Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
I’m Muhammad Al Andalusi, I am a 27 years young man born in Barcelona, Spain.
My father is Senegalese and my mother is Spanish, and I am the founder of Andalus Institute.
Andalus Institute is an online language learning institution founded in 2019 to get students from zero to fluency in Arabic with an average study period time of 15 months.
Beginning of 2019 I launched the institute intending to make $1000 per month and within 6 months unexpectedly we felt overwhelmed by the immense high demand, which led us to cross 6 figures in revenue and since then we've averaged $30.000 per month in revenue.
How it started, July 2018:
How is going January 23, 2021:
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
The inspiration for this startup came from the struggle I faced when I was 18 after I met the beauty of Islam which pushed me to start looking for an Arabic teacher/program in my hometown Barcelona based on the fact that the original scriptures of Islam are written in Arabic.
I only found programs that were so heavily focused on grammar which as a fluent speaker of 4 languages at that time was completely absurd to me to start learning a language by learning grammar.
At 18 years old in 2012 the opportunity to go learn Arabic in Egypt opened up to me and I took my bags and went there where I ended up staying for close to 6 years.
After my studies, I found myself without any job in the field of Arabic forcing me to work as a food delivery rider in London but while I was in Egypt I met foreign expatriates who were living there and making a living on their laptops, so I started to research about the topic and how could that be possible because it was an idea that it really appealed to me, so I started dreaming of living that “laptop lifestyle”.
I tried starting up side hustles like private label businesses, affiliate marketing, multi-level marketing but I kept failing and didn't make me happy to do anything other than related to my Arabic studies but I couldn’t imagine my skills in languages earning a living for me and my family.
In 2018 I had a debt of $9000+ that took me the whole year to pay, I was living at my grandmother's apartment while my wife and two kids were at her family's house because I couldn't afford rent, it was the first time I was away from my family for that long, and it was very hard for all of us to deal with it, but I look at that year as a blessing because I had the pressure of having to “make it happen”, I had to feed my family, I had to pay my debts and something that I couldn’t do is work for someone else and I preached it all day long on my Instagram stories.
I knew it was possible to make money and be our own boss because when I was 16 years old and living in Paris, a friend and I had a contact in China who used to provide us with sneakers and other items that we then would go ahead and sell for double the price.
So I had slightly a little bit of knowledge in the field of sales and marketing, but I never did it online, yet online wasn’t foreign to me either being a 90's boy growing up around computers, so I saw it very possible to happen.
I used to take myself in the video in 2018 when the hardship of trying to start up a business would make me cry and when I was close to giving up and thinking of going back to the 9-5 job lifestyle, so I could remember later on when things were going well where I was at and how hard it was, helping to express my gratitude to my Lord.
This picture of me crying was in November 2018 and in that month I made around $1800 which most of it was expenses and the rest was going to pay my debt.
After reading a few books and going through mentorship I had an “aha” moment, I realized that a lot of the mentors I had were making amazing amounts of income teaching people a skill, taking them from point A to B, at that moment I realized that through the years I did acquire different skills which could be monetized as well.
- Public Speaking
So, I finally managed to organize everything and put it together to make AndalusInstitute.com happen.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
At the end of 2018, I decided I finished paying my debt with the small income that I had coming from other small side hustles and went full force into building AndalusInstitute.com
Day and night for around 3 months I was working on how I was going to structure the program and thinking about the things that helped me become fluent in Arabic to be able to have resources that would help the students achieve the same.
I had never worked on something in a more intense matter in my life.
I remember not being able to pay for software that I use to run the institute (Kajabi) and my card was constantly failing until they emailed me and then I was very honest and told them that I am starting this new project and I still don’t have any income to pay for the software which was around $200, so they replied saying that I didn’t have to pay that month and that it would be on them.
That reminds me that about not having any type of money to invest into launching Andalusinstitute.com and that I mostly used organic outreach on Instagram and Youtube to launch it.
After recording the first few videos in the program I went ahead and officially launched the “Arabic Like An Arab” program on the 9th February 2019.
Describe the process of launching the business.
For our launch, I just went live on Instagram and told my small audience at that time about the program and what I was working on, but I understood that it would be a long-term thing and that I had to start putting content out there every week.
I then started a Youtube channel and interviewed people who successfully learned Arabic.
I didn’t spend much time on designing my website and making it fancy, as a matter of fact, my logo was until recently “Andalusinstitute.com” with a specific font and the “Andalus” in bold, nothing fancy.
The first three months it was challenging to not see any income come in
Until I decided to change the price and go from $75 per month to one single payment of $997 or three payments of $425.
And monthly revenue started to bump up.
