24 Feb 2015

Newcastle Science City makes global growth child’s-play for Durham developers

Maya using the Special Stories app

Apps from non-profit social enterprise, Special iApps, being used worldwide by children with special educational needs

A County Durham company which develops educational apps to help better teach, engage and communicate with disabled children, is on the path to accelerated global growth after receiving strategic support from Newcastle Science City.  With 70% of its sales from international exports, Special iApps called on the expert advice of the company’s mentors for help with business planning and marketing.

Special iApps was founded in 2011 by Beverley and Colin Dean. Both have a background in IT, but it was after their second son William was born with Down Syndrome and a series of other physical problems including duodenal atresia, Hirschsprung’s disease, hearing impairment and thyroid deficiency, that they put their technical skills to personal use.

Frustrated that traditional techniques for teaching and playing with children with Down Syndrome, such as paper-led visual games, were poor at capturing William’s attention, Beverley was astounded to see how well he responded to a tablet device.  However, the Deans discovered that apps available on the market were not effectively geared towards children with special educational needs.

This led Beverley and Colin to take matters into their own hands; writing their first app, Special Words, in 2011. Fast forward four years and the Deans have created 10 apps available in a range of languages, internationally downloadable in Android and iOS versions, for a range of children with disabilities and learning difficulties.

Special iApps has enjoyed phenomenal growth, mainly thanks to word-of-mouth recommendations and Beverley’s positioning on a number of charitable foundations. Over the past few months however, the company has called on the expertise of Newcastle Science City to help refine their business growth strategy and more effectively target key audiences.

Beverley explains: “Special iApps has massively exceeded our expectations. We began developing apps to better engage with our son and now four years on we have a successful international business. The company has gone from strength-to-strength but we knew we needed help in refining our business strategy – to review what was working well and how we could better market our products for best reach in the UK and overseas.

“Newcastle Science City provided us essential support by auditing our business – specifically looking at our sales strategy, key markets and products, our pricing model and marketing.  The recommendations which came from the audit have now been implemented to help ensure we stay commercially sustainable.”

Melanie Hill, Business Support Manager at Newcastle Science City, added: “The Deans are an excellent example of a new innovation created from a very personal need. Like many people in their situation, they understand one area of the business incredibly well, in this case app development, but needed support with the business management and marketing side of things. With our help and subsequently that of UKTI, Beverley and Colin now have a robust business strategy in place to aid their further international growth.”

Support for Special iApps was provided through the Business & IP Centre programme, partly funded through the European Regional Development Fund.

View all News relating to: Business Support
Tweet Plus+1 Share Pinterest