With Father’s Day approaching, I’ve been thinking about my father, Dr. Paul Pimsleur, and the role he played in my path to entrepreneurship. My father created the Pimsleur Method, a language learning system that is still widely used today. He was a Romance Language professor, not really an entrepreneur or business person, but he was a visionary. My father created the first method that enabled travelers to learn enough of a country’s language to become conversational in just a few weeks. Fifty years later the same method sells in over 30 countries and is one of the most beloved language teaching systems in the world, favored by the military, the Peace Corps and millions of Pimsleur Method devotees. He was a big part of my inspiration to develop Little Pim, my language-teaching program for kids.

My father passed away suddenly of a heart attack in the 1970s, so by the time I was an entrepreneur, filling orders for my own language-teaching program, I didn’t get to ask him what the early days of his business were like. But I love the stories my mother tells about how she helped him compile pages of scientific research about language acquisition on yellow legal pads and how she mailed out the first Pimsleur programs while waiting for baby clothes to come out of the wash in our basement (that was for my brother and me). It certainly makes me appreciate having Google, cloud computing and Little Pim’s distribution-fulfillment center for launching my business! Both of my parents instilled a strong work ethic in me, but I think knowing that my father had a grand vision for changing the language teaching landscape is part of what helped me think big when I created Little Pim. I didn’t just want a language company. I wanted Little Pim to democratize language learning for kids and become a trusted language partner to parents all over the world.

Now, I am thinking big in a new realm. I have a goal of helping one million women get to $1 million in revenues by 2020. This came out of my own experience raising angel and venture capital for my business and working with amazing women in my Double Digit Academy, a boot camp I created to help women raise capital more quickly and painlessly. After two and a half years of teaching this class, I realize we all struggle with the same three things: the mindset, the skill set and the access to networks. That inspired me to write Million Dollar Women so that millions more women can overcome these hurdles and get to what I call the “Triple Win” of Money, Meaning and Mobility by running successful, high revenue-generating businesses.

I haven’t yet built Little Pim to the heights I want; there are days when it’s frustrating, grey-hair-making work, and days when I doubt I will achieve the goals I had originally set. When those hard times come, I think of my father and how he dreamed of turning language teaching into something available to everyone. I know he met with his share of naysayers and skeptics, but he kept going and 50 years later what he created is still thriving. I sometimes like to think that I am the entrepreneur he never got the chance to be, and know he’d love that the Pimsleur name is associated with  kids all over the world becoming multi-lingual and women all over the world thinking big.

4 thoughts on “Growing up Pimsleur

  1. As Father’s Day is less than a week away, I too am thinking about all the ways in which my father helped influence my life and particularly my career path. My father was a champion of non-profit. In no particular order he has worked as the Director of Development for; The NY Public Library, Henry Street Settlement, Carnegie Hall, Boys Harbor in East Hampton and The William Shakespeare Theatre. After 15 years of successfully running the first Vinyasa Yoga Center in Williamsburg, Brooklyn ….. I decided to close down my doors as a small business owner and merge with a non-profit in Manhattan that has been around for almost 20 year’s and has the potential to reach an international audience. I couldn’t be more thrilled and less attached to be a part of something bigger than myself. I personally am far more interested in a team mentality than die hard competition.

  2. Thanks for sharing about your father, Lilia – wonderful to hear how his passion for the non-profit space is now playing into your journey. Wishing you all the best as you merge into your new venture!

  3. Dear Julia,

    As you know my entrepreneurship has almost always been within the bounds of a larger corporation, most recently having the great fortune to apply myself and the corporate skills that
    I got from my mother who first worked in the same Rock Center complex, to Big Pimsleur the language program your father began.

    Reading your piece, I’m reminded that the part of me that drives me toward an often unreachable goal of perfection, or rather makes me push, and push to get the project at hand as good as it can possibly be, is from my father. His artists’ eye, the drive that had him hanging out of open Greyhound bus doors in Alberta, Canada, or hanging off a bridge in Lake Placid to get the perfect rowing photograph. Something all of my siblings’ remember vividly was having to stand still for what seemed like hours while he lined up his camera for a family photo–and looking back at them now I wouldn’t trade a single uncomfortable moment.


  4. A touching tribute, Robert. Thanks for sharing. Isn’t it true how much more we come to appreciate our parents as we age?

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