Company:Alpha InclusionSmall Grant Scheme £5,143
The business: Alpha Inclusion
Amy Eleftheriades has spent the majority of her working life helping vulnerable children and adults. A qualified Special Educational Needs teacher, she spent a number of years advising and training other teachers to deal with autism. This experience made her realise that the majority of teachers were not armed with the skills to deal with children with such needs.
Amy pinpointed that the issue needing priority attention was the inability of children with autism to communicate effectively. Having been trained in a technique known as ‘Lego-therapy’, Amy developed further Lego-based activities to help teachers and parents establish better quality language and communications with children affected by this condition and to help children develop their skills.
Recognising that there was a gap in the market for her services Amy set up Alpha Inclusions to bring her innovative approach to the people that needed it.
The issue that Alpha Inclusions faced
Initially, Amy’s work focused on helping children and young people who had autism and social communication difficulties in mainstream school environments and at home. But a chance conversation and impromptu activity with friends led to Amy realise that her activities could very well transfer to the world of business so she set about building a plan to repackage her activities for a commercial proposition.
She created a business model whereby the work she did with private business would subsidise the work she did for the education sector, enabling her to do more than she would otherwise be able to do.
What made Amy turn to the Growth Hub?
Because of budget restrictions in the education sector, there is often insufficient funding and space to offer activities for children with specific needs. In addition, Amy wanted to make the most of the opportunity to work with private companies so set about building her business proposition to be appealing to the corporate sector.
It was then that she had the brainwave about how she could do both create the space and the resource by purchasing a commercial vehicle and converting it into a mobile classroom and events space.
Amy had built up some capital in the business and wanted to reinvest it in something that would give it the biggest payback. She soon deduced that the ‘Block Bus’, as it becomes known, would be the best use of the capital. But buying a commercial vehicle and paying for a conversion came with a hefty price tag so Amy turned to the Growth Hub for help.
Growth Hub help
Business adviser, Robert Turnbull, visited Amy to see what support he could offer. With a background in the sectors in which Amy worked, he very quickly got to grips with the issues and nuances that she was facing.
Whilst the business had nearly enough capital to buy and convert the bus, it would mean that Amy wouldn’t be able to resource it immediately with the necessary equipment to make it functional. Robert spoke to Amy about the Small Grant Scheme which offers 20% part-funding for eligible business propositions.
He helped Amy through the application process that resulted in the business receiving £5,143 that enabled her to purchase the equipment to fully stock the bus so that it could start earning from day 1.
Robert also mentored Amy to help her with some of the marketing including how to articulate the core benefits of her proposition for businesses and the design of the bus!
“It was great to have Robert’s support at this stage of the business’s development. Because Robert was experienced in the market I operated in, he was able to accurately assess the business and understand the issues. I appreciated having someone to talk to who knew what I was going through and he has helped to facilitate some valuable contacts for us. Being unfamiliar with the corporate sector he gave me the confidence to approach it,” continued Amy.
What impact did this have on helping the business expand?
“Having the Block Bus has been a business-changing event,“ explained Amy, “We now have the capacity to run sessions for children in schools where perhaps there hadn’t previously been the space or resource. All the equipment we use is in the bus so wherever we go we can operate to our full capability. It’s also a fantastic mobile ad for what we do!”
“Because we are able to advertise our services as truly mobile it gives us greater flexibility to work around clients on things like timing and type of activity,” continue Amy, “We are moving into areas of the market such as company team building events and having the bus means we can operate off-site if needed. The Small Grant Scheme funding has enabled us to accelerate our growth as demand from the corporate sector has taken off.”
The adviser’s view
Robert Turnbull said, “Amy’s situation was one with which we are familiar – a business owner who has a great idea and worthy deliverables but doesn’t have the experience to fully exploit its commercial and social benefits. Funding, or the lack of it, often holds back the speed at which companies can expand. It was clear with Alpha Inclusions that if we could help with the purchase of the Block Bus, the business would be able to earn revenue much quicker. I am looking forward to seeing Alpha Inclusions grow over the next few years and change the fortunes of more people’s lives through the great work it does.”
To read more following the successful launch of The Block Bus on the 23rd October at the Norwich Science Fair, please see the link below to the Write up from the EDP.