When Alexandra Nicoletti, the creative force behind the new UK-based company Lil’ollo, contacted me not long ago, I quickly discovered that she and her team are creating some of the loveliest products available for bilingual children and their families. And not only are the Lil’ollo products well-designed and well-made, but Alex is producing items that are uniquely special, too.
Would you like a beautiful map of the world that can actually be personalized with the names of family members and their locations, to show your children their multicultural heritage?
Lil’ollo will make one for you! (You could even win one in the giveaway below!)
Just through communicating with Alex via email, and eyeing her work in photos and video, I was already impressed and pleased to share Lil’ollo with others. And then, when she also sent us a box of samples so my children and I could see the products first-hand, it became crystal clear that Lil’ollo is creating resources that are both highly appealing for families with bilingual children and as high in quality as any of the best products for children you’ll find in the marketplace.
Ultimately, of course, my recommendations at this blog are not at all swayed by receiving product samples or any other sorts of incentives. I share only my honest opinion, in every case, and my honest opinion is that Alex is doing the world a real service by creating lovely resources that can help promote the bilingual and bicultural development of children everywhere.
For families on a bilingual or multilingual journey—and for schools nurturing multiple languages in their students—these are resources that provide colorful, playful support. I wholeheartedly recommend Lil’ollo and look forward to following Alex’s appealing and meaningful work.
Interview with Lil’ollo Founder Alex Nicoletti
Responding to my questions, via email, Alex shares her personal story, Lil’ollo’s origins and work, and helpful advice for other entrepreneurs. (Be sure to watch the nice videos, too!)
Could you tell us a little about yourself and your family?
My name is Alex and I live in the UK with my husband Gianluca and our children Marco (2) and Ornella (4 months). Marco and Ornella have an interesting family story…
Gianluca was born in Italy and so were his parents. He speaks fluent Italian, English, Spanish and also some French and German. My dad was born in India and so was his Welsh and Telegu speaking father. His mother, my Granny, was born in China. Her family originate from Scotland and her father spoke fluent Mandarin. My mum was born near London and so was her dad, and my maternal grandmother was born in the USA.
What is Lil’ollo and what moved you to create these products for multilingual families?
When we were expecting Marco, we looked for fun, beautiful bilingual products in both English and Italian. It’s important to us that our children can engage with both languages in an enjoyable way and we wanted resources we could share. I have a background in product design and after struggling to find what we were looking for, I decided to make those products for Marco myself. Following feedback and interest from other families, I created Lil’ollo. Since then I’ve been working with language therapists, teachers, filmmakers, artists and designers to develop this exciting business.
Could you tell us more about the Lil’ollo products?
Lil’ollo products and games are for everyone four months and over, whether you are speaking several languages fluently or would just like to introduce the idea of another language. Our range of posters, flash cards, games and wall art is currently available in:
Spanish – English
French – English
Italian – English
Dutch – English
German – English
Welsh – English
Polish – English
We will be adding more languages and combinations soon.
The Lil’ollo product range incorporates simple, open products featuring a family of specially designed characters. We’re also creating a helpful guide, full of games to play with your products alongside other helpful resources that can be found in our learning section.
Our characters, products, and games have been built on some simple science behind how we learn languages. This suggests early learning is at its most enjoyable and effective when it doesn’t “feel” like learning, and is open for everyone to interpret in their own way. Our resident speech and language therapist Ayelet talks us through this in this video.
We develop and design all our products at home with our children and our growing group of tester families, who provide us with such incredible feedback and encouragement. We will be expanding our product range soon and would love to hear from anyone who has any ideas for new languages, combinations, or products that you feel would add to the fun and experience of learning languages. We will share these via our social media channels before they’re released so please follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to find out more.
What are your plans or hopes for Lil’ollo?
We would really like to help more families around the world enjoy language learning together. The benefits of learning and speaking two or more languages are huge and we’re seeing such incredible discoveries in this field. I am especially interested in the research that points to bilingualism being able to preserve brain health in later life and even slow the onset of dementia.
Some more immediate and welcome advantages of language learning at an early age have been documented such as children exhibiting stronger signs of empathy. This is in addition to an increased understanding of others’ perspectives as well as a familiarity with the plethora of different cultures and languages of the people around us. More people globally engaging with two or more languages can only be a good thing!
What advice would you give to others interested in becoming entrepreneurs in this field?
I’m lucky to be surrounded by some bright and brilliant people who I continue to learn from. Here are some really important lessons they have shared with me. Please also see Una’s excellent insights from her journey starting Love your Lingo, as these were incredibly helpful to me as well.
Your company, brand, logo, and visual identity are all different but interrelated entities. The mistake a lot of new companies make is not spending time really thinking about the brand they are creating. Registering your company, and coming up with a logo and some great products is not enough. An absolute must read is Winning in Your Own Way, The Nine and a Half Golden Rules of Branding by Robert Bean. Also Designing Brand Identity by Alina Wheeler is another great book. Your brand is the heart of your company and without a strong one it won’t fare so well.
