While EYA was in Kosovo with the Youth for Innovation program, we got a wonderful chance to catch up with SammTalk, an EYA Winning Project of 2018! SammTalk is an online platform connecting secondary school language classes internationally via video chat and online social media, so that students can practice their language skills, make foreign friends, and learn about life in other places.
Their team has been very busy since the EYA Festival of last year, so we took the liberty to ask Taylor Sawyer, the co-founder of SammTalk, a few questions about where they are now.
Why did you apply for EYA last year?
We applied for EYA in 2018 for two main reasons. The first is that we felt SammTalk needed some recognition to help it reach more schools. We already had some great teachers who helped us launch and test the programme, and we knew it was working and had amazing potential. What it needed in 2018 was approval from an outside audience to help legitimise and further the programme. The second is that we as young, first-time entrepreneurs wanted to connect with other similarly-minded people. We saw EYA as a good place to become a part of a community that would give us positive energy and support.
How was your experience at the Festival?
We had a fabulous time at the festival last year. It was our first time meeting other young entrepreneurs with a social impact focus. EYA brings together such a special mix of entrepreneurs, students, journalists, designers, mentors, and presenters for a common purpose. It was really energizing for us.
What would you advise the next winners to have the best experience possible?
We advise the next winners to talk to as many people as possible, and be deliberate about sharing, supporting, and asking questions during the festival. You never know who you might meet. Be open to new ideas and perspectives. Stay in touch with the people with whom you click.
Taylor and Ander visited Fidan Uka from Blood Donor, another EYA 2018 Winner, in Prishtina in February and he was who recommended where/how to find a good software engineer to join the SammTalk team.
Petrit, SammTalk’s new team member in Prishtina, Kosovo with Birgit Kolb, Project Manager of EYA, and Matthias Kandler, PR Manager of EYA
Did you make new business contacts? How did you benefit from the EYA community after the Festival?
After the festival we stayed in touch and even managed to visit a few of our EYA pals. Thanks to a recommendation from one of the other winners [Fidan Uka from Blood Donor], we have been able to find the most perfect young software engineer to join our team. We look forward to supporting new EYA community members as much as we can, and to the continued benefits of the EYA community.
How SammTalk doing on the business side?
The number of schools participating in the programme has tripled in the last year and SammTalk now operates in nine countries. SammTalk is a social enterprise which means all membership fees paid by schools are spent directly on developing the programme and supporting our team, with no money whatsoever going to investors or owners. SammTalk’s growth is directed by feedback and ideas from teachers and students. We are very proud to manage SammTalk in this way and hope it can serve as a model for other social enterprises.
Ander visiting a class of one of their first SammTalk students in Spain, after their second year participating in the programme.
Are you planning on selling the business once it has grown big?
SammTalk is made for teachers, by teachers, and we want it always to be in the hands of educators who will develop and use SammTalk as a tool to improve language education. Maintaining a high level of integrity, fairness, and educational quality is paramount to us. As SammTalk grows, we plan to create good quality employment opportunities, but never to sell the business.