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Diala Pharaon, Co-Founder + Managing Director of Gain Contact

Updated: Jan 30, 2020

Introduction : Diala Pharaon, Co-Founder & Managing Director of Gain Contact

Describe your company, service, business location and number of employees, and years in business.

Gain Contact is a lifestyle and learning brand that provides language enrichment and custom educational and training programs for children, adults and organizations. We are based in South Bergen in downtown Rutherford with a satellite location in the Ridgewood suburbs. We are a small team of 4 staff and 15 instructional staff and have been in business for 15 years. We were first incorporated in 2005 when we launched our virtual educational counseling and off-site personal development workshops. We began offering programs on location in October 2008.

Diala S. Pharaon, Co-Founder & Managing Director of Gain Contact, Bergen County Moms

Tell Us About Your Company

Why did you start this company and when?

Gain Contact was born from a desire to provide educational solutions for diverse constituencies by building knowledge in target lifestyle dimensions: Self, Learning, Global Citizenship and Language Fluency.

What kind of corporation is your business? And why?

Gain Contact Group is incorporated as both an LLC and an INC. The Limited Liability Company was our initial form of incorporation in 2005. This was a good set up both for protection against liability and to allow pass through-entity for taxation purposes. We believe LLC is a good structure for launching new businesses to alleviate the burden of paying federal business tax. The fact that business owners are not required to provide worker’s compensation insurance for themselves is an added benefit. That said, the LLC may not be the ideal business structure as the needs of the business evolve. Business owners are considered self-employed and have to assume the full burden of the self-employment (SE) tax. The SE tax is designed to ensure that self-employed individuals pay the Social Security and Medicare taxes (payroll taxes) that would otherwise be withheld by an employer. In addition, self-employed individuals have to pay the SE tax on the net income generated by the business (calculated as a percentage of their share in the business) regardless whether they cashed in that income or chose to keep it in the business. The S-corps or Inc. is a more favorable form of business structure for growth-oriented companies. While owner pay is factored into the worker’s compensation insurance, the benefits outweigh the costs over the long term.

Did you have an “Aha” moment that made you create your service?

Having lived in both the United States and overseas, I have come to realize that despite the prevalence of multiple cultures within the U.S., there is a sense of isolation with regards to the rest of the world that creates a gap in connecting these cultures to their countries of origin. Given how large the United States is and the need to blend in, there is a disconnect with the rest of the world. This view gave me the impetus for creating an interconnected community that bridges global cultures by providing the tools, skills and resources to further the knowledge, competencies and insights of individuals and organizations.

How did you come up with the company name?

The word “GAIN” represents the concept of attainment and achievement, and the word “CONTACT’ represents the concept of connection. The name “GAIN CONTACT’ blends the concepts of improvement/advancement and creating linkages with cultures.

The type of linkages desired are represented in the word “GAIN” as G for Global, A for Alliances, I for Interactions and N for Networks.

What were your initial goals?

Our initial ‘raison d’etre’ was spurred by a desire to improve or advance the know-how with respect to the acquisition of a given skill or competency area. It is this understanding that led to the creation of Gain Contact - a lifestyle and learning company committed to providing the tools, skills and resources for each target lifestyle dimension.

Our early beginnings in 2005 positioned us as a provider of educational solutions in the personal development and educational placement lifestyle dimensions. When we launched our language programs embedded within the global citizenship education dimension later on in 2008, we were faced with a significant challenge that ensued as a result of the steep downturn in the economic cycle. At the time, we used diversification as a survival strategy and experimented with providing a broad range of services that included personality and skills assessments, SAT prep, and homework help as part of our suite of educational solutions. Our vision at the time was to become a one-stop destination for educational fulfillment. We learned through this experience later on that the key to success is to choose niche focus areas and become really proficient in them. Upon embarking on that path, we took a deliberate market-based approach in choosing the activities that would help us further our area of expertise within these focus areas.

Tell Us About Yourself

Describe yourself and your family

I am a solution-focused and goal-oriented individual who has always believed ‘If there is a will, there is a way’. I enjoy taking a big picture view of what it is that I am doing at any given point in time and constantly strive toward doing things more efficiently whether in my personal or professional life. I enjoy diving into a process of creative thinking and exploring opportunities for win-win collaborations. I am interested in learning about the latest trends in technology and how that in turn could be used as a positive force to improve operations or create social good. I believe in the laws of the universe and the power of reaping what you sow. I believe that there is a universal energy that connects us all and that we can all benefit if we first identify what it is we are seeking to accomplish and focus our energies in that direction. I believe in the power of positive thinking and that we alone have the power to shape our paths in life. I believe in mindfulness and the gift of living in the moment.