Get insight into your customers
Even though Lil’ollo was born from a need we had identified at home, I didn’t assume everyone would need or want the same. Please have a look at Matt Shore’s work on customer insight, specifically the “seven deadly sins of innovation.” Your research and approach to the very foundations of your brand and products are essential. I particularly like sin number 5: “overcomplicating stuff.” Sometimes the best ideas are the most simple.
Work in partnership
Don’t see other entrepreneurs, specifically in the field of bilingualism and language learning, as rivals—see them as friends. After all, different brands’ products can often be complementary in the lives of your shared customers. There is plenty of room for successful businesses, so think about how you can work in partnership and help each other. This could be joint promoting over social media, collaborating on new products, or providing valuable feedback to help grow and develop your businesses. No company will thrive from looking inwards.
Be the face of your brand and company
This is the part I really don’t like! I am outgoing in person but at heart err on the more introverted side. Therefore most of my career to date as been spent working in the background, avoiding cameras, especially video cameras at all costs. Unfortunately, hiding in the background, under my desk, won’t help Lil’ollo.
The brand has grown around our family, myself in particular, so I need to be at the forefront. If you have a genuine story, your customers want to know about it and to engage with you and that story. Without that personal touch you could just become another large company with a fabricated brand story; one which hides behind a faceless logo… I know who I would rather engage with!
Welcome constructive criticism and feedback
Engaging with criticism isn’t about welcoming mean-spirited nitpicking or trolling. I would suggest ignoring that kind of feedback. However, opening yourself up to constructive and positive criticism will help your company grow. You don’t need to follow every piece of advice but be prepared to adapt and change your products and ideas if someone offers some useful insights.
Is there anything else we should know about you or Lil’ollo?
We really want to connect with you all and we would love to hear from you! Would you like to see another language or combination added soon? Would you like to test our products before they’re released? Do you have any incredible language experiences or stories to tell? We’re active on social media and you can reach us at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, or you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Alex is kindly offering prizes for 3 lucky winners…
First Prize: A Personalized Map of the World
What would you like to share about a map of the world with the children in your life? Perhaps where family members were born, or where friends are from, where you have traveled or where you would like to go? Add messages and locations to special arrows and let us know how many, where they should point, and what you would like them to say. Personalize this beautiful map of the world with one or more names (for example, this map is Arianna’s world) and up to 10 arrows and locations.
NOTE: If you’d like to order one of these special maps as a Christmas present, don’t delay! To ship this product outside of the UK, please order before December 10 to allow us time to make it and ship it to you.
Second Prize: A Set of Number and Shape Flash Cards and Animal Pairs Cards
This prize will be in your choice of language combination: either English and Spanish, English and French, English and Italian, English and German, English and Welsh, English and Dutch, or English and Polish. These beautiful, colorful cards are made from specially coated card stock and can be used to play lots of different games. Have a look at our games guide for ideas.
Third Prize: A Large Animal Numbers Coloring Poster
Coloring is always great fun, and brilliant for fine motor development, concentration, color recognition, and hand-eye coordination. Even better when there are languages involved, too! There are lots of different animals hiding in this large A2 Numbers Coloring Poster. It is made from specially backed paper, perfect for pens, crayons, paint, or pencils. This prize will be in your choice of language combination: either English and Spanish, English and French, English and Italian, English and German, English and Welsh, English and Dutch, or English and Polish.
To enter the giveaway, just follow these three simple steps…
1. Share this post with others via social media. Help spread the word on Lil’ollo and the appealing resources made by Alex and her team. Use the sharing buttons below or simply copy and paste this link…
2. Leave a comment below with the following information. (And please proofread your comment, before submission, to check that the information is complete.)
1. Your first name and where you live (Example: Adam in Japan)
2. Your children and their ages (Example: Girl, 12 and Boy, 9)
3. Your two (or more) languages (Example: Japanese, English, and Spanish)
4. What are your first impressions of Lil’ollo? (Example: I really like the cute illustrations and the thoughtful design. The products are beautiful and the world map that can be personalized for your own family is a truly inspired idea! How cool is that?!
3. All entries must be submitted by the morning of Sunday, December 11 (Japan time). On that day, the comments will be printed out and cut apart to serve as entry slips for the drawing. The slips will be placed in a big, blue bucket and the winners chosen randomly in this way: I will pick the third prize winner; then Lulu will pick the second prize winner; and finally Roy will pick the first prize winner. After that, I’ll contact these people by email and update this post with the results.
Thank you for entering the giveaway, and for sharing this information about Lil’ollo with others! Alex and I look forward to seeing your comments!