Lauren Anderson, a passion-driven entrepreneur making learning accessible

Koa Academy, a South African online learning business helping children learn and fulfill their potential 

Lauren Anderson is the co-founder and CEO of Koa Academy Online School in South Africa. She founded the business with her husband in January 2021 and today it employs 21 people. Her background is in nursing and health systems, which she credits to teaching her much needed skills in the startup world. Lauren is driven to provide high quality education that is easily accessible and engaging, while creating a work culture for staff that is inspiring and conducive to growth.

Lioness Weekender spoke to Lauren to learn more about what it takes to build a business that makes learning more accessible to children, helping them to fulfill their life potential. 

What does your company do?

We are an online school for grades 4-12. We provide an IEB education for children through an online learning environment that is both structured and individualized. 
Our small classes (Pods) are highly engaging and allow children to work at their own pace while having constant access to academic support from a team of experienced educators.

What inspired you to start your company?

I have seen first-hand how powerful the right access can be in learning. Creating a space for children to learn in a way that makes sense to them and that they enjoy is so exciting. The online world provides unlimited access to some of the best teachers and content and being able to bring this to anyone, anywhere in a way that makes sense to the individual is powerful. My husband and I had been dreaming about online education since our dating days and the past few years of online growth have given us the perfect opportunity to launch this long standing dream.

Why should anyone use your service or product?

Our driving consideration is to be a school that is highly engaging. At the heart of that engagement is the learner. We want the learners to be engaged with their academics in a way that is real-world relevant – using technology to bring real-world experts and real-world opportunities right into the classroom. We also want the learners to be engaged with each other in meaningful ways online, teaching digital natives to become digitally literate, preparing them for a future of work which will certainly intersect the online space. We want the learners to be engaged with their teachers regularly as we believe that high accountability is necessary for success in education. This all boils down to our Pods which is where we are unique. Every learner is placed into a virtual Pod of no more than 8 with a teacher.

Tell us a little about your team

We have an awesome team, there are currently 21 members and each one brings unique strengths and experience. One of our favorite parts of developing Koa has been focusing on work culture and how we prioritize this while being spread-out across South-Africa. Our staff are incredibly hardworking and committed to their students and make Koa what it is.

Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And do you come from an entrepreneurial background?

My undergraduate degree was in nursing, which is very different from where I have ended up. I am so grateful for what I learned though my studies. Nurses are trained to have mad skills!

  • Triaging in the emergency room has taught me to prioritize the juggling needs of a growing business.
  • Managing a packed ward has taught me organization skills and how to make quick decisions.
  • Working in public health has taught me about strategy and how to just make things work.

With nursing, being focused on others becomes intrinsically part of you, as you care for patients. Having a deep sense of knowing that you are working towards something that is more than just about you becomes part of being a nurse – this makes me love that this is where my roots are. I have since studied further and worked in various leadership roles in organization pioneering new branches of work and have always thrived on breaking ground, setting up systems and building teams. Branching off and starting Koa as something of our own has by far been the most challenging and invigorating career highlight, and we are just at the beginning.

What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?

To keep refining our school and tap into ways of education that make sense to our learners at an individual level. There is so much development happening in this space at the moment and it is so exciting being part of a new way of education. We want to grow our school so that more learners have access to this way of learning.

What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?

For someone who isn’t creative in the traditional sense, (stick men is my limit in anything artistic), being an entrepreneur provides a place to be creative in a whole different way. The startup world particularly provides a platform for dreaming, implementing, and refining. Having others buy into your idea and make it better is incredibly satisfying!

What’s the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?

I have 3 pieces of simple of advice:

  1. It never seems like a good time to start a business! I currently have a two year old, a four year old, a puppy, and I am 6 months pregnant and busy completing a master’s degree……in theory a terrible time to start my own business! But is has been so worth it, what an adventure.
  2. Build yourself a good team that you trust and hire Rockstars that are better than you! We would never be where we are today without our incredible Koa team.
  3. Be authentic, there is no right way. There are loads of books and even more YouTube videos on ‘how to do aspects of business’ finding your own way amongst all the advice can be challenging. Having mentors who you resonate with is essential.

To find out more about the work of Koa Academy, contact founder Lauren Anderson via email:  lauren@koaacademy.com or visit the company’s website and social media pages.

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM | YOUTUBE

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