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By Hannah Connolly
ursal Hedayat, is intent on disrupting the labour market for marginalised talent with her social enterprise education start-up Chatterbox. Founded in 2016, Chatterbox is an online language training platform that works directly with refugees, leveraging their language skills and training them to teach others.
Hedayat was also the winner of the Veuve Clicquot Bold Future Award which celebrated its 50th year in 2022. Alongside Hedayat, Mel Smith, former head at food retailer Ocado, took home an award. Previous winners of the Bold Future Award include Sharmadean Reid, founder of The Stack World.
“I was captured by the value proposition to use the power of business to solve the world’s most pressing social problems,” Hedayat tells The Stack World about her winning business. “I went to Calais and I looked at what the current situation was for refugees, having been a refugee myself from Afghanistan to the UK and the inspiration for Chatterbox was born shortly after,” she adds.
Of course, women have felt the different cruelties of trying to clamber back on the labour markets ladder."
In the six years since launch, Hedayat and Chatterbox has supercharged the presence of marginalised professionals as highly valued participants in the growing online economy. Chatterbox works with brands across the world by connecting them with native language teachers helping to improve company communication and cultural intelligence.
To become a teacher on the platform, Hedayat says, is not about prior experience as educator, rather in the innate skill set native speakers represent. “We have made it absolutely seamless and easy for anyone [to become a teacher on the platform] regardless of their background, or whether they have taught before, or whether they have studied languages. Our technology makes it super simple for people to activate their language skills as a source of income for themselves.”
Chatterbox combines the best of face-to-face teaching with AI-powered app based learning, through multifaceted learning methods, from ‘micro lessons’ in French, English, Arabic and Spanish, internationally recognised courses and assessment modules, to on-demand linguistic and cultural experts to support personal progress.
A company working to serve those groups the labour market leaves behind, such as the elderly, women and refugees. “Of course women have felt the different cruelties of trying to clamber back on the labour markets ladder. After having children refugees have been excluded from work and marginalised in the market for hundreds and hundreds of years. Long before the definition of refugees was a thing. So we know there are a whole host of very talented people that sometimes remain underemployed or unemployed.”
“I was captured by the value proposition to use the power of business to solve the world’s most pressing social problems.”
Though Hedayat is conscious of the friction tech can present, especially for marginalised groups: “I’ve seen it time and time again, services become digitised and initially try to remove humans completely from their delivery.”
In this understanding, Chatterbox’s unique offering comes to light, “The really high quality stuff is where it has a human touch. So, in our products, and our approach to language tech, we really place humans at the heart. We’re working with people who might be a lit- tle afraid of technology.”
As for future plans for Chatterbox, Hedayat has big ambitions: “In 10 years time, I’d like to see Chatterbox as a language learning unicorn. I think there’s a space in the market for a socially informed language learning business like Chatterbox.”
“I was captured by the value proposition to use the power of business to solve the world’s most pressing social problems" - meet the Founder of Chatter Box.
By Hannah Connolly
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