Skills and Knowledge For the Future (SKFF) provides accredited programmes for disadvantaged people to enhance their employability. SKFF is based in Luton, Bedfordshire and was established in 2010
Exporting helps to spread the business risk
SKFF’s target customers are local authorities; the business model therefore requires public-sector funding for success. “With the recession came government cutbacks and our UK market became considerably smaller”, explained Sophia Facey, Founder of SKFF. “We were passionate about our offering – providing services to those not in education employment or training – and didn’t want to change this. The obvious solution was to look for another market”.
Sophia knew there was a big problem with teenaged pregnancy in the USA and strongly believed the SKFF parenting programme model would be successful in this huge market. “However, we don’t like to take business risks and always ‘do our research’ first”, said Sophia.
UKTI provided the catalyst for change
Attending a UKTI networking event, SKFF learned about UKTI’s Export Marketing Research Scheme (EMRS) which provides professional advice to encourage businesses to undertake market research before approaching overseas markets for sales. Sophia met with Alice Mamier, Research Adviser for the East of England. Together, they devised a market research plan to enable Sophia to decide how to sell SKFF’s services to the USA.
Sophia interviewed a range of market experts in Florida and Atlanta
During the summer and autumn of 2010 to 2012, Sophia spent two weeks in Florida and four weeks in Atlanta with a broad selection of people with knowledge of the market including: charities supporting disadvantage youngsters, Second Chance Homes, schools, government agencies and teenaged parents themselves.
The research highlighted some important hurdles but showed the opportunity for SKFF was huge
It was clear that the market opportunity was enormous and Sophia learned that there were plentiful funding streams for parent support-programmes in the USA. In addition, SKFF’saccreditedprogrammes offered a significant competitive advantage. However, in order to gain access to Federal funding, SKFF would need to have 501(c)(3) status (fortax-exempt not-for-profit organisations in the USA). “It was also obvious to me that we would need to make sure our trainers were accompanied into this environment”, explained Sophia, “I wouldn’t have realised this without experiencing this market myself, but some of the places I visited felt unsafe and I wouldn’t want to send a female trainer there alone.” Armed with the research results, Sophia was able to pull together a clear plan for approaching the USA market.
SKFF now have the required status to deliver training to the USA
Knowing there was a significant opportunity for SKFF in the USA provided the impetus to persevere. It has taken a while, but now that SKFF have achieved 501(c)(3) status – they are in a position to approach this lucrative market for sales.
“The EMRS gave us that extra confidence we needed to look elsewhere in the world”, explained Sophia, “It can be limiting if you just rely on your local market, especially when there may be a bigger market out there waiting to be discovered!”
Company: Skills and Knowledge For the Future (SKFF)
Industry: Training and Education
Target market: USA
UKTI Service: Market Research trip with Export Marketing Research Scheme