role, coordinating with hospitality management, she realized the clients she worked with faced a challenge: retaining and training entry-level workers. Cultural and linguistic barriers contributed to the disconnect between the hotel staff and management. This is where Janklow saw an opportunity to not only improve people’s lives, but also solve complex business problems.
Through these experiences, Entrada ESL was born.
Finding Her Voice
Janklow decided to go back to school to get her MBA at Babson College. There, the idea for Entrada ESL grew. “I came to Babson with a rough outline of an idea,” says Janklow. She saw the opportunity for a person to create a language program that integrated into a low-income immigrant’s workday.
“Through the support of Babson professors and peers, I realized that person was me.”
Through her studies at Babson, Janklow became comfortable with risk. She sees other entrepreneurs experiencing stress when making decisions, and fear of the unknown. Babson’s entrepreneurial mindset helped her approach problems strategically and act instead of worry.
“Babson helped me find my voice as a female business leader,” says Janklow.
Through persistence and flexibility, Janklow was able to stay focused on her overarching goals. Professors at Babson, namely Richard Bliss and Lakshmi Balachandra, gave Janklow examples of successful startups that allowed her to trust in the process. They taught her the importance of being able to adapt without losing sight of the overall mission and vision of her company.
“I have been amazed at the amount of brilliance, talent, and expertise I have received from mentors willing to dedicate their time to moving my business forward,” says Janklow.
Janklow has participated in prestigious accelerators including Women Innovating Now (WIN) Lab® at Babson College, Halcyon Incubator for social entrepreneurs, and Project Entrepreneur for female founders.
The Voice of Value
As Entrada ESL has grown, Janklow has made social value a priority.
“We are at an incredibly exciting moment in business,” says Janklow. “Providing social value while also creating economic returns is no longer a blue-sky goal. It is a tangible reality.”
She sees the importance in all businesses, regardless of industry, of creating business plans and operations with social value in mind. A piece of advice she gives to all entrepreneurs: “find a way to create value for all your stakeholders.”
For a social entrepreneur, it may seem daunting to try to solve a problem that has always been understood as reality. Janklow recognizes this challenge but knows that putting in the work is worth it.
“There’s more upfront work, but the rewards are all the more sweet once you get there.”