Interview: SpeakShop (2009)

Cindy and Clay Cooper submitted their plan for “Speak Shop” to our competition in 2006.

Are you currently running / working with a mission-driven business? What is it called?
Yes. Speak Shop – Learn Spanish for Good

Is it for the business plan you entered the William James Foundation Socially Responsible Business Plan Competition with? (If no, is it similar to the plan you submitted?) Yes

Who are your customers? What is the benefit you are offering them? How many people are you employing?
Speak Shop makes it easy to take one-on-one Spanish lessons online via webcam with teachers in impoverished countries like Guatemala and Nicaragua. A lot of people study languages abroad, but not enough to make it a year-round sustainable source of income for these language teachers. So we bring the customers to them and empower them as micro-entrepreneurs. Customers get personalized lessons that fit their schedule. Everyone benefits.

We have customers of all ages, all over the world who want to learn Spanish. Our typical customer is an adult professional or baby boomer.

A big part of our mission is to create connections between people coming from different cultures, locations and beliefs. We think that more human contact and cross-cultural understanding are keys to a better, more peaceful world.

We’ve helped 12 tutors become micro-entrepreneurs and earn a sustainable income while learning business and computer skills. The tutors don’t work for us. They are not our employees, and we don’t take any of their lesson fees or charge them to use our service. They set their own hourly fees and decide when to work. They can decide to charge more or less based on experience and demand.

Where are you based? How long have you been in business?
Founders are in Oregon, USA; but we are run as a virtual organization. The Tutors are in Guatemala &  Nicaragua. We were founded in 2004, in business since 2005

Was the feedback and/or prizes (if applicable) you received from the William James Foundation helpful? How? The feedback pushed us to keep going and aim high.