Member stories
 

Building a positive community around your business in a time of crisis

Building a positive community around your business in a time of crisis
Katie Prescott
Katie Prescott
Director (Abridge Academy)
Abridge Academy
 

Posted: Tue 22nd Sep 2020

Katie Prescott is the founder of Abridge Academy, a social enterprise which runs educational and cultural exchanges programmes in Asia for students, young people and teachers.

The coronavirus pandemic forced Katie to switch her business to online training, a pivot which has proved successful. To learn new business skills, the entrepreneur also signed up to free e-learning as part of the Amazon Small Business Accelerator.

Katie shares the story behind her business and how the Amazon Small Business Accelerator e-learning programme helped her refine the way she communicates with her customers and contacts.

**The free Amazon Small Business Accelerator e-learning programme is advice from more than 30 business experts in 218 bitesize videos.

If you're already an Enterprise Nation member, log-in to your member dashboard to access the e-learning.

If you're not an Enterprise Nation member, you can join the Amazon Small Business Accelerator for free here.**

How did you come up with idea for your business?

I joined a summer camp programme in China in summer 2017 with a group of students from my university. I had an amazing experience but found that there were aspects of the pre-departure organisation and logistics and communication which were disorganised and could be easily improved.

The following year, the school contacted me to ask if I could assist them with finding more participants for the next summer, as they had lost their contact at the Chinese Society and were looking for a more stable, long-term partner in the UK. I saw the potential to set up a company to support the school in promoting and organising their programmes while also offering an amazing experience to students from universities around the world.

I trained as a teacher and I have always been passionate about language learning and cultural exchange so this perfectly combined my professional and personal interests while supporting a great cause.

Thanks to a start-up grant from my university, I launched Abridge Academy as a social enterprise with a trial programme in summer 2018. Since then, I have developed comprehensive pre-departure support and training to assist incoming participants, linked to additional schools and educational organisations across China, Japan and Taiwan, and launched online and year-round programmes to reach a wider audience.

It has been incredible to see the company grow and receive wonderful feedback from previous participants, and I am excited to see what the future brings.

How has the coronavirus pandemic impacted on your business?

This coronavirus pandemic has probably been the biggest challenge I've faced to date, as all in-person programmes had to be cancelled this summer. However, I worked hard to keep incoming participants informed and up-to-date with the rapidly changing situation, resulting in many choosing to defer their place until next year rather than accept a refund of their fees.

I have always said that "every challenge offers a new opportunity" and the coronavirus lockdown has enabled us to launch a new online programme which is already going from strength to strength and looks set to be an excellent opportunity in the longer term too.

It has been important to be flexible, willing to take risks and adapt to the changing situation to take advantage of the opportunities and minimise the impact of the virus on the company.

It has also been incredible to receive so much support from previous participants in our programmes. They have gone above and beyond to help out - from sharing their experiences on social media and supporting our marketing efforts, to joining our new online programme and assisting with programme development.

This has really emphasised to me the importance of building a positive community around your company, particularly those of us in the social enterprise sector, as without this support we would really have struggled during the coronavirus pandemic having lost so much financially from cancellations.

Katie Prescott, Abridge AcademyHow has the Amazon Small Business Accelerator e-learning programme benefited your business?

I have found the e-learning course on building a community and fans truly invaluable. Previously, my business received significant informal support from previous participants due to their passion for our programmes. However, I struggled to know how to best harness that goodwill.

Since completing the e-learning course, I have revamped my approach to gathering testimonials and focused on providing a more structured and ongoing community through Facebook to connect participants in order to maintain contact and offer additional value.

What are your plans for the future?

In the next few years, I hope to double the number of annual participants in our programmes to 500 by 2022, as well as expanding further across Asia with new school partnerships and additional programmes.

I also hope to continue developing our online activity so that it becomes a stable long-term opportunity for business growth.

What are your tips for business success?

Be flexible, seek out and grasp new opportunities and don't be afraid to innovate. The business environment is continually changing, and you need to adapt in order to thrive. During the coronavirus pandemic, it was by seeing the online opportunity as well as committing the time and energy into exploring this potential that we were able to launch a whole new programme within just one month which now looks set to be an excellent long-term opportunity too.

I would also say that this applies to existing businesses too - don't wait until it is perfect to launch but listen to your customers and adapt your products to best suit them. Our first summer camp programme was simply a minimum viable product which we used to test the approach, gain valuable feedback and begin building the business. Over the past few years, that has evolved into a very successful and well-organised system, even if the first run had teething issues! Running a business should not be a static process but one of continual change.

The free Amazon Small Business Accelerator e-learning programme is advice from more than 30 business experts in 218 bitesize videos.

If you're already an Enterprise Nation member, log-in to your member dashboard to access the e-learning.

If you're not an Enterprise Nation member, you can join the Amazon Small Business Accelerator for free here.

 
Katie Prescott
Katie Prescott
Director (Abridge Academy)
Abridge Academy
 
I am a teacher, traveller and entrepreneur with a passion for international education, cultural exchange and language learning. Having previously qualified and worked as a teacher, I now run Abridge Academy, a social enterprise with the mission to "bridge East and West through education" - offering a range of cultural and language teaching exchange programs for students, young people and teachers in Asia or online.  While my expertise is more in the education aspects of our programs, for example volunteer training and curriculum development, I have also dabbled in all aspects of the business - from website development to managing finances! 
 

You might also like…

Start your business journey today

Take the first step to successfully starting and growing your business.