Please provide a company background including when it was established, where it is located, how many staff you employ etc.
The National Design Academy (NDA), located on the banks of the River Trent in Nottingham, has been established for over 25 years and has trained over 20,000 designers. Employing 26 staff, NDA delivers training in a range of design related courses to over 1,500 students currently.
Please provide an overview of the products and services offered and areas of specialisation.
The National Design Academy delivers online courses in Interior Design, Garden Design and Soft Furnishings starting at Diploma level and progressing through to BA (Hons) degrees and up to the UK’s first online Masters of Arts degree in Interior Design.
Our degree courses in Heritage Interior Design and Design for Outdoor Living are both unique programmes to NDA, offering students the opportunity to specialise in older buildings or the transitional space between house and garden. All courses are government approved with diploma courses validated by AIM Awards and degrees awarded by Staffordshire University.
How did you find out about emita and what benefits do you find the most valuable?
The introductions to companies experienced in export has been useful, we have used betterlanguages.com and Hallam Internet Ltd extensively with excellent results. The networking events have also been very useful giving country information and an opportunity for those who have experienced the challenges of different cultures and how to work with them.
How long has your company been active in the export / import market and which countries do you currently trade with?
NDA has always attracted a number of international students but in recent years there has been a determined policy to increase international enrolments. These have grown from 10% of students in 2012-2013 to 13% in 2013-2014 and in 2014 the academy opened a recruitment office in Dubai. Although NDA has students in more than 75 countries, there are greater numbers in the Gulf region so there is a clear focus on this area.
What made you decide to expand your business overseas?
Although the UK education market will always exist, The National Design Academy’s target market tends to be adults from the demographic 25-40 rather than school leavers. This group has been susceptible to economic changes over recent years, often requiring greater commitment to work and less disposable income to devote to professional development or even hobbies. Changes to the funding of adult qualifications both at university and college level, have reduced financial support and necessitated the search for new markets.
What has been your biggest exporting / importing challenge?
Online learning is still in its infancy and the National Design Academy has been happy to be a pioneer in this area. However, adoption is a slow process particularly as you move eastwards, so although there has been individual enthusiasm for this style of learning, there have been some concerns regarding recognition. The other challenge has been trying to reach potential students as essentially we are reaching out to private individuals as well as SME’s so this demands a different approach from B2B. Trade shows, although developing significant apparent interest have not resulted in conversions. Consequently, NDA has now decided to try to develop an agent’s network to assist in this process.
What’s the most helpful piece of international trade advice you have received?
Don’t expect quick results, go in person and get as much information as you can about potential markets.
What does the future hold? Any particular markets you are looking to target next?
The future is looking optimistic and we are starting to see rewards in the Gulf Region. Following a UKTI event, the Philippines also looks to be worth investigating with a population of 100m and an average age of 23 with high levels of IT literacy.