I spoke with pioneers in the immersive language learning sector, the dynamic couple and founders of Spanish and Go – or at least one half of the duo Jim Fricker II. Jim began his journey as a music producer in 2010, then had the overwhelming desire to travel the world and learn a new language. By some lovely twist of fate he chose Spanish, which led him to his now wife and co-founder May Larios García, a Mexican English and Spanish teacher.
The two went on to create a multi channel business that consists of a YouTube channel, a podcast, a blog, and an immersion retreat that teaches people Spanish while immersing them in the culture. All easily found on the website they created with Squarespace.
Follow along this interview to learn more about how they began their business, what advice they have for new business owners, and to hear their incredible story.
Jim and May’s story began with Jim needing to learn Spanish, through a language-learning website. He started learning Spanish with May which eventually led to her inviting him to Mexico to meet her.
“And so, I went down to Mexico, for the first time I was leaving the country by myself. And we had this fantastic experience. I mean, not only did we fall in love, but she showed me around the country and taught me about her culture and taught me Spanish, it was really just this fantastic experience,” Jim told us.
“[May’s] a language teacher, and I’m a music producer. My background is in audio and video production, and so we thought, well, wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could start a business where we could provide this experience for other people? Where we could be a bridge for people to experience Spanish-speaking countries, and have a much more authentic experience while traveling abroad.”
This led the duo to begin crafting a podcast, which wouldn’t meet the light of day at first – because, as Jim explained to us that after doing their research, the ecommerce world was raving about YouTube instead.
Jim explained: “So early on we thought we would start as a podcast. So this is back in like 2011. It was really early on but we never published the podcast episodes that we released. Not sure exactly why, maybe I was a little embarrassed of my Spanish at the time because it was early on.
But we ended up going to a travel conference for creators and bloggers. We went there and there were a couple of sessions focused on bloggers, then there were sessions that were really pushing the idea of getting creators to get on YouTube, because Google owns YouTube.”
The decision to move towards YouTube would prove to be the right call, as they managed to grow it from zero to 160,000 subscribers! Aiming for the awesome 200,000 subscriber milestone for 2023, Jim and May have also hit an incredible 10 million views on their YouTube channel in a little under seven years – so we delved into the details of how they achieved these milestones.
“With the Spanish and Go YouTube channel, I remember just getting to 100 subscribers that was like, wow, we got a hundred people following us. And then it was a 1,000, and then 10,000, and then a 100,000. All of those little milestones were huge for us.”
Jim noted that with YouTube, you not only get the video which you can post on your YouTube channel and website, “but you also have the audio [for the podcast] and you could convert a video into a blog post. So you could kind of have a little bit of everything, just in one form of content. So we decided to start a YouTube channel. And when we really started the business in full force in 2016, we launched our YouTube channel and started producing mainly video content.”
Jim and May started with ideas for evergreen content, the kind of YouTube content that will always provide value. But Jim also stated that consistency is key with YouTube.
It’s a wonderful thought to travel the world and start a business with your significant other, but we were curious about the working dynamics and how that might affect both your business and your relationship. We were delighted to see that May and Jim have been able to capture a lovely balance.
“You know, I was still living in Minnesota and when we met, we had to figure out how we could even be together to start this business. So we got married and then went through the immigration process to get May up to the States. Then together we worked for a while with the goal of saving up enough,” Jim tells us, so that they could test to see where there business would go in two years.
Jim explained that it was at a really early stage in the relationship that they came up with their business idea, just a few months of having met in person. He said that before they even discussed marriage they had the idea, due to May showing him around Mexico, as for him it was a “truly a life-changing experience.”
Working with your significant other he notes, “can be a little tricky. It has its challenges occasionally, but for the most part we work really well together. You know May is primarily responsible for the language instruction and cultural content so she does a lot of the research for us.”
May grew up in Mexico so she has the inside scoop into the culture and locations to visit, while Jim’s role is the more technical aspects of the business. Jim is responsible for “getting things up on the website, the audio and video production,” as well as marketing and email funnels. The duo also work with two others who handle editing, podcast management, and manage the immersion retreats.
Their accomplishments are all the more impressive when it’s such a tight-knit team, in our opinion.
The Spanish and Go website is the central hub for everything they offer to their 160K plus audience. We wanted Jim’s honest opinion of what it was like building the business with Squarespace, and whether it was worth our readers building with it.
When we asked Jim why he created a website he said, “The biggest impact of having the website was we learned early on from travel conferences that you have to find a way to convert your audience into a newsletter. Early on that was one of the primary reasons why we had the website. And so that’s helped us grow our email list tremendously over the years. [Our audience] watch a video and see that we mentioned that we have a PDF and then they can sign up and get that as a download.”
Jim noted that the best part of working with Squarespace is its flexibility and how quickly you can create content. Making it easier to sell their immersion retreats, having had to use Teachable to host the podcast membership and their language course before.
“It’s nice that we can easily create a new product and update our inventory and add discount codes. Those are huge advantages and it’s just easy to maintain. I don’t think we’ve had much if any downtime at all with Squarespace. And it’s just been easy to implement our brand colors and have a consistent look across our website.”
On the success that Squarespace has provided Jim and May, Jim stated, “I think it’s the integration of forms, we’ve used that to get people on our newsletter and that’s been fantastic.” He told us that it was an easy way to let people know that they could get free extra learning materials and tell them about the services they provide.
“Overall, I would say. We absolutely could scale considerably more with Squarespace. However, there is a major disadvantage of Squarespace that I see, and it’s just that it’s terribly slow. And it seems like no matter what we do in terms of optimizing images and trying to make everything as lightweight as possible on our end, we can’t keep load loading speeds down.”
Jim and May ran into some trouble with site speed, with help and support directing them to their image sizes multiple times. Despite their efforts to resolve the issue, they still have slow load times – which you should be aware of if you’re planning to create a website with Squarespace. Video and image optimization is there to greatly reduce load speeds. But sometimes, like in this case, it’s just due to the providers’ capabilities.
When asked if Jim regrets using Squarespace due to this issue, and whether he should’ve opted for a WordPress blog, where you have more control over the backend, his response was unclear. On the one hand, he notes that it could’ve been better to have full control – but that when they began it was just the two of them, and it was an easy way to start the business.
Despite the pandemic dampening the duo’s efforts to create an amazing experience on their retreats over the last few years, the future for Spanish and Go looks bright, continuing on their mission to visit every Spanish-speaking country (21 in total). “And we want to provide useful content for audience, about the culture differences, language differences, and in slang.”
They’ll be continuing to innovate content on the Spanish and Go podcast, to provide exciting Spanish immersion program, their epic climb to YouTube’s 200k subscribers, and provide blog readers with some top notch learning resources. If you’re interested in learning Spanish authentically then Jim and May are there with friendly guidance.