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Education: A nice niche

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Foyle is a true opportunist. When he stumbled across the education sector’s predilection for buying from old, proven brands, he set up BLi Education and began acquiring ailing but respected companies, cashing in on their brand value. Today, he boasts a wide spread of businesses, with a finger in every slice of the education pie.

"This has give me real resilience in the market," he explains. "If a primary school isn’t buying curriculum software, for example, they might be buying peripherals, or science and design supplies, or stuff for kids with special learning needs."

Concentrating on the education niche has other benefits too: "Of any sector, education will always be funded," he says. "Whatever the government, you don’t win elections by cutting spend on education and healthcare."

"Schools will always complain that they don’t have enough money," he continues. "But if a school really likes something, it will spend money. The products and services that I provide don’t cost multi-millions. Our biggest transaction is in the hundreds of thousands of pounds. To put that in context, that amount of money is nothing compared to the teacher wage bill at most schools."

The figures back up Foyle’s claims. Turnover last year was £7m and next year’s revenues should hit £10m.

But Foyle isn’t resting on his laurels. Despite the buoyancy of the UK education market, the entrepreneur is investigating new sales channels, namely in the US. "While the majority of our revenue comes from the UK, there are plenty of opportunities in the export market," he says. "Education is a global thing. Already, 15 per cent of our revenue comes from export and we’re setting up a US division to ramp up sales from that territory."

With exchange rates playing to Foyle’s favour, this new revenue stream could prove lucrative. "We want to take advantage of the current rates quickly, whether through organic growth or acquisition," he concludes.

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