Language learning programs like Rosetta Stone and Duolingo have helped a lot of people learn the basics of Spanish in recent years. But there’s one thing those programs lack — actual conversations with native speakers through Spanish immersion online. That’s where Hablamos Today comes in.
The business doesn’t compete with those programs. Instead, it is meant to complement them. Read more about the program and the team behind it in this week’s Small Business Spotlight.
What the Business Does
Offers assistance for those looking to learn Spanish.
Co-founder Creighton Vilsack told Small Business Trends, “We are a language learning program focused on Spanish conversation. We are a supplement for learners learning by themselves with popular programs such as Duolingo and Rosetta Store. These programs are great, but they lack live feedback from a native Speaker. People need conversation partners to truly master the language.”
Providing a completely unique service, Spanish immersion online.
Vilsack says, “There are “conversation exchange” websites, but learners complain that conversation partners found there are unreliable, there is no structure to the conversation which gets stale, and people are often looking for dating partners. Also, with us the conversation is 100% focused on Spanish.”
How the Business Got Started
By adjusting to another business crisis.
Vilsack explains, “Cheryl, a co-founder and I jointly ran Del Norte, a popular restaurant in Leon Nicaragua, which went out of business as a result of the political crisis here. We had to come together and think of another business that is based here but does not rely on the local economy being strong.”
So the two began brainstorming things they had in Nicaragua that could benefit people in the U.S.
He continued, “Spanish ability is what we came up with, and we realized that if we connect speakers and learners in a structured way, it could be helpful for both sides.”
Getting their first customer.
Vilsack says, “We woke up one day, saw they made an appointment, and realized this could actually work!”
Start small and grow from there.
Vilsack explains, “We have been risk averse due to a low budget. For example, I also make sure to start small with our Facebook/Google ads, and if an ad is getting feedback, I boost the budget.”
How They’d Spend an Extra $100,000
Vilsack adds, “I’d partner with an SEO firm to get us in the first page of Google searches for our keywords. I’m certain this investment would pay off. All we’re missing is recognition. People think the only option for conversation practice is a free exchange website. Once a Spanish learner who needs conversation does their trial session with us, they are hooked.”
What Sets the Team Apart
A true family business.
Vilsack says, “I run the business with my girlfriend, who is a Nicaraguan who also is one of our tutors. Her niece, Geraldine, is our other tutor.”
“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” MLK Jr.
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Images: Hablamos Today; Creighton Vilsack, Cheryl Otero, Geraldine OteroMore in: Small Business Growth