After just a little more than three years of running their own company, Neil and Keona Hammond say their business, Learnbase Inc has grown them up fast. Living on Bowen and hoping to avoid daily ferry trips was a key part of the motivation for starting the company, which focuses on creating on-line courses for educators hoping to reach a wider audience. Through this venture, the Hammonds say they realize that it is Bowen, and its wealth of creative professionals, that has allowed them to reach an audience well beyond the happy isle.
“On Bowen, we can get help on just about any kind of creative endeavor,” says Neil. “We work with at least three Bowen film people, two animators, two sound engineers, several photographers as well as now employing a small graphics and tech team off island. What’s especially great though, is the fact that if we have some kind of question, we can just go down to the Snug or Artisan Eats where we are more than likely to bump into someone who can answer it for us.”
One such random run-in helped Learnbase through one of its major technological hurdles – how to make videos really interactive for learning.
“We were trying to figure this out, and then I happened to bump into Kat Hayduk at the BICS playground and she told me that Mozilla had just released some new open-source code that could help,” says Neil. “It was exactly what we needed, and I’m not sure I would’ve heard about it so soon otherwise.”
One of Learnbase’s first, and key clients is an artist named Crista Cloutier, originally from Pheonix but now based in the South of France. Over the course of three years, they’ve helped Cloutier launch two to three courses per year helping many artists kickstart their art careers. Neil says that as one of Learnbase’s first client’s, The Working Artist has grown with them.
“I’d say we’re almost more like partners at this point,” says Neil. “All of us have realized that the creation of the course is just the tip of the iceberg. Coming up with the business side, the sales and marketing – we’ve learned all of it together.”
Learnbase, in collaboration with courses like The Working Artist and more tech-based programs for clients in the US and the UK have impacted people in more than 60 countries.
“It does mean a lot of meetings over Skype” says Keona. ‘So it’s also great to get to work with clients here on Bowen too.” They are excited about the recent launch of islander David Shadbolt’s online learning program, Peak Symmetry. Shadbolt’s idea started as a fitness and nutrition program but working together, the three honed-in on what Shadbolt could offer best: a path to mastering addiction and recovery. Another recent launch for long-time Bowen Islander Val Ostara, is Sound Mind, a practical guide for families of children struggling with anxiety.
In total, they’ve created 10 learning sites as well as branching out into software and materials design projects, and are starting to turn the corner in the struggle to take a business from being small, to established.
“I think the biggest milestone is the point when you go from being happy for any work request you get to when you get to select what clients to work with from the requests coming in,” says Neil. “That has just started to happen the last few months or so...”