The Althaus Digital team share their experience of launching a start-up in a global pandemic
It’s the 1st of September 2020. The world is six months into the worst pandemic it has witnessed in over 100 years. The UK has been in a total lockdown for the last three months and after a brief period of semi-freedom, we were about to be plunged into lockdown once again. Thousands of people are being made redundant daily and the economy is in freefall…the perfect time to launch a new business that relies on job creation? Crazy some (all!) might say – but underneath it all, we still felt our timing was right.
The reality was we had already committed heavily to the project. We’d spent the last 12 months turning a concept into a reality; designing a product, building a curriculum, gathering an amazing team of people. Essentially we were a few thousand feet off the ground without ropes, but sometimes the climb down looks scarier than pushing on for the next safe haven…
When we founded the business in late 2019 we had a vision, a clear understanding of what we wanted to achieve, but only a rough idea of how to do it. We believed that if we could create a high-quality, fully remote digital training provision that addressed the real needs of industry, we would be able to disrupt the market and truly help to tackle the digital skills gap. So we set off on a mission to ‘Unleash the digital leaders of tomorrow.©’, although we weren’t quite sure what that meant at the time.
We had (and still have!) a highly skilled team, passionate about creating a provision that truly empowered young people to succeed and we were now ready to deliver our first ever training programmes. Despite the hostile start-up conditions, there were some positives; shops, schools and offices had to physically close, meaning the move to e-commerce, e-learning and virtual working was being accelerated. The demand for Digital Marketing and IT skills was increasing rapidly, and the government was recognising the need for high quality, impactful skills training to ‘level up’ the nation; committing large amounts of funding to apprenticeships and other training schemes.
However, it was a nightmare the first 3 months. We hit less than 50% of projected learner numbers and fell well behind our launch plan. But we persevered, we committed funds to retaining the whole workforce and sat down with the team to create a plan that minimised our losses through reduced workspace and other efficiencies. We genuinely believed that if we could ‘weather the storm’, we had a unique offering and a passionate team with the enthusiasm and energy to do things differently.
And that’s what we did! It took the first quarter of 2021 to gain any real momentum, but we got there. We pivoted and adapted and we’re truly amazed by what the team achieved.
We tendered for new government funded schemes, utilising our trainers knowledge to deliver a pilot programme of digital bootcamps. Our apprenticeship programmes began to gather pace and we started to build meaningful relationships with both local employers and large, national organisations.
”Althaus have been effortless to deal with in everything from programme advice to on-boarding, delivery and reporting of learner progression, bringing a genuinely fresh approach to our provision” – CS Ellis Group Ltd
Our bootcamps have been a major success, with over 75% of the first cohort achieving meaningful employment or progression at work upon completion. In partnership with D2N2, we successfully tendered for the full roll-out contract and are now due to help over 100 individuals and businesses boost their IT, Cyber Security and digital marketing skills over the next year. We have been successful in partnering with some great organisations and placing apprentices into workplaces such as the NHS, Compass Group and Dekra.
What a year and what a journey it has been so far! We genuinely couldn’t be prouder of the team, every single one of them has been instrumental in our achievements. From the relentless energy of our business development team, to the tenacious focus on quality and learner experience from our delivery team, we’ve come together and created something truly special – here’s to year 2 of trading!