A Co. Tyrone woman has turned her passion for teaching young children into a successful new business venture during lockdown thanks to the support of the Go For It programme in association with Derry City and Strabane District Council.
This project is part funded by Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Growth and Jobs Northern Ireland (2014-2020) programme.
Ashley Lynch, a primary school teacher, decided to launch ‘Little Learners’ during the Coronavirus pandemic with the help and support of her husband and friends.
With home-schooling in full swing during lockdown, Ashley wanted to take the hassle away from parents searching the internet by designing and creating educational folders, allowing them to spend more quality time with their children.
“My son didn’t make it to pre, pre-school and I wanted to enhance his educational journey. As a teacher myself I didn’t want him to fall behind, so I started to create folders and activity sheets for him, my nieces and nephews.
“Then friends wanted them for their kids. They then said – you could sell these and with a push from my husband, he said give it a try, we went for it and the rest is history.”
Leading up to the launch of ‘Little Learners’ the busy mum of three felt apprehensive as she was unsure about setting up a business. Ashley then contacted the Go For It programme to seek expert advice and support to take the plunge and turn her idea into a business.
“The Go For It programme gave me an outline to follow making it clear these are the hurdles you have to jump through to make your business successful.
“They provided me with templates to create a business plan, networking opportunities with other local businesses in the area.
“The business plan that Go For It set up for me allowed me the opportunity to gather my thoughts more coherently so I had the idea wrote on paper and turning it into a business was quite a challenge and something I wouldn’t be able to do on my own.
“Orla from Strabane Enterprise Agency helped me with this by answering questions such as how to nail my niche , is there a market there, how to target them and legal aspects which you don’t actually consider until you begin a business.
“When it finally came to launch day, I was a bit stressed thinking will anyone actually order or will anything come from it. I launched at 10am and I received my first order at 10.03am and it was just ping, ping, ping all day. Obviously, parents were calling out for help whilst home schooling.”
Ashley said her biggest achievement was the difference her business was making to some parents and families.
“I had a mum contact me in Mid-Ulster whose child was non-verbal. She bought an introductory pack to see if it would be of any use and the child started saying the words.
“She then contacted me and ordered one of everything I have so that was very overwhelming and great that it was making a difference to someone and that the business is continually growing thanks to the Go For It programme.”
Orla McNulty, Business Adviser with Strabane Enterprise Agency on behalf of Derry City and Strabane District Council said: “Ashley contacted Strabane Enterprise Agency to get help to progress her business idea.
“She had a great idea and we helped formalise her business idea and develop a comprehensive business plan and prepare two years cash flow projections.
“We are delighted that Little Learners is developing and growing and we wish Ashley continued success for the future.”
Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Alderman Graham Warke, said: “This is absolutely great news. Throughout the pandemic small businesses have been significantly impacted and as we continue on the journey to recovery it’s inspirational to see companies like Little Learners thriving and connecting with customers across the UK and Ireland.
“We have heard so many stories throughout Covid 19 about entrepreneurs and it was great to speak with Ashley and hear about the success of her business and I have no doubt that Little Learners will continue to grow and develop.”
... helped me to nail my niche, understand the market, how to target and legal aspects of a business...
If you have a business idea you’d like to develop or if you are thinking about starting a business contact the Go For It team on 0800 027 0639 or visit: www.goforitni.com.