A person who sees a problem is a human being; a person who finds a solution is visionary; and the person who goes out and does something about it is an entrepreneur. -Naveen Jain

Want to start a business?

Who doesn’t these days. it seems that in the world we live in we are being encouraged to become entrepreneurs, follow our ‘passion’, work for ourselves and avoid having a boss who tells us what to do, at all costs. The message is loud and clear and keeps repeating. The younger generations that I meet in Europe want to accomplish this and so I thought there probably should be a lesson idea in ESL on it since it’s a current topic with lots of vocabulary. Words in italics are meant to be vocabulary words. The focus here, as in all my lesson ideas, is speaking and vocabulary and usually for students who have completed Intermediate level English or higher. Please note that you can adapt my suggestions to fit your class. Hope it’s useful, and if so, sign up for the ‘Freshen up Fridays’ newsletter for a free lesson idea each week as well as student insights and videos for teachers.


It’s a difficult word for my students, to remember and to pronounce properly. So a good place to start. You can draw lines and play hangman with the class or just simply write it and check pronunciation and the definition as well as the different forms of the word (entrepreneur, enterprise, entrepreneurial).

Vocabulary Focus

Here are some common words in business, match them with their definitions below:

Capital, small-business loan, angel investor, incentive, value added, accelerator, startup, funds,

  • wealth in the form of money or other assets owned by a person or organization or available for a purpose such as starting a company or investing
  • a newly established business.
  • a payment or concession to stimulate greater output or investment
  • is a high net worth individual who provides financial backing
  • a sum of money saved or made available for a particular purpose.
  • the addition of features to a basic line or model for which the buyer is prepared to pay extra
  • is a program that gives developing companies access to mentorship, investors and other support that help them become stable, self-sufficient businesses

Have you or someone you know:

a)Built a website/landing page

b) Started a club/group of interest

c) Tried to earn money your own way

d) Created a Facebook group/page to raise awareness/money or administrator of a page

e) Started a business

  1. Would you consider starting your own business? why (not)?
  2. What is an “Influencer”? Give examples. Is such a person the same as a person who starts a business? What may be some differences?

What qualities do the above activities require to be done successfully? Look at these words and rank your top 3 choices.

Resourcefulness      Creativity         Perseverance    Determination      Organization     Efficiency       Competence

Risk taker     Discipline     Commitment     Consistency       Authenticity        Focus        Enthusiasm      Strategy


As always some good quotes(including title quote) on this topic are a great way to jump start discussion. It gets the students thinking of different perspectives on the idea of starting a business and has them discuss if they agree or not and then justifying their points of view. That is an important skill to practice when speaking justifying your point of view and expressing your opinion effectively so that your listener understands you. Here are some ideas that you can introduce at the beginning of your lesson, middle or end:

“The important thing is not being afraid to take a chance. Remember, the greatest failure is to not try. Once you find something you love to do, be the best at doing it.” -Debbi Fields

‘The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something. It’s as simple as that. A lot of people have ideas, but there are few who decide to do something about them now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today. The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer.” -Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari

‘If you can’t admit a failure, you’re not an entrepreneur. You’re not a good business person. There’s nothing brilliant about what you are doing.” -Mark Cuban


I’ve created a Padlet with reading and video resources on this topic. You can click on the link to pick which one is the most suitable for your class or lesson. Alternatively, just look below to see the topics I’ve added there for you. Simply click on the one you might be interested in using.

Made with Padlet

Once you pick which article or video suits you make a note of the vocabulary in each to either pre-teach or ask about afterwards. It would also be useful to have a few general comprehension questions as well. Finally, here are some questions to ask after using the resource:

  1. What’s your reaction to the article/video? Did anything surprise you, what was it?
  2. What’s the most challenging aspect of starting a movement/ cause/ website/ page/ business?
  3. What can be done to overcome these challenges?
  4. Would you want to start a business alone or with a partner? why (not)?

Business Partnerships

In the same Padlet as mentioned above, there are also a couple of resources on the partnerships that can be used. These are labeled clearly, and can be used as an alternative or to complement the other topics in this lesson. ‘The characteristics of an unstoppable partnerships’ has great headings of these characteristics that you can use to ask your students to discuss, without doing the article if you prefer. Get students to share opinions on the characteristics and discuss partnerships in more depth. There are additional questions for this below (additional materials).

All of the above ideas should be more than adequate to build a lesson around. My focus is always mainly vocabulary and speaking. However, I have included an additional section here from a coursebook that fits nicely with the topic as long as you have access to it.

Additional materials

Another resource you can use for this topic is the Advanced Total English coursebook. Unit 5 is on business and some of the sections can be used to complement my lesson idea. I particularly recommend the listening on pg.64 which is on Business partnerships. I great topic that complements the other parts of the lesson mentioned above. There are also free online resources for this unit here that the publisher provides. It should be easy enough to find the listening for this unit online. Here are some of the questions from that unit:

  1. Who would/wouldn’t you choose for a business partner? why/why not?
  2. Do you know people in successful/unsuccessful partnerships? Why do you think the relationship does/doesn’t work?
  3. Are you a ‘visionary’ or an ‘operations’ person? What skills, experience and qualities would you bring to a business partnership? In which areas are you lacking?

It’s also worth pointing out that the unit has incorporated conditionals and adverbial clauses into the topic of business which is an excellent grammar focus for students. You will need to get access to the coursebook but it is a worthwhile for the grammar.

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