A closer look: The Business Implications of Soulphia’s Operating Model
Editor’s Note: This article is a sidebar further examining the operating model of Soulphia, featured in our Summer 2020 issue.
When meeting a practical need surfaces potential for net new value
The Soulphia founders inherently understand the value of diversity in the market of English as a Second Language (ESL) and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). Why? Because they are immigrants who have had to learn English quickly and in context. I believe they know the value of inclusion because of the barriers not just in the English language but in the cultures within which English is spoken. They also fundamentally understand that human potential is often obscured, latent in fact, and sometimes thwarted by systemic inequalities. Why? They are immigrants. “We know the struggles,” says Felipe. “We struggled to learn the language, the culture, the habits and how to interact.
Soulphia is on the path to becoming a B Corp — B Corp Certification is a third-party certification administered by the non-profit B Lab, based in part on a company’s verified performance on the B Impact Assessment. B Corps are accelerating a global culture shift to redefine success in business and build a more inclusive and sustainable economy. Soulphia’s founders want to make money by advancing contextual fluency in English — through social and technical rubrics and methods — while fostering the development of potential in underprivileged communities. Let’s call it “Return on Inclusion”. In this case, the ROI is the economic value-add from:
- deeper relationships from the collective progress made by tutors and students as they gain an understanding of vocabulary in context in meaningful engaging conversations
- social capital from the stronger social fabric and inherent uplift to homeless women
- untapped talent potential from the greater visibility of diverse human capital
Soulphia’s founders also see the growth potential from diversified revenue streams built on top of having this initial return on inclusion.
How does Soulphia define ‘value’?
One of the most interesting aspects of Soulphia’s model is their early recognition of the potential of their role in providing services for the ESL and TESOL ecosystem. And, while they have successfully proved their concept of operations, wisdom says it is time to scale.
Aside from the commercial potential, Soulphia’s impact speaks to a shared value across business and society — human potential. They are using the power of technology to open new routes to talent and new routes to market.
The Ecosystem Players
Customer (individual students)
Soulphia is looking to increase its student base in Brazil and in the U.S. Portuguese immigrant population. Today their student base is in Brazil. Theoretically, any Portuguese speaking country could be included in their plan for market expansion. Dialogue, not grammar, is the basis of their rich but bite-sized practical English lessons. In the near future, their student base will include Portuguese-speaking U.S. immigrants seeking connectedness and a “leg up”.
Customers (corporates with an ESL workforce)
U.S.-based companies with employees needing ESL or TESOL services could benefit from working with Soulphia. Contextual fluency in certain professions can improve metrics that increase revenues, drive down costs or reduce risks. Imagine when engineers easily understand and engage their industry rubrics in English, the risk of accidents and errors would decrease. Other metrics include increased relevance to consumers, customers and employees; greater visibility into underemployed or untapped talent and brand uplift — all because of inclusion through their contextual fluency in English.
These are people or organizations who can lend their knowledge, skills and resources to meaningfully contribute to Soulphia’s mission. Why? Because they believe what Soulphia believes. Having a part in “something good, interesting, innovative” can create value for partners.
Those that fund Soulphia’s growth activities have been able to see opportunities in Soulphia’s new ROI — return on inclusion.
Tutors benefit from new income streams that monetize skills they already have in the service of students. Delivering Soulphia’s ESL services through their platforms develop new — and build on existing — skills.
Difficulties in measuring “progress”
One of the challenges that Soulphia faces is the evaluation of student progress. They could define new measures of progress and related indicators from the usage and application of rubrics through the system of engagement where the exchanges between student and tutor are culturally dense. The data captured and generated from these exchanges provide a rich base of information from which to develop or generate new insights to inform offerings and other developments.
How do we scale a good thing?
Soulphia’s strong leadership team has a growth mindset and is adapting quickly. They have a good handle on what needs to be done. So, they must:
- Tap into the “ecosystem” (e.g. corporates and advocacy groups) for expertise and resources;
- Make “packages” available to new customer segments;
- Incorporate social technologies and storytelling into their architecture;
- Expand their rubrics into professions; and
- Institutionalize effective practices, new capabilities and experiences.
Soulphia has successfully executed a proof of concept of their business model. They are expanding the application of their topics to corporates and immigrant populations in the US.
And that is a good thing.
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