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Tucked away in rural Fernside The Learning Staircase supply over 800 New Zealand schools with their unique literacy and language programme, STEPS. Whilst their online programme is used in countries from China to the Pacific Islands and Singapore to Ireland.
Director Ros Lugg says their overseas sales came about partly by chance, “it was mainly because people had noticed us online, rather than any concerted strategy. When we did start to specifically target international markets, our first focus was Australia, mainly because the curriculum is similar to NZ and it’s geographically more accessible”. So far they have raised their profile and professional credibility by exhibiting and presenting at educational conferences in Melbourne and Sydney.
With digital products they avoid the logistical issues of shipping physical materials. However, supporting materials such as workbooks do require physical materials and for this they have chosen to list them on Amazon so that buyers can buy directly from any country without needing to ship things physically or arrange for printing/production in that country.
However digital sales bring their own issues. “One challenge we are likely to face as we expand our international sales is the training and technical support. It's not so much an issue with the online programme. But with the software we may need to look for companies who are able to provide technical support in other time zones as our business in the UK expands. We have tackled the training issue with a support site which has online access to training and support resources”.
When it comes to being based in the Waimakariri District Ros says recruitment is relatively easy and they receive plenty of applicants who are keen to work locally when they advertise positions.
Other benefits, Ros says, include being in a lower-cost area with very easy access to the airport. And also the support they have had from Enterprise North Canterbury, which has been “incredibly beneficial”.
The Learning Staircase continue to grow. They have just taken on a Business Development Manager and will be targeting the UK and other English-speaking markets in the very near future.