2012 was the year I started something big

New Year 2012

I’ve been trying to write this post for the last several days – and failing miserably.

Everybody always writes these wonderful, detailed, reflective year-end summary posts. I wanted to do the same, but my inspiration seemed to be running dry. Truth be told, my 2012 did not have much variety… rather, it was dominated by a single-minded, nearly obsessive focus on one project.

But I have a hunch that a few years from now, I’ll be looking back on this year as a major turning point, because…

2012 was the year I started something big.

EspressoEnglish.net, launched on January 1, 2012, has now been visited by over 150,000 people from 200 countries.


This may seem like small potatoes in a world where funny cat videos get millions of views… but the e-mails I’ve received give me a glimpse of the impact the site is having. Students have written:

  • to tell me my material is being used in classrooms in Algeria and NGOs in Nepal
  • to let me know I have a friend in Vietnam / India / Libya / Morocco, if I’m ever in the area
  • to thank me for sending lessons to Afghanistan where there aren’t many ESL teachers
  • to express gratitude and send warm holiday wishes from Cambodia, Sweden, and Brazil
  • to say they love my teaching style and are learning so much

I love teaching English because I know that becoming fluent in another language is life-changing. Not only does it open doors for incredible career and travel opportunities, but it also gives you another mental framework, another way of seeing and experiencing the world, a different flavor of self-expression. There are certain things I can only say in Portuguese, and others that can only be expressed in English.

Espresso English represents an investment of hundreds of hours of work, and it has been a real emotional roller coaster.

I often get waves of inspiration and stay up far too late working.

Not infrequently, I get frustrated and pessimistic and think, “This will NEVER go ANYWHERE.”

I do a happy dance every time a new customer signs up.

I get annoyed when the lesson I produce does not turn out the way I’d envisioned it.

And extremely nervous before each new product launch.

And humbled and honored by the fan mail.

And incredibly thankful for the help and encouragement I’ve received from other entrepreneurs.

Although the site is still small, I have this gut feeling that I’ve already conquered the hardest part: building initial momentum and validating the business’ viability.

As a much more experienced entrepreneur than I has written, “A startup is like pushing a boulder uphill. There‚Äôs a huge amount of effort to get to the top, but the momentum you get coming down the other side is incredible.”

One year in, I’m starting – just starting – to feel the first hints of that momentum. Things still feel fragile, and it still takes a lot of effort… but I am LOVING the process, and I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing.