We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Dannia Gazley a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Dannia, looking forward to hearing all of your stories today. Before we get into specifics, let’s talk about success more generally. What do you think it takes to be successful?
I think it is very important to have your own definition of success. Success will mean different things for different people. I believe it is a reflection of our values. In the professional area, my definition of being successful is to be able to make a living doing something I truly enjoy and love that offers me a healthy work-life balance. To achieve all of those things is what being successful is for me. So, it took me to create my own business to become successful. I wasn’t able to find and have all of those things that mattered to me when I was working for others. There was always an element that was missing, I never felt that fulfillment I was looking for, in fact, I was quite unhappy. When I started my own business, I had to build it from scratch, I knew it was going to take hard work, determination and conviction to achieve what I wanted. Also, perseverance, there are going to be times of doubt, a lot of them, and those are precisely the moments when you need to trust yourself and keep moving forward with your dream.
As always, we appreciate you sharing your insights and we’ve got a few more questions for you, but before we get to all of that can you take a minute to introduce yourself and give our readers some of your back background and context?
I am originally from Peru and after having a career in corporate America for 10 years, I created “¡Hola! Learn Spanish” in 2016. I have always known there is an interest in learning Spanish in the U.S. and around the world. I offer private Spanish online classes, which has allowed me to have a bigger reach of students, even outside of the state of Colorado. Within this modality, I teach Spanish classes for beginners, intermediate and advanced level. I also offer conversational Spanish classes, these are very popular classes. These classes offer students the opportunity to practice what they have learned. Spanish classes for travelers, in which you learn not only helpful expressions to get around a city, but also, you have the opportunity to practice with me, a native Spanish speaker, which will play an important role in tuning your listening skills.
My intention every day, when I am teaching a class, is to offer a learning experience that will make each of my students feel empowered. Learning a new language can be very intimidating and it isn’t always easy. I know that from experience, I understand what it takes to learn a second language, I have gone thru the process. That is why it is extremely important for me to create a safe learning environment. Where they can learn how far they can go, and where it is ok to make mistakes. I am my students’ biggest fan! I celebrate their efforts and hard work and, during my classes, you will often see me clapping, dancing, singing and screaming out of excitement. I am Hispanic after all! (laughs). I can tell you my best moments as a teacher are when students surprise themselves and achieve a milestone in their journey that they never thought it was possible for them to reach.
I also like taking time to get to know each of my students on a personal level. I care about learning how their week has been. This will have a huge impact on how they are feeling during class and I am mindful of that. It is important for me to have a relationship with them in addition to the teacher-student relationship. It truly feels like we are friends, learning Spanish together! That is who I am, I enjoy connecting with people, I am naturally friendly, warm and welcoming. And my business is a reflection of that, I couldn’t do it any other way.
What’s been the most effective strategy for growing your clientele?
I think it has been a mixed of strategies that I have discovered over time that have helped me grow my business. There is a lot to learn when becoming a business owner, it can be overwhelming because there is so much information out there. My current and former students are always so gracious referring me to their friends and families. They have definitely been a great ally when it comes to growing my clientele. Also, having an online presence has been extremely important, but that takes time and patience to build. My students have always been so kind with their words when leaving a review for my services. Finally, having a website for potential clients to stop by and learn more about me and my business has been key, although this was something I was hesitant to have when I first started, because I didn’t have the budget to hire a team to do it and I knew nothing about building websites! After hundreds of hours learning, researching and many trial and errors, I am proud of the website I created.
We’d love to hear about how you keep in touch with clients.
I think it is important to be consistent with your communication, no matter what means you prefer to use to communicate with them. In my case, my students can reach me via text or email anytime. They are my priority so I am always responding to their messages on a timely manner. I understand they have busy lives so I attend to them as soon as I can. I try to accommodate their needs and be as flexible as I can be to help them. I also have the same approach for potential students, when someone contacts me inquiring about my services, I am very responsive and offer the same quality of communication to them as well.
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