From Little Things Big Things Grow
16 March 2023
Gather round people I’ll l tell you a story
An eight-year long story of hard work and pride
Because from little things, big things grow.
The tune to Paul Kelly’s iconic song swirls around as we fondly reflect on how Speaking Schools started and how it has evolved and grown to what it has become in 2023.
Out First Holiday Workshops
Founded in 2015 in response to a lack of public speaking and debating coaching on the lower North Shore of Sydney, Sydney Speaking School (as it was then known) was a drop in the ocean.
To give you a better idea, our very first program comprised a modest number of twenty-six students and four coaches. The summer cicadas were chirping, Sydney’s heat was sweltering, and our eager and enthusiastic team were fully fuelled with adrenaline and excitement – Summer 2015 was the first step towards a bright future!
The Early Years
Over the first few years of our existence, we slowly grew our organisation to provide more and more students with the soft skills they need in modern classrooms.
After building up our presence on the Lower North Shore across 2015, we really started to find our feet in 2016 when we:
- Ran our first in-school program in Term #1;
- Opened our first set of weekly term programs in Term #2; and
- Expanded our holiday workshops to Western Sydney in the July Holidays.
This was followed in 2017 & 2018 with a branding change – becoming ‘Australian Speaking Schools’ in July 2017, and adopting our animal icons for the first time in late 2018. These two years also had a number of firsts for us, including:
- our first foray into another city;
- running our first interschool programs; and
- our first-ever international programs over in China.
Across 2019 we continued to expand, opening multiple new holiday and term program venues, working with a range of new schools and running a record number of overseas programs.
This last point is of particular note – over the two years we worked in China, we took six trips across to Hangzhou and Chengdu, helping hundreds of school and university students improve their English, critical thinking and communication skills through various intensive public speaking and debating workshops. This was in addition to over a thousand students participating in our online programs and competitions over this period.
It also marked the year that we settled on our forever name – Speaking Schools Australasia – and began expanding the management team into what it is today.
Like everyone worldwide, early 2020 brought some substantial changes to SSA. Having heard about this new flu going around China and Italy, like most, we didn’t overthink it at first – at least not until we were forced to cancel all of our in-person programs in March 2020 (ironically across the two weeks straddling our Managing Director’s wedding, which was substantially smaller than first planned).
Thankfully, our experience with China meant that we were already experts in online program offerings, and we were able to adapt our programs online very quickly – one of the few organisations that were able to do so.
Over 2020 (and then again in the second lockdown in 2021), we were able to offer our unique brand of public speaking and debating classes online, catering for an even wider audience than we had ever hoped – reduced running costs meant that we were able to offer programs at a lower price point, and the digital nature of the classes meant that students could join from anywhere (we even had students join from all over the world, from Iran to Ireland).
This period also allowed us to work on some of our other major projects, the two biggest being the Speaking Syllabus (which is now the largest set of public speaking and debating resources in Australia) and our first set of YouTube videos, our Conquering Debating and Speak to Inspire series (which are both still very popular on YouTube today, racking up just under a thousand views a day on average).
The Present Day
As we moved away from lockdowns, SSA has continued to thrive – since January 2022, we have:
- helped thousands of students build their self-confidence and speaking skills;
- opened nine new venues for term programs in Sydney;
- worked with dozens of schools to help their students feel more confident;
- maintained our online public speaking and debating coaching;
- run multiple interschool competitions;
- been listed as a finalist in the Australian Small Business Champions Awards two years running; and
- begun expansions into both Melbourne and Brisbane!
We are living proof that from little things, big things grow.
Speaking Schools Australasia could not have done it alone. The reason we are standing here lies in the hard work and sacrifices of not only its founders Dan and Mark, but every single family member, friend and member of staff who has given their time, invested their passion and devoted their energy to its journey of transformation. The parent and student community who believed in us and returned for more programs, for those who helped spread the word, for those who gave us a chance – we thank you. Nothing in life is done entirely alone – it takes others, often a community, to make the impossible possible!
Our goal has been (and will continue to be) to provide as many students as possible – whether shy or outgoing – with the tools they need to flourish as confident, articulate, and engaging speakers.
We are confident our future will continue to be bright as we hold onto our values, our integrity and choose quality – every single time.
We look forward to you sharing many more years to come!