Little Red Bus – Ann Thomas

Story By Ann Thomas – Little Red Bus

I have worked over six years of my life as a Pre-school Educator. In this six years, I’ve dabbled around as a teacher (to children aged 18 months to 11 years) and as an Administrator. My first experience with autistic children was as an auntie. The second (and next few experiences) were as a teacher.

After my resignation, I had initially planned to switch job fields due to the much talked-about financial constraints of an Early Childhood Educator. Indeed, we are horrendously under-paid. After jumping jobs in various sectors, I still had not found something which was quite fulfilling as a Teacher. Most of all, I missed the feeling of achieving something which mattered to me.

That was when opportunity came knocking. I managed to get a “trial session” as an assistant at a special needs school in Singapore. I wasn’t quite prepared for what I was about to see. It turns out that having caring and supportive families is far from universal among autistic children. Most of the children I met at the school had trouble developing even the most basic skills, and were facing a very bleak future.

I always knew I would venture into the “entrepreneur’s” department one fine day, and that I would do something to influence the early childhood community. Having assumed I would do something BIG (and thus needed much investment, capital, etc) it suddenly occurred to me that I could start with doing something small. Thus marked the birth of Little Red Bus!

Starting up was fun. I poured over books, night after night. I would think the friendly librarians were beginning to recognize me. I was there almost everyday, reading and taking notes. Sure, I could hire people to take care of the marketing, advertising, web creation, and all the et ceteras; but then I’d lose the feeling that Little Red Bus is mine. I wanted to achieve it all on my own. Whilst it may not be perfect, it would be mine. With that intention (and to save the burning hole in my pockets!) I researched for about a month before I drew up my final business plan.

Only, it was not as easy as I assumed it would be. Sure there were many marketing and advertising methods, but most of them were not compatible for my child-centred business. Those that were, cost quite abit. After many months of trial and error, Little Red Bus managed to gain recognition. Everyday, I look through new lens to see both the challenges and the solutions in a new light.  I realized home-based business, sure, it’s flexi-hours, but it’s MANY-hours. I spend much of my days networking, and researching when I am not making my products. Only through sustained, respectful dialogue can people and organizations build social trust and reach a shared meaning about our attentive community around which we can work together.

Here’s a quick look at how Little Red Bus was formed:

Mid-may 2008
- Birth of an idea! Research has begun.
- Countless mistakes were made.
- I started various blogs, trying to find the “right” atmosphere.
- Tried using extremely complicated web building software to create a “highly-professional looking” site.

June 2008
- Discovered the benefits of branding. Invested much time in branding before official launch.

July 8th 2008
- Officially registered Little Red Bus. Oops.. better hurry on with the site.

July 2008
- Decided it’s not so much the appearance, but content and settled for a simpler software.
- Got side-tracked. Tried and tested various money-making ideas. Most of which failed.

August 2008
- Decided to launch “special needs” teaching materials (which was originally planned to launch only in 2009).
- Sold to a few customers, but had trouble putting all the materials on-site.
- Thought of seeking professional help.

September 2008
- Decided to research on e-commerce.
- Meanwhile, set up forum for parents with special needs children, and professionals who work with them.
- Forum doing well, but taking up time.
- Joined forces with a mother who has a autistic child (who is also trained in both Early Childhood & Special Needs teaching) to assist in maintaining the forum.

So to sum it all up, I made many mistakes along the way, but I learned from my errs, and they made me a better entrepreneur. Working alone may have its many perks, but after joining forces with our Communications Consultant, I’ve come to realize that sometimes it is also good to see it from another person’s point of view. Being an entrepreneur is also about standing your ground, and making the right decisions for your company, without being influenced by others. It is also about stepping up, and admitting your mistakes, learning from them and moving onwards.

Little Red Bus is still very very new, and we have got so much more to grow upon. While we do have many ideas, we would need more investment, time, manpower, research, and most importantly, support. We therefore need to stimulate commitment, passion, and energy at multiple levels. Relationships, norms, values and priorities within the community, families, and organizations need to be re-aligned in accordance with our shared vision and commitment.

Yours Sincerely,
Ann Thomas

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