A Barnsley based online training provider is planning a big expansion in 2014, thanks to a cartoon character called Bob.
Bob’s Business, which offers e-learning in subjects like data protection, password security and Freedom of Information using animated films, has doubled its turnover each year since moving into the Digital Media Centre in 2011.
Managing director Melanie Oldham said it was now time for the business to enter the next stage by collaborating with partners.
The company is being given free advice by Enterprising Barnsley, a business support programme, which is delivered by Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council.
Melanie, who has just won Forward Ladies Start-up Business Woman award, said: “We have grown fairly quickly since setting up and we are now at the stage where we believe we can expand more quickly and create more jobs by working in partnership with other firms.”
Melanie Oldham, Managing Director of Bob’s Business, based at the Digital Media Centre in Barnsley. Picture: Enterprising Barnsley
Bob’s Business has already teamed up with a technology company and an online safety business.
Melanie, who used to work for learndirect, said that research shows that only about ten per cent of people will do normal online training by choice, but using animation and humour increases that to as much as 90 per cent.
“These days employers have to make sure that their employees know about information security, but it is not the most riveting subject to learn about.
“So we use short films with Bob as the main character telling stories of everyday office life that people can relate to and so they actually want to do the training, rather than having to,” she said.
The short cartoons in each module are linked by an ongoing storyline, so that participants want to continue with the learning. And Bob’s Business also sends regular newsletters, and rewards, like mouse mats, mugs, desk calendars and posters, to reinforce the learning.
Bob’s Business started with just Melanie and a graduate, and now employs three people full-time and three part-time. Clients are in the public sector, charities and, increasingly, small and medium-sized businesses.
“Companies are realising that they have to comply with laws around information security. If they don’t they risk breaches that could even land them with a fine,” said Melanie.
Business coaches from Enterprising Barnsley have given Bob’s Business advice on sales and marketing, business planning and Intellectual Property.
“Enterprising Barnsley has helped us grow in a way that is sustainable in terms of support and infrastructure. They helped us refine our sales process, so that we get a better return on sales,” said Melanie.
“And working in the Digital Media Centre is fantastic, because we have all these amazing suppliers, such as designers and animators, literally on our doorstep.”
Angela Pedley, of Enterprising Barnsley, said: “Bob’s Business is a very innovative company, which has seen a gap in the market. It just shows that we have some great entrepreneurial minds here in Barnsley, which with a bit of support can do very well. And it looks like there are some very exciting times ahead.”