As a mother of two daughters 13 and 9, I believe in the empowerment of girls and women and volunteer my time toward such causes. After spending 14 years in Morris County, we moved to Ridgewood in 2018 in search of closely-knit community, good education, and proximity to family and friends.

What is your background and how does it relate to your company?

Having lived on three continents (Middle East, Europe and North America), I have been exposed at a young age to the values of global citizenship. I was raised as a bilingual child and acquired my third language in elementary school. In college, I majored in International Relations and minored in French. I spent my junior year studying in France and completing an internship at the International Institute for Human Rights in Strasbourg. Upon graduation from Syracuse University, I worked 3 years in France to further my language proficiency and expand my horizon. I hold a master’s in business administration (MBA) from Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts.

What was your past career, and did you ever dream of being an entrepreneur?

I worked in several industries that included information technology, investor relations consulting, telecommunications and education technology. Early on in my career, I played the role of an entrepreneur in every position I occupied by fully assuming my role and leading myself and others to accomplish tasks over and beyond what is required. My work experiences prompted me to apply to one of few business schools that specialize in entrepreneurship where I honed my entrepreneurial drive that translated into the creation of Gain Contact Group.

Did you experience an epiphany that changed the direction of your life to where you are now?

I have come to realize that we are all looking for the same thing: a sense of fulfillment, stability, and balance in our lives. While each of us might use a different measuring stick to define each of those metrics, we are all on a continuous path of self-improvement where the more we achieve, the more we aspire to.

Through challenging life experiences, I have learned over time that not everything that glitters is gold and the grass is not always greener. We are all on a journey of lifelong learning that is marked by trials and tribulations along the way. It is up to each of us to use these challenges as opportunities for growth and continuously learn and adapt. How we choose to approach any given situation - also known as our attitude - will dictate whether the outcome may be positive or negative. While visiting an antique store down by the shore some five years ago, I saw a sign that read: ‘Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift’. This has stuck with me ever since.

Diala S. Pharaon, Co-Founder & Managing Director of Gain Contact, Bergen County Moms

Product/Service Development

How did you test out your service so you knew people would buy it?

During 2007-2009, we conducted both formal and informal surveys to assess what was needed in the area of educational fulfillment. We held language groups, foreign movie nights, book signings and cultural events to get a better feel for the needs of the community.

What process did you follow to develop a service?

We developed a sample curriculum that we tested out with an in-house group of people consisting of onsite adult staff and their children; we also held cultural events at schools and street festivals.

Were there any setbacks in service/product development that had to be overcome?

The setbacks that we initially encountered included finding authentic language and cultural materials for diverse constituents. At the same time, we needed to standardize our curriculum so that it was uniform across all languages while factoring in age and target audience.

Was it more expensive to create than you originally thought?

For us, the process of creation necessitates the identification of standards that in turn govern the creation of educational materials, as well as the development of intellectual capital to ensure the successful adoption of these standards. We embarked on a course of self-study as part of our accreditation process that spanned two years. This process was quite expensive and required the dedication of specific resources to achieve that goal.

How did you determine the price of your services?

We determined the price of our offerings by doing a competitive benchmark analysis which we compiled by first identifying who our competition was, finding the gaps in their service delivery, doing a market-based needs analysis and positioning ourselves to fulfill that need. All of the above factors were utilized in formulating our pricing strategy.

Diala S. Pharaon, Co-Founder & Managing Director of Gain Contact, Bergen County Moms

Marketing Strategy

Through what markets are you selling (retail, wholesale, internet, specialty sales)?

Our markets are internet, retail and specialty sales. Buyers of our language programs and educational services can purchase our programs online and visit our educational facility or satellite location for the first time once their program begins. Interested customers may visit us in person and conclude purchases on-site at our location in Rutherford. We also provide specialized translation, in-school and after-school language enrichment programs and training solutions to organizations and corporations.

How did you introduce buyers to your service?

Buyers to our product learn about us through google organic search, email marketing campaigns, affiliate marketing partners, and social media.

What secrets have you learned in terms of publicity and marketing your product?

We have learned that word of mouth is the most powerful marketing tool. Having a brand strategy and a solid web presence coupled with a social footprint consisting of positive reviews can also go a long way. To do so requires a commitment to excellence and the establishment of systems and processes that enable delivery of quality services.

What was the biggest learning curve in terms of marketing your service?

The biggest learning curve in marketing our product is that a quality product does not need to be commoditized to be appealing. If anything, that gives the wrong message about the product and may even attract the wrong type of customer. In order for a product to be successfully marketed, there has to be goal congruency with the marketing strategy. In other words, the 4 Ws, (Who, What, When & Where) need to be aligned with the purpose of the brand and the need that it seeks to fulfill. In the absence of such alignment, there is brand dilu