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Gateshead ‘messy play’ secures first overseas contract

Anja Swan

Created by Anja Swan, 14th October 2019


  • Little Learners franchise expands to Australia following first exporting deals
  • Franchise’s early years messy play classes to be delivered in Melbourne and Perth
  • Department for International Trade supports new market entry

A North East business that franchises ‘messy play’ classes for children is expanding overseas after licensing its model in Australia for the first time with the support of the Department for International Trade.

Launched in 2015 by former Gateshead schoolteacher Rachel Fay, Little Learners’ unique early years writing programme will now be delivered in both Melbourne and Perth after deals were agreed with potential franchisees. The business believes messy play provides an integral role in developing a child’s motor skills from an early age.

Since launching, Little Learners has grown to become the UK’s leading messy play business, with its classes currently delivered in 34 locations around the country.

Each messy play session involves painting, dancing and sensory play and is designed to help develop motor skills, core strength, early writing skills and social interaction in preschool-aged children.

Research shows that Australia has the lowest proportion of three-year-olds enrolled in pre-school activities*. The business identified this gap and decided to target this market with DIT’s support.

DIT helped the business secure funding for a trade mission to Australia in 2018, resulting in the two deals being secured. Each franchise is now sold with full training provided online and over the phone.

Rachel Fay, Managing Director and owner of Little Learners, said: “Although I was confidence that Little Learners could spread through the UK, I’m thrilled to achieve international success so soon.

“Australia has some of the lowest numbers of preschool-aged children taking part in educational activities, so it presented a significant opportunity for the business. Exporting comes with its challenges but, after speaking to DIT’s International Trade Advisers in the North East, I was able to access crucial funding that allowed me to scope the market first-hand and meet potential buyers.

“If a small business like mine from Gateshead can export, many others can too.”

David Coppock, Head of Regions (North East) at DIT said: “Little Learners is a prime example of a business model that easily translates to markets across the world. Rachel runs the business by herself yet is already securing what we hope are the first of many contracts overseas.

“From the logistics associated with exporting to finding the best market, our team of ITAs are ready to help companies from all industries trade overseas. If you think you’ve got a product or service that could appeal to international markets, I’d urge you to get in touch with our team now and see how we can help your business reach its full growth potential.”

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Anja Swan

Created by Anja Swan, 1 month ago, [last edited 1 month ago]


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