Meet the Teachers – Lorraine!

Olga and Lorraine chatting on a video call

Today we have a very special video blog post, where you can meet Intrepid English Teacher and Founder, Lorraine.

You may have already read, or listened to, several of our Meet the Teachers blogs and podcasts in the past.

Well, now it’s time to meet the teacher who started it all!

Did you know? Lorraine started Intrepid English eight years ago on a desk made of an old door and two bedside tables in her parent’s spare room. 

Intrepid English Founder Lorraine and our Learner Success Specialist Olga sat down for a chat about Intrepid English’s origins, how the company has grown, the values which drive Intrepid English and how we are implementing these in our work empowering learners.

They also discuss big projects for 2022, and how you can get involved with Intrepid English in the new year.

Find the full transcript below. You can also find the interview on YouTube, or listen on the Intrepid English Podcast.

Relevant resources and links mentioned in the interview

WoW Challenge

Alice Thompson

Empowering Through English

Employers, this is why you should invest in English training for your employees

Employers Who Empower

Interview with Alyssa Ordu, Diversity and Inclusion Consultant

Diversity and Inclusion Course


Olga Kasatkina  00:05

Hi, Lorraine. How are you doing today?

Lorraine Venables  00:08

I’m really excited to be interviewed by you.

Olga Kasatkina  00:11

Yeah, me too. I’m glad to interview you as well. And yeah, I’m excited at the same time and nervous, you know. But I’m very curious about your story, those parts of the story I haven’t heard yet. So, you are an English teacher and the founder of Intrepid English. But let’s start with the teaching part. Okay. So tell us, how did you start?

Lorraine Venables  00:47

Great question. I started teaching English in Germany. I lived in a city called Cologne. I took my CELTA course in Hamburg, which is in the north of Germany. That was eleven years ago now. So I started teaching in businesses around Cologne for a school. But I quickly realised that I wanted to start my own business. So I moved back to the UK, and I set up my own business. And as you know, Olga, and anyone who’s read my blog posts as well, I started Intrepid English in my parents’ spare bedroom, after moving back home from Germany. And my lovely parents, my dad and my stepmum, they made me a desk out of two bedside drawers and a door. So this is a very, very basic start to Intrepid English. So I love to think back now that Intrepid English is eight years old, I love to think back to the original, sort of, desk and the original atmosphere of Intrepid English. It makes me feel quite proud of how far we’ve come.

Olga Kasatkina  02:06

Yeah, we’re going to hear now, today, how it started and how it’s going.

Lorraine Venables  02:13

Exactly, exactly. Yeah. So for those of you who haven’t seen the blog posts, we did a ‘how it started’ and ‘how it’s going’ blog post with all the other teachers. That was lovely, wasn’t it? Because the teachers have been with us for different periods of time, haven’t they? So it was really nice to compare where they were when they joined us and and where they are now. And, yeah, I have every faith that a lot of the teachers will continue to blossom and do incredible things. So we’ll have to do another one, won’t we? In a year or two, to show everybody then.

Olga Kasatkina  02:52

So the focus of today’s conversation is on you. So tell us more about yourself.

Lorraine Venables  03:01

Okay, I am from a town called Coventry, which is in the West Midlands, and I have been living here in Edinburgh for several years now, I’m thinking maybe five or six years, this last period. And I’m really interested in reading and running as well. Actually, one of the things that I’m working on at the moment outside of Intrepid English, is a bit of fundraising to raise money for an amazing charity called The Brain Charity. Someone that I know, through a networking group that I’m part of – shout out to Move Online there – I’ll leave a link in the comments section. His name is Scott Whitney, and I was massively inspired by his story, and I decided to try and help him to raise money for The Brain Charity. So at the moment, I am in training. The challenge starts at the beginning of January, and I will be travelling the equivalent of three marathons during January via running, cycling, walking, and roller skating. So this is going to be very exciting.

Yes. I’m very excited about that challenge. So yeah, to answer your question, I love my job and I love the company, and I love the teachers and the students that we have. But I’m also really, really passionate about fundraising and and making a positive impact in the world, really. So that’s one of the ways that I’m doing it.

Olga Kasatkina  04:41

And as far as I know, it’s not the first time you’re participating in a charity project. I remember Running for Refugees a couple of years ago or so, right?

