Un buen negocio

Hablas español? If you reply yes to this question, you might be interested in taking up a franchise with Spanish Amigos. Workingmums.co.uk found out more.

Hablas español? If you reply yes to this question, you might be interested in taking up a franchise with Spanish Amigos.

The franchise was set up around 11 years ago by Maria Del Carmen Fallon. A Mexican married to an Irish man, she wanted to bring up her young children as bilingual and had been looking for local Spanish lessons so they could interact with other children in Spanish. “I couldn’t find anything that specialised in Spanish,” she says. So she decided to fill the void herself.

Based in Walton on Thames in Surrey, she started small, advertising her classes to her friends. Her classes are not just about teaching the Spanish language. She also wants to enthuse her students about Spanish and Latin culture and show them the benefits of learning Spanish, whether for holiday use or business. Her material is multi-sensory and she updates her lesson plans annually to include contemporary events, such as the World Cup. “I try to use things that interest my students,” she says.

Spanish Amigos is aimed mainly at primary school and nursery age children and at those with different levels of Spanish. Some children, for instance, just want holiday Spanish while others, like Maria’s, have Spanish-speaking relatives and want to learn more advanced Spanish. They are taught more structured sentences and their vocabulary is expanded.

From small beginnings, Maria’s business soon grew and she took on more teachers. Many are natives of Spain or Latin America and she has a lot of input from skilled linguists.

Six years ago she franchised the business and took on her first franchisee. She says she wanted to do the franchising by the book with the support of the British Franchise Association. “I could have expanded much earlier, but I wanted to do it properly,” she says, “I treated the first franchisee as a pilot and I used it to learn what kind of support franchisees needed.”

It was only last year that she started to franchise in earnest once the model was totally proven.

People who are interested in buying the franchise apply through the website. Maria then arranges to meet them or to chat over the phone. They are invited to come and see some classes before they sign up. She now has 10 franchisees, including one in Scotland. Most are mums so the training is very flexible and fits around them.

She provides franchisees with full support, training and material. The franchise start-up fee is £2,500. Franchisees then pay a standard franchise fee every year which is a percentage of their earnings. The payment covers all the updated activity sheets, games, flashcards and teaching material.

“We want everyone to be successful. It’s not the quantity of franchises but the quality that matters,” says Maria.

She says the business is very child-friendly and suited to working mums with language skills and an interest and ambition to develop their own business. Her own children are now 12 and 13 and have grown up with Spanish Amigos.

Maria was working in computer science before she had her children. “Before I had children I was working long hours. Now I can have all the school holidays with them and be very flexible,” she says.  That’s not the only advantage. “I am doing something I really like,” she says. “It was a great change of career for me. It ticked all the boxes.”

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