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Inspiring Growth: Purpose before profit fosters scalable growth

In our latest 'Inspiring growth' story we talk to Twinkl’s Chief Operating Officer David Angrave alongside Nathan Bilton, Managing Associate at Ward Hadaway.

In the series ‘Inspiring Growth’ Yorkshire Post Deputy Business Editor Greg Wright talks to companies leading the way in the region. The articles, conceived and commissioned by Ward Hadaway celebrate entrepreneurialism, shine a spotlight on business success and use those who have been there and done that to act as a guiding light.

Sheffield-based Twinkl is a leading international publisher of high-quality, trusted educational resources created by teachers actively involved in schooling. The provider is the 16th fastest growing firm in the 2021 Ward Hadaway Fastest 50 which recognises the most profitable, privately owned companies in Yorkshire.

“We’re a mission-led business driven not by our balance sheet but rather a genuine purpose to create a positive social impact,” says Angrave. “Our mission is to help those who teach by providing them with what they need to fulfil their role. So that’s essentially any educator – for example a teacher, a parent or a childminder – who has an influence on a person’s learning journey. We want to help our customers and support them, no matter what. We want to see them do well – that’s more important to us than profit. If you lead with wanting to do good, with a clear and powerful purpose to help those who need it, success and growth will follow.”

Twinkl was the brainchild of founders Jonathan and Susie Seaton, a solicitor and primary school teacher respectively. Frustrated with the lack of high quality, cost effective and accessible educational resources available to teachers, they started creating their own in their attic 11 years ago. A decade later Twinkl provides over 675,000 teaching materials in 190 countries with new provisions added daily. The company has also established a business accelerator – TwinklHive – which supports founders with a mission to scale and disrupt the technology sector.

Before the pandemic hit, Twinkl was already providing thousands of learning materials to classroom teachers, home educators and parents. When schools and colleges closed the demand intensified.

“The biggest change was the surge in demand globally, at once. Not just from teachers unable to teach from their classrooms but from parents too,” continues Angrave. “Because the business is based on our desire to help and support as best we can, the first thing we did was to provide free access to every user. We did this because it was the right thing to do. No trials, no mandatory sign up after a certain number of days. Simply free access to whatever resource an educator needed. We could have aggressively monetised the opportunity Covid presented but we didn’t. It was our time – and our chance – to help those who teach.”

Putting purpose before profit has certainly paid off. Over the last three years, the company has grown 40 to 50 percent year-on-year. In the last 12 months alone, Twinkl has added 300 new team members taking its headcount to over 1,000 people.

Nathan Bilton, who works with a number of clients in the educational technology (EdTech) sector, believes Twinkl is a shining example to other businesses that demonstrates how success, and growth, can be achieved through a purpose-led business model.

Nathan Bilton

Nathan Bilton, Managing Associate at Ward Hadaway

“Twinkl has achieved incredible growth over the past decade, and particularly in the past 12 months. With a constant focus on the company’s wider social impact, it’s renowned for delivering first class educational resources used by millions worldwide. It shows that a scalable, responsive and adaptable business can be built and continue to grow by making an impact that matters. Twinkl exemplifies how businesses can excel by understanding and delivering on their purpose. Those who do so create a more engaged workforce, attract a wider customer base and, ultimately, grow.”

Twinkl has seen their services expand not just through their accelerator programme but in other ways too. For example, the publisher has delivered remote lessons on behalf of schools, created a Home Learning Hub which provides detailed timetables and lesson plans as well as mentoring initiatives for teachers too.

Angrave adds: “If you devote your time to genuinely helping people and seeking to add value to their lives then you win every time. This ethos not only encapsulates what Twinkl represents but I see it in other Yorkshire businesses too. I think the region’s business community has an impact focused mindset. By that, I mean businesses are collaborating rather than competing.

“Yorkshire businesses are committed to working together towards a common goal with shared values. And that’s why the region is such a thriving, innovative hub for progressive companies. When you focus on having a great mission, you can achieve great things. We seek to do good, solve real pain points and add true value. That’s how we grow.”

This article originally appears in The Yorkshire Post on 22nd April 2021.

You can find full details of the Yorkshire Fastest 50 awards here.

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