Everyday conversations: Business startups [audio]

A student who wants to start his own business tinkers with a prototype. (State Dept./ D.A. Peterson)

Six students from around the world meet. What do they have in common? They are all exchange students studying at a U.S. university for a semester. Throughout the semester, they learn more English, learn about U.S. culture, and learn more about their fields of study. This series of Everyday Conversations is about these six students and their experiences during a semester at a university in the U.S. These conversations are for intermediate-level English-language learners or higher.

In this conversation, one student (Akinyi) discusses how to start a new business with her friends, Lee and Peter.

Peter: So you really want to start your own business after you finish school?

Akinyi: Absolutely. I want to have my own startup.

Lee: I’m impressed. It seems like a difficult undertaking.

Akinyi: Of course it will be hard. But I’m not afraid of hard work or failure.

Peter: What do you need to do to create a startup?

Akinyi: First I’d like think of a new way to solve a problem. I want my business to help the world in some way. Then, if there is a product, I’d have to create a prototype.

Lee: That happens a lot in the field of environmental engineering. People create a prototype and then make lots of iterations. The prototype is never the final product.

Akinyi: Exactly. That takes time and a lot of patience. Another important aspect of a startup is funding. I’d have to find some way to fund my company, possibly through angel investors. Eventually, I’d have a launch.

Peter: You’ve thought about this a lot. And you seem like a natural entrepreneur, so I’m sure you’ll be successful.

Now let’s review the vocabulary.

A startup is a company working to solve a problem that may not have a clear solution; it is a new business.

An undertaking is a difficult or important task or project.

A product is something that is made or grown to be sold, usually in large quantities.

Prototype: the first design of something, such as a product. From the prototype, other forms of the product are developed.

Iteration is the process of repeating something over and over, in order to improve it.

Funding is money to be used for a specific purpose, such as starting a business.

An angel investor is a person who provides money for startups.

A launch is the event when something new, such as a new product or new business, is first offered or announced.

An entrepreneur is a person who starts a business and is willing to risk loss in order to make money.

Ready to learn more English? Our materials can help.

The American English website offers a variety of free resources for learners and teachers of English. The American English Facebook page posts learning materials for English-language learners daily.

Everyday Conversations are developed by the State Department’s Heidi Howland, a senior program officer in the Office of English Language Programs, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.