Case study: Downtime gave me an opportunity to upskill

Case study: Downtime gave me an opportunity to upskill
Brian Allen
Brian AllenLearn Spanish In

Posted: Fri 2nd Oct 2020

Brian Allen has been preparing for the launch of Learn Spanish In for the last four years, travelling to potential schools in Spain and South America and building a booking website.

Then the coronavirus hit, putting the brakes on his plans.

Brian's existing business, Inglés Ya, organises trips to English-speaking countries to help Spanish people learn the language.

Inglés Ya has been going for more than a decade and he saw the opportunity to help English people learn Spanish in a similar fashion. Brian had struggled with Spanish in secondary school before doing an immersive experience with subsistence farmers in the mountains of Ecuador.

Unable to launch the new website and with his existing business suffering, he had to think about what to do next.

"I was raring to go but right now I can't, so I thought, 'how can I use my time productively?'" Brian explained.

Using downtime to upskill

The answer? Leverage Enterprise Nation's platform to spend time learning. That way, Learn Spanish In would have the best chance of success when travel became possible again.

Brian knew search engine optimisation (SEO) and PR were important to the launch and reached out to freelance small business journalist and event host Dan Martin.

Dan's an expert in content marketing and PR. Brian booked a free hour-long taster session made available because of the Recovery Advice for Business that Enterprise Nation's running in partnership with the Department for Business.

"Wow, that was an hour well spent. If I can't make positive progress on the back of that call, I might as well pack it all in right now!" Brian said after talking to Dan.

The format helps business owners access the advice they need and gives advisers an opportunity to meet potential clients.

Identifying opportunities

Brian already knew he wanted to talk to Dan about SEO when he watched his Lunch and Learn webinar on getting PR for your small business.

Chatting to Dan gave Brian some immediate takeaways and Brian embedded Facebook reviews on his existing website within half an hour. He's also set up Google My Business.

"I wanted to ask him about backlinks. I could see that was a theme in SEO I wasn't exploiting properly. I wanted to get the website optimised and get ideas in place for when I launch it," Brian said.

Long term, he's started working on a PR strategy for launch.

Because of the pandemic, Learn Spanish In can't launch with the European and South American itineraries Brian has planned. But he's been inspired to launch with online courses and expects the website to go live in the next few weeks.

"Thank you Dan for providing me with so many useful tips," added Brian. "I'm now more motivated and have a clearer idea of what I should be aiming for."

Does your business need support on how to thrive in the new normal? Speaking to Enterprise Nation advisers can help you navigate the next phase of your growth. You can book a free one-hour call with advisers as part of the Recovery Advice for Business scheme. Existing Enterprise Nation members can find an adviser here. If you're not a member, sign up for free here.

Brian Allen
Brian AllenLearn Spanish In
I was labelled a failure when it came to learning languages at secondary school. I know that because 15 years later, whilst teaching in a bilingual project in Spain, I "bumped into" my ex French teacher. After some awkward moments, working out why our faces were so familiar, I told her about my work. But you were never a linguist! she exclaimed. Maybe I wasn't but I can empathize with those who struggle to learn a language. I've since learned of its other benefits,  A different language is a different vision of life, said Federico Fellini." I decided to learn Spanish when I was 30. I was teaching in a primary school in East London. I was dedicated to my work and really enjoyed it! However, realizing it was going to be a very slow process to learn Spanish through evening classes, I gave up my job after 7 years and went to South America for 6 months to live Spanish! I started off living with a family of subsistence farmers in the mountains of Ecuador. I had 4 hours of classes daily from a Spanish first "full immersion" experience. Nobody spoke English. It worked! In 2 weeks I gained the confidence to communicate in Spanish, without fear of failure. I was ready for the road and spent the next 4 months mainly hitching my way through the Andes. There was so much to learn from its history and culture. I've since attended Spanish classes in Spain, Colombia and Panama. It's so important to listen to the learner's needs and past experiences before offering a Spanish school abroad or presenting a range of Spanish courses online. After 30 years of experience in managing a variety of roles in the education sector in England, St Lucia and Spain I have a good idea of what best motivates a student. Over the last 10 years, I've run "Inglés Ya," an agency that has successfully promoted English courses to the Spanish speaking world. I was often asked if I could provide the same for learners of Spanish. Therefore, in 2016 I started planning "Learn Spanish In." So that I could match the same high standards of Inglés Ya, I decided to grow things slowly. It’s taken 4 years to visit and select schools in Spain & Latin America. I've met the directors, Spanish teachers and support staff at each school, tried out Spanish lessons and checked out the accommodation. I've taken local transport and explored the local area and beyond. Small, high-quality Spanish schools support the local community in so many ways. They mainly employ local teachers and support staff, use the services of local guides and provide a welcome income for local host families. I believe it is a sustainable model that fits in with my personal values. Brexit stalled my launch plans and raised serious doubts. Then came COVID-19! With the sector in crisis, I couldn't have imagined a worse scenario to launch a Spanish language agency but here I am! I'm more determined than ever to support the wonderful schools and their local communities and provide others the best way to learn Spanish.

Get business support right to your inbox

Subscribe to our newsletter to receive business tips, learn about new funding programmes, join upcoming events, take e-learning courses, and more.