When Mark Lawrence noticed a gap of opportunity with technology use in education, he and wife, Irene, founded ZapActive. A versatile platform using virtual, augmented and mixed reality for education and training.
Irene has been self-employed for the last 3 years running a weight-loss centre in Carlisle and works 2 days a week on ZapActive with husband, Mark, previously ex-army and latterly working across various roles in education.
“Mark could see a lot of waste in regard to technology in schools.” The couple had been looking at an opportunity in virtual and augmented reality for a couple of years. After finding a company in the UK they could purchase the headsets from, they decided to launch their company in the early months of this year.
ZapActive are currently the only company in the UK to provide this type of service. They bring the equipment into school, fully managing the session if required, and ensure that all the students get to experience using the headsets and develop an understanding of the different realities.
“Setting up a business at the beginning of lockdown had a massive impact on us as everywhere was closed”
They later were informed through one of our Cumbria Business Growth Hub advisers, Lynsey Parke, that a grant would become available: the Small Business Recovery Grant which was launched to help businesses survive and/or diversify as a result of Covid-19.
Irene takes a keen involvement in several business support groups across the city and also runs a support group focused on social media for small businesses in the area. “I share anything that comes up in Carlisle, it might only be one business benefiting from it, but it could be the difference between them going under or staying afloat right now.”
Playing an active role in the business community in Carlisle has benefited ZapActive. Receiving the Small Business Recovery Grant helped towards buying a new set of VR headsets so that a class of 30 children can each have their own headset, rather than previously sharing between 2. “The grant was a great help towards becoming Covid-compliant moving forward in the New Year.”
“Lynsey, has been really helpful, making us aware of the grant but also ironing out any niggles within the application.”
“She’s been great as our business adviser, it has been really useful having her on board, giving us direction and making us really consider things.”
With the usual school trips unable to go ahead, they are now being asked about activities and cultural experiences for children, bringing the destination to life through their programs. In future they plan to develop into tourism and there is also scope with museums to bring their exhibitions to life.
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The funding that supports the Growth Hub comes from a range of sources including Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, the European Regional Development Fund, Sellafield Ltd., Carlisle City Council, South Lakeland District Council, Penrith Industrial BID and Cumbria LEP. The Growth Hub and is receiving up to £2,528,767 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information, click here.