Lorraine Venables  04:53

Yeah you were here then weren’t you? Yes, that was an interesting one. You actually helped me get about half of my miles in. You came to Edinburgh to visit, didn’t you? Yeah, we walked all over the city, didn’t we? It was awesome. Yes, that’s one of them. I’ve run a few half marathons, although I’ve had to hang up my running shoes in terms of half marathons now, it’s just too much for me. But yeah, I love to be part of challenges. It challenges me, my character, but it also helps raise money for really important causes. So yeah, it’s a huge, huge passion of mine.

Olga Kasatkina  05:30

That’s how this value became one of the values of Intrepid English, I guess.

Lorraine Venables  05:38

Yeah, exactly. This is a really interesting transition, and now it seems completely natural when we look back at the Intrepid English journey. For a long time, my charity work and my passion for activism was separate to business. But I feel like this is maybe one of the silver linings for me about the pandemic because I was able to, sort of, bring in my passions into the business, and it felt really genuine, felt really authentic for us to do that. My lovely mentor, Alice Thompson, she encouraged me to be my whole self at work, and start to think about ways that I can show up authentically in the company. And the first thing that we decided was to start fundraising.

The hard thing was trying to choose the charities that we actually donate to because there are obviously so many amazing causes out there. But we settled on three main charities for three of the areas that I’m really passionate about. And that’s Refugee Action, Centrepoint, that’s for youth homelessness, and also we donate money to a really amazing charity called SmartWorks. But we also provide free English lessons to SmartWorks clients. Now SmartWorks provides training and clothing for unemployed women. It has a few different branches in the UK. So we help the branch in Edinburgh. And it’s amazing, I’ve met quite a few of the SmartWorks ladies now and just I’m so delighted to be part of their amazing mission. So I’m really, really glad that I listened to my mentor’s advice, and started to build this into the Intrepid English business model.

But it’s gone further than that now, because more and more, I think we’re all feeling now that we need to do better in the world in many ways. Whether it be to help with the impacts of climate change, or to do something like make sure your neighbours are okay. Everything from just wearing a mask and getting vaccinated to, you know, being part of a huge walk for feminism, for example. We want to do more, and I’ve had several conversations with teachers and students who’ve told me that they want to do good. They’ve seen us doing a little bit of good in the world and they’ve told me, “How did you do it? Show me. Can I help you?” And it really just makes me so happy that people are being magnetised to us, even just after our small step in the right direction. So we’ve developed courses on diversity and inclusion. And we tend to involve a more, sort of, holistic worldview in our lessons as well. It’s not just about teaching grammar. It’s about helping our students to be better human beings, to be better at work, to contribute to their society and their community, and generally to feel more fulfilled in their lives. So yes, this transition has happened over the last two years, and it’s just so exciting for me and for everyone who’s working with this. So yeah, I’m really delighted.

Olga Kasatkina  09:31

Oh, great. Great to hear. Thank you for sharing. Yeah, that’s nice that you mentioned teachers. And as far as I know, the whole team is more than happy to work on charity projects, and self-development projects as well. And maybe it’s time for you to tell more about our 2022 project Employers who Empower. Tell us more about it.

Lorraine Venables  10:02

I certainly will, thank you, Olga. Yes, Employers who Empower, so this is our big project for 2022. Not only do we, at Intrepid English want to make a positive impact in the world, but we want to work with companies who also do that. So we’ve created this project, which is available only to ten companies who have a policy of CSR, which is corporate social responsibility. And actually, that’s a lot of businesses, there’s a lot of companies. Just to give some context, B Corp certified companies are growing all the time. That’s companies which are focused on paying their employees fairly, having a sustainable and fair logistics and supply chain system, and who are working sustainably, so doing good for the planet. And actually, recently, Google said that they will only work with suppliers who are B Corp certified. So this is really a focus for a lot of different companies at the moment.

So in terms of Intrepid English, we have opened ten different slots for companies to work with us. And the project is throughout the whole year, really. It’s a workshop, which is totally co-branded with the company and Intrepid English. And we tailor the workshop materials and the whole process to take the employees who participate in this course, from where they are now, to feeling confident and competent using English at work. So we do it with the employer. And this is a really important project for us because we’ve been doing this with individuals for a long time and we have worked as a client with businesses. But this is really tying everything that we’re really passionate about into one really smooth product that is really well planned out. It’s transparent, it’s easy for the people to participate in it. It’s paid for by their company, and we’re actually making a positive impact by doing that.

