Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Harrison Fowler, Founder of RVF International, located in Alcala de Henares, Madrid, Spain.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

We are an international education and exchange company that offers the largest Teach Abroad program in Spain. We serve hundreds of native speakers of English each year who join our program in Spain for a Gap Year experience of a lifetime as they teach and live in Spain and earn money while doing it!

Tell us about yourself

I am originally from the US, but after graduating from college at the University of Cincinnati in 2015, I moved to Spain for a Gap Year to teach English at a school. I loved it! I was teaching 6th grade and had an incredible experience at my school, as well as just being in Europe. I was able to travel and explore other countries, meet and make amazing friends from all over Spain, and, most importantly, I met my wife, who is from the Canary Islands, that year. However, the program I was a part of that brought me to Spain wasn't the best. I and others in this program were promised the moon in terms of support and community and assistance with moving to Spain, but there was comically little follow through. It turned out to be a program with a really flashy website and little else. So after teaching in Spain for a while and meeting dozens and dozens of other American teachers with the same experiences and scammy stories with other programs, I started RVF International in 2017 to be a better program that was honest and transparent and made the Gap Year experience about the journey and not just a stressful story of bureaucracy and paperwork.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Even though we are one of the youngest Teach Abroad programs in Spain, we have since grown to be the largest and most well-known for support and care. Go Overseas, a popular travel and exchange website, nominated us as their Top Teach Abroad Provider of 2021 out of several thousand programs across the globe. I would say this is my biggest accomplishment so far, and it's something I am incredibly proud of! We work our butts off every day to provide an incredible Gap Year experience. We are proud to serve hundreds each year as they have this adventure in Spain.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

I think the hardest thing that comes with being a business owner is when we have a Program Participant that did not have a good experience. And it almost always comes down to unmet or unrealistic expectations or miscommunications that can be easily prevented. It's never fun because I truly want people to have an incredible year abroad, but with the nature of leaving family and friends and moving to another country for a school year, there are many challenging steps along the way and a lot of transition, and it's always hard when I hear that someone didn't have the experience they wanted to have.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

The number one tip I could give someone interested in starting a business is to be patient and to be in it for the long haul. If you think you'll lose your passion and energy after 6 months of slow momentum, then you might not like business as much as you think you do. Building and maintaining a truly impactful product or service is no joke, and it takes more sacrifice and intensely dedicated time and hours than most people ever realize or are willing to put in. So count the cost and be patient and commit to the long haul.

I would also say start slow and build your business debt free. Many business-savvy people will tell you to find investors or take out loans to scale immediately, but I have seen so many truly successful businesses that started slow and reinvested everything they earned at the beginning into the business, didn't pay themselves for the first year or two, and worked hard and never went into debt.

This is what I did with RVF International. I worked without paying myself for the first two years and reinvested everything the company earned back into the business so that we could further create an exceptional exchange experience for our Program Participants, and therefore we have never been in debt or relied on others for our success. So start slow and reinvest in the business without going into debt.

Lastly, I would say build a team of truly extraordinary people. Only hire the best of the best, but most importantly, when building a team, always remember that degrees and experience mean nothing, and drive and eagerness to excel mean everything. I have always trusted my gut when growing our team and have looked for team members that were "hungry" and wanted to learn and wanted to serve and were willing to learn things "the RVF way," and I think our program experience speaks for itself now. At the end of the day, you want to surround yourself with people who are committed to the mission, regardless if this is their first job or if they have decades of experience already. Sometimes (most of the time), team members who don't think they know it all already are the best sort of colleagues for executing an incredible idea.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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