Innovation Birmingham Campus-based Learning Labs Ltd is one of 150 out of 1,500 UK small businesses that has made the shortlist of Virgin’s ‘Pitch to Rich’ entrepreneurial competition.
A total of over £1 million of cash and business support will be awarded to the winning business in three categories; New Things, Start-up and Grow. Learning Labs’ FlashSticks® product range is one of 50 business pitches that is now in the running for a place in the Grow semi-finals. The FlashSticks® campaign secured 1,287 votes, making it the second highest vote winner (behind Coventry-based Komuteez) across the West Midlands region.
FlashSticks is a foreign language learning system, which incorporates 3M’s globally recognised post-it note® technology. Uniquely printed, colour-coded Post-it® Notes contain a foreign word, translation, visual icon and phonetic to help with pronunciation. The product retails for £4.99, while a free app enables the user to ‘wave’ their smartphone or tablet over any FlashSticks® Post-it® Note to hear the precise pronunciation on a video clip. The product is available in all 500 WHSmiths stores, as well as in Staples stores and from online retailer Amazon.
Veejay Lingiah, CEO of Learning Labs said: “We came to the Innovation Birmingham Campus to establish the business in 2013, and now have a team of 12 people working on product development and new distribution channels. FlashSticks® packs are available in six European languages, as well as British Sign Language, from beginner to more advanced levels.
“People that use FlashSticks® tend to spread the word for us and we’re about to launch a whole new range of exciting digital features, so we need to get the word out there in a much bigger way now. Our new FlashSticks® app will enable users to scan any random object for an instant translation, as well as providing a host of fun challenges to test their learning.
“The £250,000 marketing campaign that the winner of the Grow category in the Pitch to Rich competition will receive would be incredible. It’s encouraging to see a high profile national competition that is aimed at small, young businesses.”
On 2nd June 2015, 10 semi-finalists will be selected by a panel of judges in each of the three categories. To whittle down to the final three in each category, the voting scores will then be reset to zero and public voting will recommence. During the two-week voting window, an online leader board will give a live tally of the number of votes each business accumulates. The finalists will be announced on 16th June, in preparation for the live final being held in London on 26th June.
The idea for FlashSticks® came from Learning Labs’ Director Richard Allen, who whilst on a business trip, started to use hand-written post-it notes® around his hotel room as a way to learn Spanish. Although the method was effective, he felt that pre-printed notes could make it so much easier. After establishing how the concept would work best, it took a year to develop the initial product range – alongside Learning Labs’ strategic manufacturing partner 3M – which enables Post-it® Notes to be printed with different vocabulary boosting information.
Since Flashsticks® products were first launched onto the market in 2013, over 150,000 packs have been ordered. The start-up has secured over £500,000 of investment to forward fund production costs and further develop the product in many more languages.
The FlashSticks® brand trademark has been registered and there is a UK Patent pending. The product is available to buy on Amazon, in all Staples and WHSmith stores and online at www.flash-sticks.com.