A guest blog written by George McNeil.
Life experience, resilience and the belief that all children have the right and potential to become readers has led to an avid education fan and professional founding a business that sets out to change the status quo in New Zealand education. To say that Carla McNeil is passionate about education is an understatement.
As a principal Carla soon realised that many children were not reading or writing with success. Ironically, at the same time her own son was diagnosed with severe dyslexia. These challenges lead her to research reading instruction and to find a reason why this was the case, what could be done about this and how. Carla developed her business after seeing what William had to go through during his schooling and understood how stressful it can become when such a basic skill such as reading a book becomes so difficult.
Carla's research and further study lead her to founding a specialist education business based in the small town of Te Awamutu called Learning MATTERS. They provide a range of services for parents, teachers, school leaders and children.
Carla states that "creating an organisation that is able to support the alignment of education has always been our vision."
Founded in 2016 with a staff of three and a group of 24 students enrolled, the business has grown exponentially over the past six years. Today, Learning MATTERS employs 22 staff members, operates in four locations across New Zealand and they have recently developed an online learning platform which now supports 1300 teachers across New Zealand with evidence based literacy instruction.
lt is clear that Carla has worked extremely hard to develop her business since it was founded in 2016. The business idea was developed when Carla realised there was a shortage of support for struggling learners in the education sector.
Through Carla's business development we can understand how passion can lead to success. She says "passion is a great driver for business, but this alone isn't enough. Identifying a need within a market and also having a clear and planned strategy for implementation and growth has been crucial in a very fast growing business."
“Find your passion, determine the market exists and plan your direction. Work hard and don't be afraid to follow your dream, it is a privilege.”
In 2018, just the second year of business for Learning MATTERS, Carla and her team received the emerging business award at the Waipa business awards. Carla, and her team worked extremely hard for this. “It was a real confidence boost for us. We took this as a sign of how successful the business could become.''
Carla prides herself on being an extremely hard working human being. Her commitment towards her business and helping young children in need of support is commendable. “I am fortunate to have the support of my family and I am very grateful for this. I work long hours. It's hard work building a business from scratch but when it is something you love and are passionate about, to be honest it doesn't feel like work." Carla's perspective on her business is a clear indication of how passion has become success, and reflects how much effort she put into her business development.
This little business that began in Te Awamutu now impacts students, families and teachers right across New Zealand. Most weeks, Carla travels around the country, visiting schools and assisting them with ways they can improve how they structure their teaching towards children with learning difficulties.
Carla’s family is extremely proud of how far the business has come and how much effort has been put towards the business. It is hard for the family with her being so committed to her work and cause. Carla's Husband Greg quotes “Carla is extremely determined to help with young children's education, this is represented through her hard work, perseverance and determination."
It's not all hard yards though. Through some of Carla's travels and various speaking tours, the family has enjoyed tagging along and discovering how Carla works with other schools from all over the country.
This commitment is motivated through the fact that Carla understands the challenges children with learning difficulties go through and the limited resources their teachers have. She believes that no child should have to go through the pain of not being able to read or write.
Carla shares she is proud of the success of Learning MATTERS and is grateful for the team she has around her. "They hold me accountable. I don't believe one person alone can create the shift needed. It takes a village and we have built a strong village here at Learning MATTERS."
Carla is now working on getting support from the government and ministry of education which is a very difficult task. She looks forward to the day that Learning MATTERS receives funding from the government to ensure that all children have access to quality literacy teaching and the education sector in New Zealand becomes much more successful.
Carla gives advice to young people who believe they would find interest in owning a business. She says “Find your passion, determine the market exists and plan your direction. Work hard and don't be afraid to follow your dream, it is a privilege.”
This is exactly what Carla has done and it has led to huge success.
This article was written as a guest blog by Carla's son, George.