How Online Courses Helped Three Business Owners Scale Their Audiences

Abigail Libers

| Mar 04, 2020

Sara Snuggerud has been teaching people the ins and outs of using a sewing machine for over 20 years. What began as small, in-person classes in her hometown of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, has grown into an online community of nearly 100,000 followers.

“About 11 years ago, my husband said: ‘Hey, why don’t we make some videos of you teaching on the machine?’” says Snuggerud, who owns and runs Heirloom Creations in Sioux Falls with her husband. “We posted them on YouTube and started gaining a following.” Indeed, Snuggerud is set to surpass 100,000 subscribers on YouTube this year.

Following the success of her videos, she decided to launch sewing machine courses online but found it complicated to create and maintain them. “You had to have all these different hosts—for the website, the videos, the credit card payments,” Snuggerud explains. “It’s hard to keep track of everything and can be time consuming to fix when something doesn’t work.”

“Living in a small town means there’s a limit to the number of people I can reach. Online courses let me teach people all over the world.”

- Sara Snuggerud,

Last year, she joined Teachable and launched her “Sewing Mastery” school and hasn’t looked back. “I just love it because it streamlines everything and makes my life much easier,” she says. Because Teachable takes care of everything on the back end, Snuggerud has more time to create new courses and focus on marketing and promotion. Currently, Snuggerud has 400 students on Teachable; soon, she’ll have closer to 1,000 once she moves 600 people from her old platform to Teachable.

In addition to being simple to use, Teachable allows Snuggerud to reach exponentially more people than she ever could with in-person classes. “Living in a small town means there’s a limit to the number of people I can reach,” she says. “Online courses let me teach people all over the world.” Indeed, Snuggerud has students everywhere—from the U.S. and Canada to Europe and Australia. To gain even more students, she teases her Teachable courses at the end of each video she posts. “I love that my students can preview my courses for free. It definitely entices them to sign up,” she says.

Shane Farmer, founder of Dark Horse Rowing, which uses online courses to teach people how to use a rowing machine, agrees that Teachable can help you expand your business: “Teachable has allowed me to reach way more people than I ever could in person,” he says. “At a gym, I’d have maybe 12 people show up; now I teach around 400 people through my courses.”

Like Snuggerud, Farmer began teaching the old fashioned way—at a physical space. He helped open a boutique rowing studio in Houston before moving to San Diego and launching his online business in 2016. His goal is to make indoor rowing more user-friendly and accessible. “Most rowing machines collect dust in a corner somewhere,” he says. “We provide the education needed so anyone can learn how to use them, even if you don’t belong to a gym.”

“It’s such a crowded space that anything you can do to differentiate yourself is good. Courses are another notch in my belt, in addition to my YouTube channel, blogs, and speaking engagements.”

- Shane Farmer,

Farmer joined Teachable in 2017 and currently has over 1,000 subscribers. “Teachable has been a great way for me to deliver my product,” he says. “It’s an easy drag and drop platform that makes it simple to build an online product. I can deliver it anywhere at any time.”

Providing online courses has also helped him grow his authority in the fitness world. “It’s such a crowded space that anything you can do to differentiate yourself is good,” he says. “Courses are another notch in my belt, in addition to my YouTube channel, blogs, and speaking engagements.”

Because Teachable takes care of everything on the technical side—everything from payment to helping users change their password—school owners have more time to tweak their courses and create new ones. “What stops some people from creating courses is the logistics of setting it up,” says Yuwanda Black, founder of Inkwell Editorial. Her Teachable school offers courses that help people learn how to earn money through writing. “Teachable takes care of any technical problems and is great at getting back to people quickly. Everything runs so smoothly, and as an added bonus, it all looks so pretty and professional.”

Since joining Teachable in April 2017, Black has reached almost 3,000 students. “It took me 13 months to reach 1,100 students,” she says. “I’m on pace to gain about 1,000 students per year.”

Black uses the data she gets from Teachable to improve her services and attract even more clients. “I can see how many people signed up, how often they log in, and whether or not they’ve finished a course,” she explains. “That makes it easier for me to follow up with people and say, ‘Hey, I see you haven’t logged in for a while. How can I help?’”

Black also gains valuable insights about which courses are most popular and what her students want more of. In other words, she can drill down on specific topics that new students may be interested in. “One thing I’ve learned with online courses is: the more niche you are, the better,” she notes. “Narrowing down on broad topics is a great way to attract new clients.”

Abigail Libers is a writer and editor living in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in O: The Oprah Magazine, Glamour, Refinery29.com, and more.