My name is Iqbal Ahmad (SFHEA) and I’m the Founder and CEO of Britannia School of Academics, an online school offering specialized and accredited courses for teaching professionals. We currently have around 700 teaching professionals studying full-time with us, from all over the world. Many of them are working for prestigious schools, sixth-form colleges, and government departments, such as the Metropolitan Police. Below, I will share the story of how we got to this point.
My Journey to Entrepreneurship
Coming from a very humble background in Pakistan, I started working at the age of 14. I happened to be a bright student so there were always opportunities for me to offer private tuition. Though I didn’t originally consider myself choosing teaching as a lifelong profession, I subconsciously developed an interest in teaching, training, and mentoring others.
I had an opportunity to come to the UK at the age of 18 for my further and higher education. I had to finance my first two years of education by doing odd jobs, but I was able to find a teaching job at the age of 20. This was a massive step in my career and seeing how an educational establishment was run fascinated me. I was 23 years old when I started my first institute offering vocational courses, and since then I have set up various small-scale ventures.
To tell you the truth, none of these ventures did exceptionally well, although they all taught me various skills and behaviors that would enable me to launch something big one day. Being a self-employed entrepreneur helped me a great deal in bringing up three young children, alongside giving me the freedom to rack up seven postgraduate qualifications as well as some teaching qualifications.
Amongst these qualifications are an MBA, ACCA, CIMA, PG Cert in Teaching and Learning, and Level 5 Diploma in Education and Training.
The Effects of the Pandemic
When Covid-19 hit us in early 2020, I was running a leadership training school – Britannia School of Leadership & Management, which offered physical training events and courses. Within the first few months of lockdown, we thought we might be doomed to fail, as so many other small businesses had.
The social distancing measures and the non-urgent nature of our operations meant that we would struggle to cover our overheads in an expensive city like London. It was an extremely precarious position to be in, and even with government subsidies, we were hemorrhaging cash. I was very close to financial ruin and watched all of my hard work go down the drain.
Although it is easy to despair and give up in seemingly dire situations, I learned during my previous ventures that successful entrepreneurs persevere and use their ingenuity to survive. Therefore, instead of giving up on the business, in a last-ditch effort to sustain the leadership school, we switched to online learning and focused on accredited leadership courses that had an established market.
That too did not work out as planned, as the competition was very strong, and we did not have the established presence necessary to penetrate the market. The pandemic restrictions continued to stop us from continuing our in-person training, so going digital still felt like a step in the right direction as we now had the skills and infrastructure needed to offer online training.
By that time, we had developed a very effective Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), had developed a great network of freelance trainers, and had mastered the art of digital marketing to attract interest from the right audience.
Therefore, instead of backing out, we tried to expand our course range to include courses for leaders in education. Knowing that many teaching professionals were now working from home with a lot of them furloughed, we figured that they might be interested to use their newfound free time to gain qualifications to advance their careers.
The idea got off a flying start. We had recruited a few dozen learners within the first month, and there were enquires about other teaching courses that we were not offering yet, which was a promising sign for our future.
Launching Britannia School of Academics
The success of the leaders in education courses through the School of Leadership led us to the idea of launching a specialized online school for teaching professionals, that would be a one-stop institute for a very wide range of education and training courses.
The benefit of this would be that it would be easier to build a strong brand, meaning we could more easily establish ourselves in what we had found to be a gap in the market. Using our newfound knowledge of online training and digital marketing tactics, we quickly got the necessary infrastructure in place to launch our new venture.
The idea was welcomed by our target market, and we enrolled 700 students within the first year of our operations. We offer training courses for teachers, trainers, teaching assistants, advisors, counselors, assessors, quality assurers, managers, and more; all of whom are making an essential contribution to our society. As a teaching professional myself, I am proud to be able to offer an effective and economic option for my peers and am humbled by the success we have achieved thus far.
Our Future Plans
In 2022 we will be looking to expand further by working with local councils and charities to design specialized courses for public servants involved in dealing with vulnerable members of society. The idea was pitched to us by a charity a few months ago, that worked with local councils to deal with residents in need of support. We were overwhelmed at that time by the demand for our newly launched courses, but the time now feels right to proceed with this project.
Around 80% of our learners are UK based, with the remaining 20% being from 24 countries around the globe. In order to truly establish ourselves as a global brand, we have launched an initiative to work with educational establishments all over the world to provide training support to their academic team.
This includes launching an Institute Partnership Scheme (IPS) with funding of £30,000 available each year, whereby fully funded accredited training would be provided to educational institutes all over the world, who might otherwise not be able to up-skill their teaching staff in the absence of a training budget.
What started off as an attempt to sustain ourselves throughout the pandemic has now become a serious passion of ours, with great growth potential. Education is the lifeblood of our society, and by expanding the availability of training for educators, we hope to improve the quality of education globally.