After three years of teaching Spanish classes and selling Mexican art on Madison Street, La Casa De Frida owner Jennifer DiProva is closing down her storefront and taking her Spanish classes on the road.
La Casa De Frida opened its doors at 7415 Madison St. in 2016 and featured imported Mexican pottery, framed art and photography. However, the Mexican art only served as a supplement to the true heart of La Casa De Frida: Spanish classes. DiProva attributes the success of La Casa De Frida to the steady flow of adult students seeking Spanish lessons, and said she currently teaches 80 students.
"All of my business came from word of mouth," she explained, "I never did any marketing; I had no website. All I used was Facebook and a sidewalk sign, and I made money every month for three years."
But now, La Casa De Frida is transitioning from a storefront language school to a Spanish language and culture immersion program under the new name, "Uncommon Mexico," which will offer two trips monthly to different parts of central Mexico.
The business transition seems like a natural step for DiProva, who spent 32 years living in Mexico before moving back to the U.S. and working as a professional Spanish translator and teacher. DiProva offered Spanish immersion trips occasionally as part of the La Casa De Frida programming, and after receiving rave reviews from her students, she realized the opportunity to focus more intently on these tours.
"The deciding factor for me to evolve into a new business was when a former student came on a trip with her husband and said that it was one of the most incredible experiences of their lives," she said.
DiProva, who owns a home in Guanajuato, a town south of Mexico City, takes students on new adventures and away from the typical tourist destinations.
"I take people on an experience that they couldn't do for themselves," she said.
DiProva received her first introduction to Spanish the way most Americans do: through grade school language classes. She attributes the development of her love of the language to her high school Spanish teacher.
"More than just teaching the language, she passed her enthusiasm for culture along to me," she said.
Following high school, DiProva attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison for a year before transferring to the Universidad de las Americas in Puebla, Mexico. From there, she lived in various parts of Mexico, including 11 years in Cancun, where she gave birth to her son.
Much like her high school teacher, DiProva attributes her success as a teacher to her passion for Mexican culture.
"My students get every bit of the passion that I have for the culture; it makes the learning more interesting," she said, adding, "I don't teach like a traditional classroom; I teach my students how to use instinct and think logically through language. I teach about culture, people and traditions."
According to DiProva, her students saw success with her methods, which led to their signing up for the Spanish immersion trips.
Through Uncommon Mexico, DiProva will be offering two trips per month, beginning in August 2019. A short five-day trip covering one city will be offered at the beginning of each month, while a longer seven- to 10-day trip will be offered at the end of each month, covering two cities. Cities on the itinerary include Mexico City, Puebla, Cuernavaca, Taxco, Guanajuato, Queretaro, Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta.
While the previous immersion trips based out of La Casa De Frida were primarily filled with DiProva's language students, the Uncommon Mexico trips are open to anyone interested in increasing their language knowledge or who would like to experience a new adventure.
The storefront located at 7451 Madison has been rented and will be taken over by new tenants on April 1. DiProva said she believes the new business will offer aromatherapy or massages, but that she did not have any details.