The Brazilian founder of an innovative English school in Sao Paulo is expanding his business into the United States via Orlando, signing a lease Tuesday with plans to open in mid-October, and angel investor backing to grow the chain over the next five years.
Dubbed Speed Language Institute, the school will be located at 4708 LB Mcleod Road, east of the intersection with Pres. Barack Obama Parkway, and based in a 4,795-square-foot office in the Elite Commerce Center, set on the edge of Thirty Third Street Industrial Park.
Owner and CEO Paulo Sergio Santos Negrete founded the English school Idiomos Aprendizagem Acelerada in Sao Paulo 25 years ago. His team developed a unique pedagogy based around the UNESCO-recognized "Suggestopedia" and "Neuropedia" methods, which claim to unblock a student's mind to learn language at an accelerated pace.
"We were initially focused on Wilmington, Delaware, a few years ago for our first location, but then the real estate crisis hit in the U.S. and we stopped everything. About two years ago we saw Orlando had become the best place to focus because so many Brazilians are moving there to live and open Brazilian businesses," Negrete told GrowthSpotter on Wednesday.
The office space is fully built out, and will have nine classrooms, a large common area, reception, a kitchen and bath, with total investment near $200,000, Negrete said. His local staff already lined up contractors for painting and carpet cleaning, but have yet to hire a firm to produce and hang exterior signage.
Negrete was introduced to the space by Coldwell Banker associate Shawn Jaffe, who he came to know after working through the firm's Winter Park office to lease his first home in Orlando earlier this year.
"This property is a five-minute drive to MetroWest, which is the area they wanted to be in," Jaffe said. "We looked at several properties but this one had their interest because of its space for their growth potential, and its several accessibility points, including public transportation access."
Classes are expected to start in October, with the school to initially recruit students from the Brazilian community in Greater Orlando, via local Brazilian churches and companies. Business development should later expand into the Hispanic and Haitian communities.
Negrete has started the business on an L1-A work visa, which transfers his executive status from a Brazilian business to its U.S. affiliate.
The school will soon apply to the Department of State for its approval to manage foreigners who are studying in the U.S. on a long-term F1 student visa. Speed Language Institute could have that status by Second Quarter 2017, key to its long-term growth potential.
Rosely Cruz, a Brazilian entrepreneur, attorney in Sao Paulo and CEO of NeoLaw, is Negrete's angel investor on Speed Language Institute. The company's five-year business plan has targeted San Diego, Texas, New Jersey and Washington, D.C., as target growth markets for 2017 and beyond.
Four course levels will be offered in Orlando, with each new student initially interviewed and given the Oxford University English exam to identify their proficiency level.
Beginning in January, Speed Language Institute will also begin targeting native English speakers who wish to learn Portuguese, offering the same advanced pedagogy course for that language.
The school has also formed a partnership with Rollins College's Crummer Business School. In February, Negrete's team will start by bringing 20 Brazilian students to participate in a five-day intensive program at Rollins on emotional intelligence, for which they'll earn a certificate branded by both schools and NeoLaw.