Mother of four Michelle embarked on the business in order to provide opportunity for children who love science, she explained:
“I had been teaching for about 15 years and wanted to try something different. My daughter had found an interest in science but when I tried to buy her a kit, they were all very low quality, or only advertised at boys. So I thought I would fill that gap in the market.
“I saw the limitations of most science kits on the market; they are used once and then thrown away, with little facility to learn. So I decided to create my own kits, with three main aims: creating a kit that could be used time and again meaning less money in the long-term; arming the parent / caregiver with activities and basic science knowledge linked to the National Curriculum to help the children learn; encouraging girls into science.”
Elementary Sciences is based in Powys in Wales, where Michelle lives with her husband, who is currently serving as a reservist and working as a recruiter for Military Intelligence in the British Army. It is a small company and Michelle makes the kits herself, which are themed to follow the elements. The Water boxes are now available for purchase and Earth will soon be launched, with Air and Fire following in 2020.
The standard Water Kit contains the beginning of the child’s laboratory with quality glass equipment in a beautiful display case for secure storage, while the Premium Water Kit contains the laboratory equipment along with the resources to complete six experiments including beautifully designed instruction booklets.
Michelle has plans for further product ranges, she said:
“My business has a social mission: bringing STEM skills to schoolchildren. In addition to our core boxes, we also will be developing a class set for primary school teachers which will include the laboratory equipment, the experiments and the resources for teachers to ensure that they are covering science in an inspiring way whilst allowing the children to have fun in doing it.
“Edina Trust, a charity whose main charitable purpose is to support science education at primary school level, offers a grant scheme for certain areas which can be used to purchase the kits. We have also recently partnered with Interhigh, the largest online school in the UK, who will offer the science kits to promote practical science at home to support their curriculum.
“It has been a really enjoyable experience bringing the business to launch. I like the creativity that is needed and learning new skills, creating a website and ensuring my product is the best it can possibly be. The greatest reward is to hear from a parent that their child has engaged with my kit and it has sparked something in them.
“If a child gains a love of science from one of our kits, we’ve done our job right.”
Michelle found that the transition from teacher to business owner involved much learning of her own, particularly around health and safety regulation and getting to grips with the website and social media channels required to reach her market. Before launching the business, Michelle attended a Military Spouses’ workshop as well as the Start-Up Skills training delivered by X-Forces Enterprise (XFE), supported by ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, which gave her a good grounding in start-up skills and business administration.
In order to progress to prototype production and buy her first stock, XFE assisted Michelle in applying for a government-backed Start Up Loan, which Michelle describes as key to getting going with her plan for Elementary Sciences:
“Starting a business can be very daunting and, at times, quite an isolating experience. Having the X-Forces team there to support you , including individuals who have specialist knowledge and expertise in access to finance, was really helpful.
“Getting going initially can be hard if you don’t have a business background, but X-Forces were on hand to explain concepts like cash flow and setting up a business plan. It was also really useful to speak to others like me on the workshops and to exchange knowledge and solutions to mutual problems.”
Following the draw-down of her Start Up Loan, Michelle received 12 months of mentoring by XFE to ensure the business was progressing to plan and to pre-empt any problems, a programme supported by The Royal British Legion.
When asked about the advice she would share with others considering starting a business, Michelle replied:
“Take as many opportunities as possible to speak to people in business. Attend training, workshops and work with mentors. At first I didn’t take as much advantage of this as I should have, possibly because I didn’t realise how much I didn’t know!”
XFE CEO and founder, Ren Kapur MBE, acknowledges Michelle’s endeavour to meet a social goal through business:
“Michelle’s business is one I’m really proud that XFE has supported to launch. Not only has Michelle built quality products and a beautiful brand that engages with its target audience, but Elementary Sciences has a purpose to improve opportunities for young people.
“As a mum to two grown-up sons and now a grandmother, that driving force resonates with me; we seek a better future for them, and to nurture their interests and talents. The creation of X-Forces has been built on exactly the same ethos.
“I applaud Michelle for her hard work building the business in its first three years, alongside the pressures of being a military spouse and mum to four, and I am sure her business has an extremely bright future.”
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X-Forces Enterprise (XFE) is an award-winning Community Interest Company that nurtures entrepreneurial ambition in the UK military community, official delivery partner to the government’s Start Up Loans Company and MoD’s Career Transition Partnership. XFE supports Service leavers, veterans, spouses, cadets and Armed Forces family members to start their own businesses with a full package of training, finance, networking and mentoring. Start your journey by registering today here.