When Lisa Zajur met her husband’s family for the first time, she faced a major barrier — she couldn’t speak or understand Spanish. Her husband, Michel, was from Mexico and she wanted to understand his culture and build relationships with his family.
After taking several Spanish classes, Zajur struggled to connect what she learned in class with conversational Spanish.
Recognizing that others around her in Richmond, Virginia, may be facing similar challenges, Zajur founded Casa Mosaic in 2018 — a business that aims to help people understand the Hispanic/Latinx culture while learning to speak Spanish.
Building an Effective Learning Experience
Zajur began by studying patterns between English and Spanish. She conducted research and consulted with foreign language specialists and studied the brain and how it retains knowledge.
She developed the Voice Tonality technology system while running a small, bilingual preschool. The technology has been proven to increase language comprehension and retention, which accelerates the learning process.
“It’s a whole brain approach to learning that utilizes both the left and right side of the brain simultaneously while learning a second language,” Zajur said.
As the Hispanic population increased in the community, so did the demand for learning the language. Parents within the preschool community soon began requesting industry-specific Spanish courses to leverage in their own businesses.
She expanded her business to include language and cultural training courses targeted to industries like financial services, construction and hospitality.
Through a six-week course, participants learn to listen to their clients and respond appropriately — with industry-specific terms and phrases — to create cultural understanding and advocacy.
Gaining Mentorship through Capital One’s Supplier Diversity Program
When the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted her largely in-person business model, Zajur knew she had to make changes.
Zajur’s husband, who founded the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, recommended she find mentors through Capital One’s Supplier Diversity Mentorship program, a resource that provides tools, resources and counsel for small business owners.
With the support of mentors from Capital One, Zajur reimagined the future of her business. The new approach would offer multiple paths for learning — combining both live and on-demand online classes.
She’s also testing a micro-learning application to support participants learning industry-specific terms and phrases to create an ecosystem of experiences and offerings — effectively scaling her business.
“I felt like I had come back to life,” Zajur said. “We just kept moving forward and kept making progress.”
In addition to reshaping the program, Zajur also has the opportunity to test those new concepts and adapt based on user feedback.
“We’re currently running pilot programs for the hybrid learning approach,” Zajur said. “It’s a constant, never-ending improvement process to transform the way we’re doing things.”
Exemplifying the Entrepreneurial Spirit
Zajur now not only has a new outlook for her business, but she also has a fresh perspective on what it means to be an entrepreneur.
“As an entrepreneur, you take this huge risk, and you have to believe in it,” Zajur said. “You’re solving a problem and you feel good about that. Then you have to get used to the pressure and develop thick skin to stay the course. You also have to be flexible and embrace the opportunity to think differently.”
She is now working with her mentors to envision how Casa Mosaic will operate in its next chapter.
For Zajur, that means getting comfortable with uncertainty.
“Lisa is limitless in her energy and her desire to learn, test and try new approaches in her business,” said Brandee Bevan, vice president of operations for Capital One’s Card and Bank Servicing. “Her resilience and ability to be forward-thinking during such a challenging time has greatly contributed to her success.”
For other entrepreneurs and small business owners who are feeling “stuck” and wondering what to do next, Zajur suggests finding a mentor.
“It takes courage to ask for help, but ultimately, a coach or mentor can encourage you to see things in a new way,” Zajur said.