This Italian School Has Found More Success By Shifting Its Business Online

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By shifting her business to online only, Lucia Ossola has found more success than she did prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

Originally from Northern Italy, Ossola has spent the past ten years conducting one-on-one and small-group classes for learners of all levels, teaching Italian at her language school Ciao Bella, in Brisbane.

In the past, she had put off offering online classes as the technology and process was all a little daunting, however, when left with no other option, she simply made a few easy changes to her website.

“I just updated my site which I run through GoDaddy which was really easy,” she said, before adding that she found it to be a really effective way to run her language school.

Since pivoting online, Ossola has seen an upswing in the number of people enrolling in her classes.

Those who were previously restricted by distance and timing are now able to access her lessons with ease while finding it a good distraction from everything that’s going on in the world. And it’s definitely a distraction that is needed!

Now that we’re being asked to stay at home, people have more time on their hands and are investing in learning new skills and hobbies.

TheLatch— spoke to Ossola about how she’s morphing her business into more of a digital offering.

Ciao Bella School

TheLatch— Can you please tell us about your business and what you do and why you launched it?

Lucia Ossola: I’m an Italian teacher and I always worked for a school, but then when I moved here to Australia, I said, “I want to start my own business.” And luckily it went well. I’ve been teaching Italian for over ten years. I attend seminars to keep myself updated and keep learning modern teaching methods.

TL: Has the COVID-19 outbreak affected your work?

LO: Yes, I have transferred all of my lessons online. They’re not face-to-face anymore. So every single lesson and class is online through Zoom. Some senior students, they logically left, because not everybody can use a computer, but most of the students, they remain, and now we’re having online lessons.

“I attend seminars to keep myself updated and keep learning modern teaching methods.”

TL: Has it been hard to transfer your business to online?

LO: No, it’s actually been pretty easy! Once you’ve downloaded Zoom and understand how to use the software, it’s very straightforward. If you are even a little bit technological, it’s nothing impossible to do.

TL: Are your students responding well to Zoom? Do they enjoy it?

LO: Yeah, they’re fine! They’re very happy to be able to continue learning. It’s a good distraction from what’s happening.

“They’re very happy to be able to continue learning. It’s a good distraction from what’s happening.”

TL: That’s great! And so when did your business first start to feel the effects of COVID-19? Was it when the government restrictions kicked in?

LO: Well look, because I’m Italian, I started the restrictions before the government put restrictions in place. Because I knew very well how the situation was going to be in the future, so I was one of the first to move to online lessons. So, at the beginning, I had some people still coming to my classes, and people who were more concerned moved to online classes, so there was a mix of both. And then I moved to online only.

TL: When this passes, do you think you’ll still offer digital online classes?

LO: Yes, for sure. Sales have grown from my online lessons. It was something very strange and new for me in the past, so I was a little bit scared. I was offering online lessons, but the equipment was really, really slow, and it was not as professional as it is now. Because now [due to the current pandemic], you’re really forced to update and watch webinars, upskill, and try to update your business.

“In the end it’s basically the same [online learning], it’s not a big difference at all!”

TL: And how can customers support your business at this time?

LO: Enrol to my classes and even if you are a bit older, don’t think immediately, “oh I cannot do it because I need to use an iPad or a computer.” I have seniors, it’s a small percentage, but some seniors remained, and they didn’t find switching to online lessons difficult at all. In the end, it’s basically exactly the same, face-to-face or online, it’s not a big difference at all. You can continue learning and come out of this feeling a sense of accomplishment!

TL: Have there been any challenges in doing group learning online?

LO: Yes, because I’m used to doing some didactical activities, with some board games or cards with verses. I was also doing singing and dancing. Singing, you can still do, but the dancing and the board games, you cannot do anymore. So some activities have been transferred online — not all, but we make it work!

“You can continue learning and come out of this with a sense of accomplishment!”

TL: And as a business owner, how are you staying motivated at the moment?

LO: I like to change and grow, so I’m motivated because while it’s not face-to-face teaching, it’s still learning. This is what keeps me motivated, keeping the same quality of lessons, but just in another way.

TL: Did you make any changes to your website when you moved your classes online? Is the way people book any different or is it all exactly the same?

LO: The way you book my classes is always the same. I just add that due to the COVID-19 situation, the classes from now on are online only. So I just updated my site which I run through GoDaddy, which was really easy.

TL: What do you think that we will all learn from this experience as people?

LO: We can learn that one, there is no need always to travel big distances. You can also sometimes avoid travel which means less pollution for everybody because you can achieve exactly the same thing online. There is no need to always have a face-to-face approach. You can also better utilise online services, and do a lot of lessons and meetings online, as the main thing. And secondly, I think people will be more technological after COVID-19 disappears — that includes myself, I will be more technological for sure!

Sign up for Italian lessons, if you’re ready to take on a new challenge.

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