Adell Mitchell



What is your business called?

Live Language.

Where is it based?


What services does it offer?

Language learning solutions, teacher training and professional language exams.

To whom does it sell?

The majority of our learners come to Glasgow from Asia, the Middle East and Europe to study English with us before starting university. We also teach languages like Spanish, Italian and Japanese to local people, businesses and a range of organisations.

What is its turnover?

A few years ago we broke the one million pound mark, but, like the rest of the language learning industry in the UK, our turnover has dropped by 25 per cent since 2016.

There are multiple reasons for the drop in numbers – 2016 saw the Brexit referendum and the attitude to the UK changed in international students minds; political instability in some nations; compared to countries with less complicated and expensive student visa applications and conditions, the UK became less attractive.

How many employees?

We have an international team of around 40 members of staff.

When was it formed?

I started the school in 2002 in my kitchen in the Finnieston area of Glasgow, teaching private students. The school grew steadily to occupy the two townhouses we have now.

Why did you take the plunge?

I returned to Glasgow from teaching in Japan and couldn’t find a school where I wanted to work that I felt shared my ideology of how people learn languages. For us learning a language is about immersion in the culture, so the language becomes relevant and alive. Before I knew it I was managing a school.

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

After completing my law degree and post-grad studies in Community Education, I decided to combine my love of travelling with work and went to Australia to do the Certificate of English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) course, an industry standard. I taught in Japan for two years, returned to the UK with my new family and started the school when my son was four months old.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

I started the school with £500 of savings which I used to buy teaching materials and build a website. After a few months I was able to rent one classroom in a building in Park Gardens, which was once the Scottish Football Association headquarters, and had a cupboard under the stairs as an office. I would do every job that had to be done – such as teaching, arranging accommodation, marketing, admin, managing the curriculum, cleaning, business development – until I could afford to take on staff to do a better job than I was doing. It took me six years to be able to pay myself the minimum wage.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

Seeing progress and growth and lives changing because of what we do every day. I love it when I see a member of staff buys a house or starts a family and when I see our students start university or graduate, or get a promotion because they have worked hard while they have been with us.

What do you least enjoy?

I would have to say that dealing with commercial landlords can be somewhat dispiriting.

What are your five top priorities?

• Making sure the staff enjoy their jobs – we were recently awarded the Investors in People Gold Award, a framework which we feel has really improved our business.

• Ensuring that we meet and exceed our quality standards – this year we became a British Council Centre of Excellence with eight areas of excellence in our inspection report.

• Engaging with our customers. As a business grows you may have more meetings to attend or more paperwork to complete, but knowing what the issues are on the front line, from staff and customers, is a crucial part of continuous improvement.

• Embedding our company values through recruitment, appraisals and decision making throughout the whole organisation has made us a business with integrity.

• Showing our students patience, understanding and kindness in the first few months of their arrival can make a huge difference in their attitudes to their new home and how successful they will be in their studies, and adapting to our way of life. They can find it very stressful arriving in a new country where they don’t speak the language and don’t have a support network. The food is different, so is the culture and they have to deal with our weather. Basic things like opening a bank account can be like an episode of the Krypton Factor.

What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?

Remove the Student Visas from the net immigration figures. What we have seen in the last few years is students preferring to study English in places like Malta and Malaysia rather than come to the UK because applying for a student visa is extremely expensive, students aren’t allowed to work in the UK after they graduate, most English language students aren’t allowed to have part-time jobs to support their studies and sadly, the UK is now seen as unwelcoming. International students bring an estimated £15 billion to the UK economy every year. A No-Deal Brexit will have an enormous impact on the universities and the communities around them.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

While I’ve been the driving force, I firmly believe it pays to be as open and democratic as possible so that staff can flex their muscles. Giving them space to try out new ideas means they respond positively and wholeheartedly to the challenges. Academic staff, for example, recently designed an online learning course for overseas healthcare workers who need English to communicate effectively in their work.

How do you relax?

I’ve just started training for a powerlifting competition, which means when I’m not worrying about my grip strength and researching squatting techniques, I’m complaining about my muscle ache.

Either way, I’m not thinking about work.