This actually all came about because I’ve had a few conversations with people, students of ours who struggled at work because they didn’t speak English well enough, or in their minds, they didn’t speak English well enough to do their job. And I kept hearing about this feeling of dread that these students were having on a Sunday night and a Monday morning when they were just thinking, “Oh, gosh, I’ve got to go to work. But…  I love my job. But English is really holding me back.” And they were having to keep this quiet from their employer. Some of them were even looking for jobs where English was not used so they wouldn’t have to keep contending with this pain point all the time. And that really made me sad because they wanted to learn, but it just was a stressful situation for them. So having reached out to their employers and said to them, you know, I actually gave the students a video, and really clear points to say, “This is why you should provide English lessons to your employees.” And the employers were really super grateful, because they were delighted to have those employees, they didn’t want to lose that awesome talent but they didn’t realise what the problem was exactly, but they knew they were unhappy. So understanding exactly what the employee wanted, the company was more than happy to provide English tuition to that student. It took the financial burden from the student.

And let’s be honest, the student benefited but so did the company, so did the boss. Their employee was able to do their job much better, because they had the English skills to do it. The employer didn’t have to hire a new person when that person would have left. So, everyone’s a winner in this scenario. So we created the Employers who Empower course, so that we could scale this awesome project and provide this great service to many more employees and employers. So yeah, I’ll also leave the information in the comments section as well for that one. So thanks for bringing that up, Olga.

Olga Kasatkina  14:46

So yeah, that’s a wonderful project and brilliant initiative to my mind, and I think that those ten companies who will participate in this programme will benefit incredibly, a lot from it.

Lorraine Venables  15:06

Thank you, yeah. So far, the feedback is really, really good. So, yeah, we’re really, really looking forward to next year, and growing it more and more really.

Olga Kasatkina  15:19

Yeah. Interesting. And what are your plans for the future of the company? What are you dreaming about even?

Lorraine Venables  15:31

So many dreams. So many dreams. The next couple of years are going to be really exciting. We’re going to have an Intrepid English app in 2022, which we’re really excited about. That will be a place where our English students can find everything they need to improve their English. So already on our website, students can have one-to-one English lessons, they can join group classes, they can chat with other English learners and teachers in the community. They can read blogs and download audio courses. There’s loads of things on our website right now that we really need to create an app so that it’s all in one place where students can book their lessons, chat, study with their flashcards, study self-study courses, all of that in one place.

And ever since I’ve started telling our students about this app they’ve got all these ideas for me. “Oh, Lorraine, can it do that?” “Can it do this?” “Can it do that?” So I’m just brimming with ideas at the moment. So I’m really excited to see where that goes. Because I think there’s so much potential there to add value for our students.

Olga Kasatkina  16:48

This sounds great, and I’m a little bit jealous of students who just started, you know, because I’ve been with Intrepid English a little bit more than four years now. Four and a half. And yeah, but even without an app, my experience was great. And I have been experiencing myself this empowering approach because Intrepid English really met me where I was, and helped me to go in those directions, which I wanted. And that made me more confident. Of course, my knowledge has grown a lot and besides that, that was so exciting to me.

Lorraine Venables  17:57

That’s lovely, Olga. I’m delighted that you feel that way. Yeah, I’m so delighted that we met those years ago and that you’ve been able to come over to Edinburgh a couple of times, to visit and to learn English while you’re here, but also explore the city.

Olga Kasatkina  18:18

In another era, you know!

Lorraine Venables  18:18

Yeah, it seems like a lifetime ago. Yes, pre-Covid, and we’re in a different era of time now. Yeah, I’m really glad that we’ve been able to have that positive influence on you. And I’m absolutely delighted that not only are you a student, but because I’ve seen you grow, I’ve seen how resourceful and intelligent you are, I’m really glad that you have agreed to come and work with us as well now, which is amazing. So already, you’re making a massive impact on us and helping us as our Learner Success Specialist. I can never say that very quickly. But yeah, you’re doing an amazing job. And wow, here’s your career as an interviewer. You did really, really well. Thank you.

Olga Kasatkina  19:14

Thank you.

Lorraine Venables  19:17

It’s been a pleasure.

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Interview with Alyssa Ordu

Hello, and welcome to the Intrepid English podcast. My name is Lorraine, and today, I have a conversation for you. My friend Alyssa is a Diversity and Inclusion Consultant in London. And when I told Alyssa that we were creating a diversity and inclusion course, in the intrepid English Academy, we had a lovely conversation about why diversity and inclusion are so important. I asked her to join me on this podcast as an expert in this field, to break down these big topics so that our English learners and the listeners of this podcast can understand a little bit about what diversity and inclusion are, why they’re so important, and give you a little bit of language that you can use to increase your awareness and broaden your horizons in these essential areas.


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