Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and an online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs and Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Spiffy here with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Kris Jagasia, the co-founder and CEO of Off2Class. Let’s learn what’s happening at Off2Class and how Kris is making a positive impact in the world.
Spiffy: Hi Kris, thanks a million for talking to me today. Tell me, what challenge is Off2Class addressing?
Kris: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! In the US, students who don't speak English as their first language (English Language Learners, known as “ELLs”) make up one in every ten students. That's a lot! And it will only grow. Some people think it will be one in every four students by 2025. Those students don't always get the best support from schools. The pandemic has made it even more difficult. Great teachers are the best way to help English Language Learners, but there aren't enough great teachers for every student. We provide tools and content to help English as Second Language (“ESL”) teachers save time and work more efficiently. We help make it easier for more people to become great ESL teachers.
Spiffy: I love learning. What motivated you to work in education?
Kris: My first experience in formal education was when I was five years old. My parents took me to a fancy, private French school that they likely couldn’t afford. They did this so I could learn a second language. They wanted to give me the joy of being forever multilingual. Both my parents immigrated to North America, unsupported by their families, in search of better outcomes. They valued education for their children beyond anything else. But, not everyone is as lucky as me. Your life outcomes and options are affected by your command of our global lingua franca: the English language. I believe that teachers are our best bet at addressing the inequities faced by English Language Learners.
Spiffy: I love that! How would you say that your organization is working towards a more equitable world?
Kris: We work with thousands of teachers each day who are making a difference in the lives of countless learners. We work with over a hundred districts across the US. Our work allows us to provide virtual tutors and support refugees from Afghanistan to learn English. We did this in Tulsa Public Schools over the summer. Our language lessons have helped marginalized learners in challenging situations such as in Syria to make significant academic gains in a short amount of time. Research shows that learning English dramatically improves your life outcomes and opportunities. We are improving life outcomes for learners in 100+ countries.
Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organization milestone or initiative. What impact does it make?
Kris: Quality teachers are the best bet to improve the lives of language learners. Sadly, there are not enough teachers for the growing numbers of language learners. We kept hearing this need from our district partners. We work not just with schools but also with teachers all across the world. We have a community of 10,000+ teachers who are active and motivated. Earlier this year, we hosted a free ESL Career Week to pair these talented teachers with schools where they could better help students. We brought districts including Virginia Beach Public Schools, Springfield in Ohio, and Harmony Public Schools in Texas. We paired them with 1,400+ teachers. It meant a lot to our school partners and teachers that we would make this effort.
Spiffy: Please share an experience when you faced failure and didn't give up. What did you learn from it?
Kris: Off2Class is bootstrapped. That means we've not had any money funding this company other than what the co-founders brought to the table. Edtech is a very competitive place to try and create a successful company. Investors pour millions into startups each day. That lack of backing meant that we faced failure from day one. Each day, we only had as much runway and time as we could create ourselves. We had limited space to make mistakes. That taught us to be grateful for each customer (we would write letters to each of our early clients). It taught us to be cautious and wise in our spending. We focused on what our customers (i.e. teachers) would actually use. That's helped us grow to profit. We have over $1.6 million in recurring revenue and this helped us serve more people.
Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Kris—it’s been an honor!
Kris Jagasia is the co-founder and CEO of Off2Class, responsible for directing company strategy and vision. He has built the commercial teams at the company, including sales, marketing, and customer success. (Nominated by Kelly King of EDTECH WEEK. First published on the Ladderworks website on October 14, 2022.)© 2022 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Jason Block. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.