Each Monday, a local small business gets advice from a
local business consultant. Today, we look back at two businesses to see if
the advice is paying off.
It's early on a Tuesday morning and Cathy Sirk is a
bit breathless but looking energized, and with reason.
Since last June, her business has grown rapidly.
The class roster for her foreign language instruction
business, Foreign Fluency, climbed from about 25 to 110 students, and in
January Sirk had to hire two teachers to help balance her workload. This
week she'll introduce a new French course with the help of yet another
"The biggest thing that came out (of the makeover) was that I
got into the home-school market," she said.
Appealing to the parents and decision-makers in that market
had eluded Sirk, despite her best efforts to advertise to them. Among her
current list of 110 students, she can count a group of 24 home-schooled
Her success thus far has not only boosted the number of
referrals she receives, but has also earned her more credibility with
parents and teachers.
"People would call me and say, 'I want you to come to my
daughter's school,' " Sirk said.
These requests were music to her ears.
One of her earlier goals had been to gain entry to elementary
schools. At the time, however, Sirk lacked the contacts that could give her
easier access to administrators and others in charge.
Encouraged by the parents' requests, Sirk placed some calls
to the Marana school district. Her efforts paid off and she managed to get
donated class space from teachers at three Marana elementary schools
including Ironwood and Quail Run. Classes are held after school so she
doesn't intrude on teachers' schedules.
She was quickly establishing herself in the Northwest area,
and Foreign Fluency was expanding at a steady pace.
Then parents from other districts such as Vail and Amphi
But where things had progressed relatively smoothly with the
Marana district, Sirk has often not been able to move beyond the principal's
desk in the new districts.
She attributes her difficulty breaking into these markets to
the same problem she had earlier when she didn't have an inside contact at
the schools. But she hasn't given up.
"I model my program after Mad Science," Sirk said, referring
to the national franchise that hosts science workshops and after-school
programs in many of the same schools she's trying to work with.
"I'm not sure why I'm any different in their eyes," she
Though she adopted many of the recommendations for marketing
and general business principles suggested by business coach Dale Bruder,
Sirk decided not to approach larger institutions such as Pima Community
College. "If I went to Pima, then I'd be working for Pima. And it would be
teaching adults," Sirk reasoned.
She summarized her past year with a huge sigh and a smile.
Sure there are a few kinks here and there, and additional
teachers to hire down the road, but for now, "It seems like everything is
falling into place," she said.