Since the Cincinnati Spanish School and Academy opened in 2004, it has continued to grow with the addition of new classes and new locations along the way. Today, the school has two program brands at each of its three locations. The Spanish Schools are designed for adult language learners while the Spanish Academies are focused on children. Specializing in immersion language learning for a broad age range has given the business an edge against its competition. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Megan Meconi, one of the owners, about her journey with the Cincinnati Spanish School and Academy, a PaySimple customer since 2013.
About Cincinnati Spanish School and Academy
How did the Cincinnati Spanish School and Academy come to be?
“The original owner started the concept when he wanted his daughter to learn Spanish and was having trouble finding the kind of format that would allow her start young and learn.”
He partnered with a woman from Mexico who had a background in pedagogy and the school was born. The program initially focused on kids and has grown from there. Today, it has multiple owners and many students of all ages.
“We provide adult classes in the evenings and private classes as well as lot of corporate classes. And for kids, we provide enrichment programs before and after school and in some cases during the school day.”
What makes your business unique?
“Our business is modeled around our methodology in immersion learning, so the first day you walk into class everything is in Spanish. Essentially, you’re learning to think in Spanish, the way that you learned your first language as a toddler. By hearing it, watching other people use the language, feeling uncomfortable with your first attempts at saying some of the words and growing from there. So you absorb the language, rather than just learning how to translate what you want to say from one language to another.”
Megan, herself, has participated in the programs. She started with no experience in Spanish. With time and practice in the immersion classes, she is now a fluent Spanish speaker.
“It’s not easy but it brings incredible results, incredible satisfaction and it really is the one and only way to learn to think in another language.”
What challenges have you experienced in your business?
“We had the most antiquated website for years. We recently launched a new website and the new design is leaps and bounds ahead of what it was but it also gives us more functionality.”
The new website has given them the ability to offer placement tests and class enrollment is much easier. However, getting people to engage and stay engaged in social media and other marketing efforts has been a challenge.
“When it comes down to it, it’s hard to convince people that it is something that they want to do. It’s more that people recognize a need or want in their lives and then start looking and we want to be the first one they find when they start looking. It’s just not a service that you can necessarily convince people that they need.”
“The big thing for us is that we needed a way to capture registration details from anyone that was registering for class. Then, we also needed a way to offer some type of payment plan option because this is a more expensive service, and we needed a way for people to spread that cost.”
Before finding a solution, Megan and her team were collecting checks from hundreds of families every couple of months, which proved to be a frustrating and time-consuming task.
“So we started using PaySimple and it was great because the payment forms could collect information and also offer a payment plan.”
This worked well for a while but soon the business’s needs grew. Megan and her team agreed to try out the new Online Store feature from PaySimple.
“It’s perfect. It’s exactly what we needed. You can use the subscription status, which for us is the equivalent to a payment plan. It’s ‘no instructions needed.’ The options they have to purchase are right there. We can collect the information we need on the child, teacher, age, and birthdate and have it all together with the payment information.”
With the launch of their new website, Cincinnati Spanish School and Academy is streamlining customer experience by using the Online Store to list and give their customers the ability to easily register for classes. The payment plans are flexible and based on different offerings – and a student’s situation.
“In one case we’re offering a class in the Online Store for $500. People can’t pay $500 at once but they can pay it over six months, a little bit at a time. It helps make the programs affordable for many, many more families.”
About Owning a Business
What advice would you give to other businesses just starting out?
You are everything
“I didn’t realize at the time, but you are everything. You are IT, you are marketing, you are payments, you are collections, you are accounts payable and receivable, you are a web developer — you are everything. So know that sometimes you are just out there on your own, doing the best you can and you just have to make some mistakes, learn from the money you spend and move forward.”
Invest in people
Megan attributes much of Cincinnati Spanish School and Academy’s success to the quality of its staff and the investment in great people.
“Anytime you want to grow, your investment in the right people is going to cost you a lot more than you think in the beginning. If your business grows 25% and you need to hire another person, if you’re a small business, you’re going to pay more than 25% of what you’re making for the new person. You have to do it though, because you can’t do it yourself. It’s a big investment in people upfront and it takes a while for it to pay off, but it does.
Streamline your business
Since Megan joined the Cincinnati Spanish School and Academy team in 2011, they’ve continued to change their business practices, streamline processes, making things easier for their business and easier for their customers. They have put a focus on putting structure in place with better practices, which has helped in streamlining customer experience and growing their business.
“When I started, adult students would get a little piece of paper every five weeks that said that it was time to pay and here’s what you owe. If they paid: great. If they didn’t pay, no one kept track. Now, people know upfront how much they are going to pay. If they pay early, we can now offer early bird pricing. We have a system and a way to track people that are paying and can offer payment plans — that’s the kind of thing that makes a business run. You’re not just chasing your tail, you’re actually analyzing what’s happening and how you can make things better, instead of always just kind of being in the dark.”
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