Making June of 2019 our first 5 figures month at $20,000.
The biggest lesson I learned is:
Just focus on one thing and understand that is not the day you plant the seed that you collect the fruit.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
What has worked the best to attract customers was organic outreach, content on social media, etc.
But, without a doubt, I think that our product and the fresh almost untouched niche of learning Arabic online has helped a lot.
The Arabic language is something that any Muslim would want to learn, so when marketing the program we don’t have to go through making them believe that they need it, because our religion already teaches us that you need to learn Arabic.
Our formula’s been, a great product + interactive organic content + heavy retargeting paid advertisement campaign + sales webinar presentation = customers every month.
We also did, in the beginning, a little bit of influencer marketing, where I got in touch with someone who had already a following in our niche and made a few videos with them directing to our webinar funnel.
The first few months of the business we did sales calls to onboard new clients but it was too time-consuming in my preference and we realized that those who said no, most of them couldn’t pay for the program and the rest would say yes, and we had quite good results with calls.
But once we gained some reputation and collected a few video testimonials from students, the product and testimonials were selling by themselves.
At this point we constantly have people on social media recommending us and a lot of people have heard about us, so we get a lot of word of mouth.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
At the end of the year 2020, I realized that cold paid traffic wasn’t meant to bring immediate results, rather just bring customers in to break even then upsell them.
So, even though we’re bringing in good profits, we want to cut down on expenses and paid traffic which was the biggest expense per month.
We paid around $4000+ per month for a marketing agency to run our ads and spend on average $4000 to $9000 per month on Facebook and Instagram.
Our strategy now is to bump up organic content on social media and retarget aggressively directing people to our webinar presentation.
We’re planning as well to launch new products in the same niche to allow our customers to benefit from us in other ways and that could potentially add an extra $50k-$100k per year to the business.
Our short-term goal is to automate everything as much as possible, so as the founder of the institute, I can achieve my objective of studying Islamic theology full time.
As for the long term we just want to be the Apple and Nike of the learning Arabic online industry.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Focus your energy and concentrate on one thing until you make it work and expect to fail many times before working, that way you won’t be surprised when you encounter difficulties because in any start-up there will be difficulties for sure.
Focusing on one thing requires discipline, I had to develop many different habits making my life more organized and cut off on distractions like social media, people, habits, it is very important to grow as a person morally and in the actions, you take in your life to grow a successful business.
Developing as a person allowed me to build long-term relationships, like in the case of my assistant, we’ve been so long working together that at this point I fear losing her knowing that another person will have to go through years of being around to reach her level.
One of the mistakes I made was money management, being the first time that “I’ve had money” I was spending money on many absurd things the first and second year, now coming into the third year I am more conscious in regards to spending money.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
My favorite tools are Kajabi because they actually understand the type of customer they have and they constantly work on making their product better.
I use as well, Active Campaign to store all my email lists.
Many of our customers first interacted with us on Instagram and Youtube, and I like them both for different things, Instagram is quick to upload and you can reach a lot of your audience in a more interactive way than an email and get the same results you’re looking for.
I like Youtube for those long pieces of content which give a lot of details about your business, vision, etc. and I think you need to keep as few channels as possible but at the same time understand your audience and what platform they’re more likely to be on.
For example, if your product is catered to young people between 16 - 25 they’re more likely to be on Instagram, Tik Tok, etc, if they’re a bit older in general they have a longer attention span, so, they might be on youtube more than any other platform.
My daily scheduler is Google calendar and I linked Scheduleonce to Google Calendar to allow our customers to book calls with us.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Russell Brunson and his content taught me how to monetize an audience and how to grow a big following.
Sam Ovens and his content taught me to be disciplined and focus on one thing ignoring the rest which helped me a lot to switch from all the other businesses I was trying and finally focus on one that I love.
I’ve learned other things here and there from other salesmen and marketers like Alex Becker, Iman Gadzhi, Danielle Leslie.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
Focus on one thing and constantly enhance your product by collecting data and tweaking aspects of your business based on that data.
Remember that you will encounter hardship, so be ready for when it hits and remember that is a matter of time, the most successful businesses are the ones that have been around for long and actually managed to overcome those hardships with the mentality of always making their product better and better.
Try and monetize your passion, you will then love your business and it won’t feel like work.
Remember that the grass is not greener on the other side, but is greener where you water it, so don’t jump from business model to business model once you see someone else doing well in another business model but remember that what you see in his success it didn't happen from one day to another, yet it was the big reaction caused by very small constant reactions he has been doing for a long time.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Andalus Institute has provided an update on their business!
8 months ago, we followed up with Andalus Institute to see how they've been doing since we published this article.
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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