The Mission

Other case studies

What product did you develop and why?

The product is a set of 26 three-dimensional letter toys. Each letter says its phonic sound when pushed, stamps its print and shows its orientation. The letter toy will be used for early learners in school and for home learning with parents.

My key objectives are:

1.         to support parents as their children's first teachers

2.         to enable young children to be reach a good level of development (GLD) in line with Ofsted, 2014 guidelines.

3.         to make early literacy learning experiences a good, playful, error free experience and build a solid foundation for future literacy skills.

How did you come up with the idea for your enterprise?

I came up with the idea through observing preschool children trying to link individual letters with their corresponding sounds. I noticed some children who were happily socializing in the playground were experiencing ‘failure’ on the carpet as they struggled to make correct links between letters and sounds. I observed these children experiencing shame. I wanted to change negative early literacy experiences into error free positive experiences.

What is your educational and/or professional background?

I am a qualified primary school teacher with Post Graduate diplomas in dyslexia and literacy and art therapy. I am currently working towards a Masters in Integrative Child Psychotherapy

What were the reasons and purpose for setting up your social enterprise?

I believe that parents are as motivated as I am to give their young children the best start to education. I believe that no child needs to experience literacy failure before reaching primary school. Therefore, I aim to put my error free letters into children’s hands.

How did you start putting your idea into action? eg business planning etc

I began thinking about the problem of how to include all elements of early literacy into letters. In other words: how to make letters into intelligent objects.

How did the SEIP bootcamp help you to develop your business/strategy etc?

The SEIP bootcamp reframed my thinking into: clarity of vision, identifying target segments, how to frame a plan of action, implementation channels and understanding necessary metrics.

What are your long-term goals for your organisation and aims for the future?

To create two implementation channels: selling letters firstly as a for profit organization and secondly as a social enterprise to provide letters to preschool children through early education providers, ensuring the sets of letters are supported by enablers to create an ecosystem of friendly services for parents and teachers.

What do you do in your spare time?

I apply myself to the Integrative Child Psychotherapeutic masters programme.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of setting up their own social enterprise?

I believe the most important ingredient to any social enterprise is clarity of purpose. Why is the enterprise so important to yourself and to society?

Would you recommend the SEIP bootcamp/incubation support to others and why?

I know from my experience that very often good ideas happen when problems in everyday life need to be solved. In my case I know my idea will make a current learning process into intuitive play. I do not come from a business background and so incubation support is a vital link between: necessity, invention, actualization and the target user.

Supported social business:

Visible Thought 

Learning tools to aid literacy for young children



"It is a great opportunity for individuals or start-ups to gain support when they are still subject to external influence.We found the experience invaluable, as it helped to focus our plans for the future substantially."

Food Drop

Everest and Miranda - Startup Bootcamp March 2017

"WPA will have been providing free play services supporting the needs of BANES communities for 25 years, and we want to make sure we will be here supporting local communities in another 25 years!"

Wansdyke Play Association 

Stacey Pottinger - Startup Bootcamp March 2017

Home / Case Study - Visible Thought

The main function of the product is to help even out the wild fluctuations of chance a young child faces in their early interactions with letters.

Visible Thought relates to a young child's first early letter-sound mapping experiences. The more efficient the mapping between graphemes and phoneme, the easier it is to lay down new words and build up an internalised lexicon.

Find out more and apply for the Social Enterprise and Innovation Startup Bootcamp or Business Incubation

Interview with Founder, Catherine Van de Steen