This start-up of the week is at the forefrint of eLearning. An industry which is constantly expanding due to new technologies launching. Let's find out more as we talk to co-founder Steve Wileman about how he used a Start Up Loan through Virgin StartUp to launch Enlighten.
Tell us what your business does:
Enlighten are an award-winning eLearning solutions team. We enable educators and businesses to make use of innovative eLearning which inspires the next generation of learners and users by implementing technology into lessons and training packages.
By working with our clients we determine which eLearning solutions will best meet their specific vision and offer a complete package that includes auditing, course writing, face to face training, bespoke and off the shelf online packages, eLearning implementation plans, seminars and Augmented /Virtual / Mixed Reality services.
Where are you based and why is it a good location for your business?
We are based at Pacific House in Tamworth Staffordshire which really enhances our modern business image. Positioned in the heart of the country ensures we are within easy reach of all our UK based clients. Our overseas clients have two nearby airports and we are easily accessible by road and rail.
This location has also enabled us to receive fantastic support from the Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce.
How did you come up with the idea?
With a long established career in both education and specifically technology enhanced learning we found that a lack of good quality online resources was a daily frustration.
Most businesses are looking to streamline their training budgets, we saw this as an opportunity to start our business creating high quality, cost effective solutions for a wide variety of clients who need to provide a wider reach, and a more environmentally friendly solution for staff and learner development.
We recognised businesses and educators do not possess the skills to develop eLearning strategies and resources. Enlighten services reduce the need for face to face delivery and travel, increasing the opportunities for our clients to reach a global audience using innovative technology in their delivery and assessment methods.
What's the business model?
We are flexible enough to cater for all our client’s needs, regardless of whether they are from education, industry or other business areas. By providing a one stop shop for information, guidance creation and implementation of technological training and support solutions and packages we maximise our client base.
Who are your competitors?
Although there are many eLearning companies who provide basic (and sometimes dated) unaccredited CPD courses we review our clients current provision and make recommendations for cost effective improvements before designing their ultimate bespoke eLearning package.
We have identified a niche in the market as most organisations do not have the in-house expertise to design, develop and implement eLearning strategies and create engaging content. They are increasingly turning to experts like ourselves to meet their specific needs (now and in the future) so they can focus on their core business.
What's unique about your business?
Our USP is that our friendly team are passionate about harnessing innovative technology and are proud, not afraid to be at the forefront of the ever evolving digital landscape.
There is no other eLearning company that provides guidance, support and development of digital strategy, implementation and content development by introducing a broad range of emerging technologies including eLearning content, micro learning, Augmented Reality (AR) Virtual Reality (VR) and the Internet of Things (IOT) into an educational or corporate action plan.
Working with key partners, such as awarding bodies, training providers, businesses, charities, colleges and universities we become a uniquely qualified company to meet all E- learning demands.
Our individual and complementary skill sets enable us to provide informed high quality services from a combined business and education perspective. Using this approach, we enhance the learning and support experiences of our clients, delivering cost savings that are mapped against business needs and results.
We offer a personal service in a digital age.
What stage was your business at when you applied for the Start Up Loan?
We were working on our business from a dining room table in our spare time. Our existing clients were asking us to provide them with more and more engaging eLearning content and build on the successes that we had achieved for them in the past. The loan allowed us to take the “full time” start-up plunge.
We haven’t looked back since and are seeing significant and rapid growth in all areas of the business.
How have you used it to grow your business?
The loan allowed us to move out of the dining room and into a professional office setting with scalable, flexible spaces for on demand teaching & training support in purpose built rooms. This space allows us to grow our company to cope with an increase in our client base, staff and services.
With the loan financing the purchase of high end specialist software and supporting hardware we are now capable of keeping up with client demands and produce even more high quality innovative engaging eLearning outputs.
We have also recently given a young person the opportunity to develop their skills and job prospects by completing an apprenticeship with us. This is only possible thanks to the capital injection provided by our start up loan.
Who is your regional delivery partner and how did they help you get a Virgin StartUp loan?
Business Enterprise Support Limited
Who is your mentor and how have they helped you?
Darren, really got involved. He took the time to understand what we wanted to achieve with our business. He was fantastic from the word go. He got us moving forward fast. Helped us to develop our vision and strategy for our business as well as giving practical advice and support throughout the loan application process.
Taking the plunge and setting up your own business is an exciting but stressful time and without his support we wouldn’t have been able to complete the paperwork in a timely manner. He gave us a daily progress report on our application, even during his leave, making recommendations and suggestions to ensure our application was successful.
This time and commitment from the mentor allowed us to focus more of our time in other important areas of our start up business ensuring our existing and emerging clients’ needs were met.
He definitely went the extra mile.
Biggest achievement so far?
Within four weeks of receiving our Start Up Loan through Virgin StartUp we secured a great office, which enhanced our professional image, helped grow our brand and secure some high profile clients with a steady stream of work.
Our greatest achievement however was shaping the editorial content for The Times newspaper Raconteur supplement on Augmented & Virtual Reality. Our published statistics were also included in the report.
This really raised our profile and proved our expertise in emerging technological fields giving prospective clients faith in the quality of our services. We saw a significant increase in demand following publication.
The supplement went out to over 1 million readers and covers our more advanced services in Augmented and Virtual reality.
You can find the report here:
Report Landing Page: http://raconteur.net/virtual-augmented-reality-2016
Feedback from the article was so good we were asked to write a follow up Online Raconteur blog. This explains how Enlighten are seeking to address digital delivery in educational programmes of study.
You can find the blog here:
Exposure lead to presenting at the Disruptive Innovation Festival (DIF) last month and then showcasing our products at The Staffordshire Business Festival headline event “The Future of Digital Business”.
What's next for your business?
Things looks to continue on an upward trajectory in the coming months.
We are working with a training provider and Maritime academy to develop a platform with online scalable training materials supporting a large scale programme in China.
As part of the Exporting is GREAT campaign, the Department for International Trade (DIT) asked us to apply for a place at The Bett show http://www.bettshow.com/
BETT is the world’s leading event for education technology. Competition was fierce but we have been selected as one of 30 UK companies to demonstrate our exporting potential
We are working with several globally established technology companies to develop strategies that embed their products and content into the education sector. In addition, we have been aiding manufacturing production line support through cost effective /downtime reduction using augmented reality on demand /point of contact support and retraining.
The eLearning consultancy services we have provided for the likes of Cambridge College offer clear recommendations for enhancement and maximising potential savings, efficiency and global reach. Demand for this service looks set to increase significantly in the New Year with the government driven area reviews in Further education.
We are very excited about the seemingly endless possibilities for the future …. all made possible by the Virgin Start up loan.