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Thinking outside the box

Scrabble titles spelling out the word 'learn'

Education has been the focus of Amy White’s life.

The Education and Childhood Studies graduate spent much of her time before university acquiring valuable work experience in nurseries, schools and higher education institutions. When Amy joined ARU at the age of 25, she was already juggling three jobs, and harbouring aspirations of launching a business of her own.

Boxcie, the product of Amy’s experiences, is an interactive learning aid for children with autism in mainstream schools. “It’s an app for tablets, which comes with fold-out panels for hands-on activities, which are proven to help keep children with autism engaged in what they’re doing,” Amy explains.

Amy successfully entered her creation into The Big Pitch, an annual business competition open to all ARU students, designed to nurture an entrepreneurial mindset. “I heard about the competition when applying for a bursary. The email I got back asked if I’d heard of The Big Pitch, and suggested that I should enter with my idea. This was at 4.30pm on a Friday, with the deadline for submissions on the Monday, so it was a mad rush,” she recalls.

With the prep done in a nick of time, Amy was invited to participate in a two-day workshop, where she gained valuable insight from local business leaders on the ins and outs of running her own enterprise, before presenting her ideas to judges in a five-minute elevator pitch. “It was nerve wracking to say the least. Trying to condense all the thinking behind Boxcie into such a short space of time, but the workshops were so helpful; I learnt so much about things like scalability, forecasting and things I’d never really considered.”

After an impressive performance, Amy was announced as a finalist and invited to pitch again, this time with the all-important funding at stake. “It was during my final exams,” Amy remembers, “I had to find the time to plan my pitch, present my numbers and thankfully, the judges responded well to Boxcie. I received £3,850 to help with the development and launch, which was so encouraging.”

Amy continues to be tenacious in her bid to take the social enterprise into market: “I’m learning to code in order to build the app myself. It’s quite challenging, but I’ve always had an interest in technology, so I thought I’d give it a go myself rather than paying a small fortune for someone else to build it.” She has received a helping hand from her sister – a designer – and so has plenty of her Big Pitch winnings to focus on marketing the product when the time is right.

When it comes to the development of Boxcie, Amy finds the learning never stops: “At the moment, it’s primarily focused on children with autism, but I’ve had some interesting feedback that has made me think; would it work for all children?”

This is an avenue Amy is currently exploring, with interest in Boxcie coming from all quarters. “I’m hoping to launch the initial product in schools and nurseries this year,” she explains, “but I have a few other versions I want to roll out. I’m hoping to make a more family-oriented version of it for the home, as I’ve had feedback from parents of children with learning difficulties that say it would be helpful in building a routine for their child.” Amy has also fielded interest from healthcare professionals, who have asked if a version could be created to help diagnose autism at an even earlier stage.

Amy isn’t just passionate about acquiring knowledge, but sharing it too. With several versions of Boxcie, as well as a children’s book about disability in the offing, the young entrepreneur continues to give back to the sector that has given her so much.

Amy White studied Education and Childhood Studies at ARU. Interested in following in her footsteps? Explore our undergraduate education degrees.

Photo credit: TheDyslexicBook.com