Home Business Heroes: Genevieve Yusuf

How did you start JaJaJa Books?

I worked as a teacher in Spain for many years and saw children on the continent are bilingual from a much earlier age than they are in England. I thought we could encourage this here through storytelling to get children engaged and wanting to learn without realising they're learning.

When I was learning Spanish, if I was in an exam situation and there was a word in a sentence I didn't understand, I would look around in the context to see if I could guess the word. That's why the books are predominantly in English with Spanish words slipped into context to help children learn.

Did you have previous business experience?

No. I have quite a varied background. I did a linguistics degree with Spanish and within that I studied child language acquisition. That gave me grounding in that side of things. I became a private tutor in Spain so I worked with children and languages a lot but I had never actually written a book.

I always wanted to and I have always been passionate about getting children in Britain to start learning languages earlier. Then the company I was working for lost funding and I thought, "I either go for it now or never".

How did the JaJaJa Books name get out to the public?

I self-published the book with the help of a lot of friends in a lot of different disciplines. I've got somebody who is in PR who did a great press release for me. I got into local press and did interviews with magazines. I also go around to schools and do story times with children up to eight years old.

The books are in a lot of independent book shops and on Amazon; it's a whole host of different strands really. Social media has been absolutely amazing.  It's crazy how many sales I get from Twitter.


What's your history with learning languages?

I studied French and Spanish at A level so, while Spanish is my main passion, my French is pretty good too. I recently went to meet a Japanese girl as I like the language. She is looking into the possibility of turning the books into Japanese.

I have a lot of ideas of how to expand the brand. I want to go into other languages and maybe other ages but my whole aim is to target children because they don't realise they're learning a language half the time. They don't have the inhibitions we have as we get older. They're like sponges.

So other languages are the future of the business?

I would like to just expand it so it looks better as a brand. Languages like Chinese and Japanese are ever growing and I think it will be good to encourage children to take on another language.

A lot of schools say they are already doing French so they don't need Spanish but I truly think when they're young, it doesn't matter how many languages you expose a child to. They can take their pick when they get older.

Did you always work from home?

As soon as I started JaJaJa Books, it was all from home. I write the stories at home. All the phone calls and press releases I put together and all the social media sides are done from home too.


Does anyone work with you in the business?

I have a team of friends and family who volunteer but no paid employees. I have a best friend who is a graphic designer and puts together all my press releases and promotional material. My friend in PR does a lot too.

I just have a brilliant team of support around me. My husband has always said to me:  "This is your passion. You have to go for it."

What's the best thing about running a business from home?

The flexibility and having home comforts are great for writing. I don't think I could write if I had to be anywhere else or I was distracted. The flexibility means I can plan my day and say to myself: "I'll do these phone calls this morning and then this

I enjoy it, I love it and I really look forward to working when I get up. I hope it lasts.

And the worst?

It can be very lonely. I've worked in offices and sometimes you miss the banter. I also have a dog and a cat and they can sometimes be noisy during a very important call, which can come across pretty unprofessional.

The loneliness was very bad at the beginning. You don't have the chit-chat going on in the background but that can be a nightmare too.

What would make your life easier as a home business?

More hours in the day and more hands. I take on a lot with this business and, even though I have a lot of people helping me, in time I'll need to take on more people because JaJaJa Books is growing so quickly.

Maybe it won't end up being a home business but I would like to keep it as it is. I try as hard as I can to do everything myself but I think I'll have to hire extra staff even though it's scary to make that leap.


A truly inspirational Home Business Hero. For more information on Genevieve and JaJaJa Books, visit: www.jajaja-books.com


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