Export Award For Smart Kids

Published: Mon 26 May 2003 04:07 PM
Export Award For Smart Kids - Selling Educational Games And Resources To The World
Auckland, May 26, 2003 -- Smart Kids Ltd, an Auckland company that makes educational games and resources to help children read and understand maths, has won a Trade New Zealand Export Award for its success in international markets.
(Note to editors: Media are invited to attend the presentation of the Trade New Zealand Export Award to Smart Kids Ltd, by Trade New Zealand Director Peter Menzies, at 3pm on Monday 26 May 2003, at the company’s premises 7 Mono Place, Ellerslie, Auckland.)
Established eight years ago in the family home basement, Smart Kids is led by husband and wife team and joint chief executives David and Sue Milne and their sons Duncan and Fraser.
Sue Milne, an ex-teacher, says from just 30 products when it started, the company produces more than 200 products catering for students aged between five and 12 and covering everything from basic letter formation to sentence activities, grammar concepts and numeracy.
She says the international appeal of Smart Kids’ products was highlighted recently, when the company’s SMART PHONICS was listed amongst the top five products out of almost 130 entries at a education trade show in the United Kingdom.
“The key requirement for every new Smart Kids’ product is that it stimulates students in the classroom, teaches them a specific concept easily, enjoyably and permanently and engages them in problem solving.”
David Milne says Smart Kids started selling its educational games and resources to New Zealand schools in 1995, drawing an immediate and strong response. “It quickly became apparent that the New Zealand market was not large enough to support our considerable investment in product development, and secondly that the products themselves worked so well that they deserved wider exposure.
“Our export research came down to two options. Find educational distributors in other countries or set up our own operations. The first option was less risk and easy to manage but it meant that the Smart Kids products were lost in a wide range of material. So we went for the second option and over the next few years established offices in Australia, the UK and Canada.
“This has successfully branded Smart Kids as a leading supplier of educational resources throughout these countries.”
Mr Milne says the Smart Kids product catalogue is now sent regularly to teachers in more than 50,000 schools across the UK, Ireland, Canada and Australia. “We also sell to schools in the US. In that market we elected to work through a distributor as we didn’t have the financial resources to set up an operation that could cover almost 70,000 schools and compete with very established educational publishers.”
He says annual exports now exceed $2.2 million and account for more than 90% of turnover. In order to grow the business, surplus profits are reinvested back into product development and infrastructure - the company recently moved its Auckland operation into new 20,000 square foot premises in Ellerslie.
Mr Milne says the Smart Kids’ brand is now well established internationally with the company enjoying many competitive advantages, including its New Zealand origin.
“New Zealand education is highly regarded overseas and we find that international teachers are keen to get hold of educational products made in this country.
“Our competitors are often curious to find out why we have been able to come up with such good ideas and how we can produce such good quality products at very competitive prices. We owe a debt to all the New Zealand teachers, educationalists and educational publishers that have come before us.”
Trade New Zealand Account Manager Meredith Elley congratulated Smart Kids Ltd on winning an Export Award.
“This is a small and very focused family operation that is winning business against international competitors which are often much larger and aggressive. Particular strengths include the quality of its products and its strong client focus.” David Milne says Smart Kids export sales are set to grow with the development of new products and expansion into new markets in Asia and Europe.

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