If you’ve ever Googled how to learn Japanese online, there’s a good chance you’ve stumbled upon ToKini Andy’s YouTube channel. The channel is run by Andy and his wife who live in Nagano, Japan and teach Japanese to beginners and intermediate learners around the world under the brand name, ToKini Andy.
Andy’s own journey of learning Japanese began when he first moved to Japan 11 years ago and wanted to assimilate with the community. He then started a YouTube channel to document living in Nagano but quickly realized travel vlogging wasn’t his strong suit — so he pivoted into teaching easy Japanese lessons over live stream.
“I’ve always wanted to somehow make my living online,” says Andy. “But it took me [about] 11 years to figure out exactly how I was going to do that.”
He narrowed his niche even further when during a livestream someone asked him to explain something from the popular Japanese learning textbook, Genki. That’s when he realized he could focus on live-streaming lessons specifically from the textbook but make it easier to understand with his own explanations.
“About six months into [live streaming], we had just a few hundred subscribers,” Andy recalls. “But when we started doing those live-streamed grammar lessons, that's when we quickly took off to like a thousand. Then, someone shared one of our videos on Reddit and that popped us up to a couple thousand and then it kinda took off from there.”
Here’s a snapshot of ToKini Andy’s membership business:
- Earned $300K in 2023 using Kajabi
- Generated 135K subscribers on YouTube
- Helped over 8,000 students around the world learn Japanese
The Challenge: Outgrowing Patreon
As Andy was building up his YouTube channel (in addition to working a full-time job), he drew in people who were eager to support him — so much so that they started giving him donations through PayPal. At that point, he knew it was time to monetize his educational platform. While he had already been using affiliate links in his videos, he felt a bit hesitant about creating paid content at first.
“A lot of people, especially educational YouTubers, are sort of resistant to selling things or admitting that they'd like to make a living off of what they do — in the beginning at least,” says Andy.
Andy’s subscribers encouraged him to make a Patreon so they could support him on a regular basis. To stay true to his desire to teach for free on YouTube, Andy decided to continue providing full lessons on YouTube and create additional paid content on Patreon for students who wanted to dive deeper into the language.
“There is a lot of value in the paid content, [but] having that sort of value up there for free made me much less worried about the fact that I was monetizing,” he says.
Andy recalls the moment they first announced the Patreon site launch, “I think we had 17 people [sign up] on the very first day and I was mind blown,” he says. “We were so grateful [and] it made us want to give even more value.”
ToKini Andy was on Patreon for about a year — however, it didn’t take long for the growing business to run into issues on the platform. For starters, Patreon isn’t designed to house a library of comprehensive course content. When you add a new video to a Patreon page, it populates like a blog feed and shows the most recent video added. In Andy’s experience, the more videos he added, the more difficult it was for students to navigate their lessons since there wasn’t a way to organize them in a certain order.
This wasn’t just a nuisance to deal with — the platform design was directly affecting ToKini Andy’s membership retention.
“People were joining but didn’t know where to start,” he says. “They were basically quitting within the first month because they didn't know what to do and [the platform] wasn't very user-friendly.”
Andy adds, “Patreon is great if you're just starting out because you can basically press two buttons and you're up and running. But it's [meant] to support creators [and] it’s not really built around giving something of value to the people who are paying for the subscription.”
The Solution: Switching Membership Platforms For a Smoother Experience
Taking advice from fellow creator, Roberto Blake, ToKini Andy moved his online course from Patreon to Kajabi.
While it was nerve-wracking to uproot his online business to switch platforms, Andy made sure to prepare his members ahead of time.
“It was a little bit scary at first, because you don’t know if people are going to follow you.” he says. “But we did a whole campaign [letting people know] we’re moving, this is gonna be way better, and it’s going to give you a step-by-step path to follow so you can keep yourself accountable and know where to go next in your journey of learning Japanese.”
It took one month to set up Kajabi, move everything over, and prep his launch campaign. Andy recalls that most members moved over right away.
The Results: Over 10x Growth and Improved User Experience
Moving his courses to Kajabi proved to be a significant improvement for ToKini Andy.
On Patreon, the business had around 600 monthly members. Since moving to Kajabi, ToKini Andy has passed 3,000 active memberships. Over the lifetime of the business, 8,000 students have taken the course.
Another change Andy has seen is with the engagement and experience members get on Kajabi. “In one year on Patreon, I think we had about 50 comments on our videos in total, he recalls. “Right now, there are 12,000 comments on our course on Kajabi.”
He adds, “50 comments versus 12,000 comments just shows how much more interactive and enjoyable the experience is for students [on Kajabi].”
As a bonus, Andy says the business is saving tens of thousands a year with Kajabi’s flat fee structure compared to Patreon, which takes a minimum of 8% of your income earned on the platform plus additional fees.
Looking Forward: Expanding Educational Content
This year, ToKini Andy is expanding their educational content by diving deeper into the language. They’re going to start with creating a full course on the first three levels of Kanji, which are Japanese characters.
On the business side, Andy has a goal to double his sales from last year, when the business made $300K in sales. He also wants to grow the team — which currently is made up of him and his wife — so he can create more content.
“The further along you get, the more help you can get, and the more you can create,” he says. “It just snowballs [and] our goal is to snowball a little bit more this year.”
If you’re thinking of making a big move like Andy did to scale your business, here’s his advice on how to successfully switch platforms:
- Address your fears over switching platforms: Start by weighing the pros and cons of moving to a new platform and consider your customers’ experience first. “I understand the fear [because] you never know if people are going to follow you over,” says Andy. “But if you consider that people who subscribed spent money out of their pocket, they're committed and they would like an experience that is worth whatever they paid.”
- Make the move sooner rather than later: The platform you use directly impacts your business, so don’t delay the switch. “If you're unhappy with the platform you're on and feel like it’s not giving you the tools to offer [a good user] experience, it's probably not gonna get better.” Andy adds, “It's definitely worth cutting your losses and moving over to someplace new.”
- Provide clear messaging to your members: Switching platforms doesn’t just involve you as a creator — your members must also be aware of the move and what it may entail on their end. Provide clear communication around why you’re switching, how it will benefit them, and a step-by-step process they need to follow to ensure a smooth experience. “People will actually follow you if you explain to them how much more fluid of a process or easy to use the new platform will be,” suggests Andy.
As ToKini Andy has proved, having the right tools is critical to scale your business and provide your members with a seamless experience. Thinking of switching platforms? See how Kajabi can help with online courses, memberships, and more.