Reflections on an interesting life, or building a global education business!

Why blog? I've wanted to give it a try for ages so when a colleague came across BlogHer I saw my chance. I came to the conclusion recently that I have a pretty interesting life at the moment. It's not an exceptional life and it might not be everyone's cup of tea, but I hope to use this blog to reflect on what's happening and perhaps interact with others.

There will be many women out there who have started a business. That's certainly not exceptional. Four and a half years ago at the age of 41, I gave up my secure, full time job as a Curriculum Manager in Creative Arts in a large college in Scotland, UK, to set up a business with three colleagues. What made us do it? We saw an opportunity to provide high quality, practical art and design courses online.

In our minds were all the people we'd encountered over the years who couldn't access college on a full time basis, or who would prefer to study more flexibly; Adult returners, mums with children at home, people with disabilities or medical conditions, people in remote areas, international students, people who wanted to change direction or retrain and study alongside their day job.  

We began in a hastily converted dining room with one PC. Now, four years on we have developed a range of courses from Foundation to Masters and have a string of accreditations to our bow. We are also the first organisation to offer UK Design Degrees online. We have built a bespoke website. That's a never ending job if ever there was one. Whilst we will constangly need to update and 'tweak' the front end, the 'back end' learning area works brilliantly. Affer 3 years we'd outgrown the diningroom and had to move into a larger space. We now work in a lovely big converted cart store on a working farm just outside Edinburgh.

All of our students have their own secure online studios and personal tutors with whom they communicate one-to-one. They also interact with their peers in online forums. We focused from the start on creating a student experience of the highest quality and that's paid off. The feedback we receive from students is excellent.

We have established partnerships in Russia, Iran, Dubai, China and Hungary. Perhaps most importantly we have proved that in addition to 'theory based' subjects such as Business, Law or IT, practical art and design courses can be delivered entirely at a distance, and they can be delivered successfully. Some said it couldn't be done...well, we've done it!

That makes it sound like we are already there, that everything is in place and things tick along like clockwork. I wish! We don't have enough time, we don't have enough bodies, we have the usual IT problems, we have people problems, in fact we probably have the same problems as most start-up businesses. However our motto is 'onwards and upwards' and in four and a half years we've still not fallen out (seriously) or lost our senses of humour.

On re-reading this it's not quite what I planned, but then I didn't really plan at all. Perhaps that's the thing about blogging. Any advice gratefully received!

From now on I hope to add little observations about the company, my colleagues, about balancing work and family life, about international expansion plans, printer cartridge problems, students, partners, investors, directors, how to approach the landlord about embarrasing plumbing problems at the office, how to appear businesslike on a budget.....! Who knows what might emerge. One thing's for sure, I won't be blogging about cooking. EEK> I hate cooking!



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