Inside Track: Rebecca Good & Dr Kate James, Éirim
‘Our business has evolved and grown quite naturally’
Dr Kate James and Rebecca Good of Éirim. “When we started Éirim 15 years ago, our main aim was to provide high-quality educational assessments in a timely manner to schools and parents.”
Éirim is a family business, established almost 15 years ago by two educational psychologists, sisters, Rebecca Good & Dr Kate James. They provide an assessment service to children, diagnosing dyslexia and other learning differences and also professional training events and qualifications to schools and teachers around the globe.
Based in Harold’s Cross, they have a team of four staff, three contractors and two volunteer workers.
What sets your business apart from the competition?
When we started Éirim 15 years ago, our main aim was to provide high-quality educational assessments in a timely manner to schools and parents. Over the years, we’ve developed our services and committed to supporting students and teachers that work on a daily basis with them. No other company, that we know of, provides this kind of holistic approach to supporting students with additional learning needs in education
What was the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?
Work ‘on’ your business rather than ‘in’ your business. Build your company around your lifestyle not around money.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in business?
I don’t think we’ve made any big mistakes because our business has evolved and grown quite naturally and we haven’t moved ourselves into areas that we weren’t comfortable or familiar with. We do need to take some risks and have begun introducing more strands to our business, including running training courses and setting up a sister company, Education Elephant Ltd
And your major success to date?
We developed a professional certificate qualification for special educational needs (SEN) teachers in the area of educational testing and assessment – accredited by the British Psychological Society – the Certificate of Competence in Educational Testing.
Before, much of this testing was carried out by psychologists but now, with the responsibility on teachers, schools understand the need to develop their workforce and are seeking certification in the area.
Adding to the success of the course, we won a tender a few years ago to deliver the training to more than 300 teachers in Northern Ireland. This opened a lot of doors in terms of building our reputation and getting our name out there. We’ve expanded globally and delivered training in destinations as far apart, as Zurich and Qatar. We’ve had people fly from all over the world to come train with us in Dublin too.
Since then we’ve further developed our assessment courses and two of them, including the one above, are now listed as mandatory for any UK post-primary SEN teacher to have before they engage in testing.
This year, in partnership with Education Elephant Ltd, we launched a new assessment product which is suitable for assessing pupils in post-primary schools. It is a test, called SPaRCS, which assesses a pupil’s Spelling, Processing Speed and Reading Comprehension Speed.
Who do you most admire in business and why?
The Collison brothers are two people in business who we admire. In a recent article they described how, like many other business owners, they had difficulties stepping away from the day to day running of their business but soon realised that their hands-on approach was slowing the company down and preventing growth. This really resonated with us.
Based on your experience in the downturn, are the banks in Ireland open for business to SMEs?
We’ve been fortunate to stay away from the banks, funding all of our new developments and growth with money that has come from the company. Our local Dublin Enterprise Office has been very supportive and we’ve secured a number of grants and opportunities through them.
What one piece of advice would you give the Government to help stimulate the economy?
The cost of childcare in this country, especially in Dublin, is huge and something that is restrictive and stifling for families. As it stands (even including the ECCE) it’s difficult, for mothers especially, to return to the workforce. Financial support to those who want to get into the workforce is essential.
What’s been the biggest challenge you have had to face?
It simply wasn’t possible to keep up the work as a psychologist in Éirim while at the same time trying to build and develop the company. Making the transition was difficult but the best thing that we ever did. We imagine that many SME’s find themselves in similar circumstances, juggling working ‘in’ and ‘on’ the business but the clarity and focus that comes with the transition is immense and we would encourage anyone that finds themselves in that situation to make the leap.
How do you see the short-term future for your business?
We have just launched a sister company, Education Elephant Ltd, which is going to take over our services to schools, including training and support. On top of all of these new developments, we’ve set up a free and dedicated ‘chat room’ where special education (SEN) teachers can go and seek support from one another, swap resources and ideas, as well as liaise with professionals.
What’s your business worth and would you sell it?
We’ve no idea what it’s worth but, with a strong and loyal customer base, and many new developments and opportunities ahead, selling it now is unlikely. We’d never say never but at this moment feel that the best is yet to come.