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Grand Rapids-based company builds international relationships, signs deal with Egypt’s Minister of Education through MI-STEP-funded sales trip
Curriculum Works, a cloud-based platform for teachers that allows for lesson planning and development, mapping and scheduling, is a Grand Rapids-based company offering educational solutions for our technology-driven future.
Curriculum Works wanted to expand international sales initiatives but needed financial assistance to be able to make the many overseas sales trips needed to build the necessary relationships in parts of the world where in-person connections are highly valued.
CEO Donn Smith was first introduced to the MEDC’s International Trade services through the State Department in 2018. When an opportunity arose in 2019 to implement the Curriculum Works tool at a small school in Dubai, Smith utilized MEDC’s matchmaking services in preparation for his visit and received MI-STEP funding for his international travel expenses.
“Our goal was to interview potential resellers and school groups that we identified through MEDC’s matchmaking services,” said Smith. “However, the cost would have been prohibitive to go out there – international airfare, hotels and all of that – without MEDC’s program. Beyond that, [MEDC] also guided me through the cultural norms: what to be aware of, what to expect, local sensitivities, customs and behaviors.”
MEDC's Arab Gulf International Trade Center identified Panworld Education, an educational reseller, as a potential partner to introduce the Curriculum Works platform to different international markets. Some of Panworld Education’s associates include McGraw Hill, Encyclopedia Britannica, Penguin Group, Pearson and Oxford University Press. The MI-STEP-funded trip to Dubai in August 2019 and MEDC’s matchmaking services led to business meetings with Panworld Education; Curriculum Works signed with the reseller in March 2020.
Partnering with Panworld has allowed this small Michigan business to operate in other countries without needing international expertise in staffing, local support, invoicing or collecting funds. The relationship opened several doors for Curriculum Works, including an introduction to executives within Egypt's Ministry of Education K-12 system.
For the past six years, Panworld has worked with the Ministry of Education in Egypt in their effort to upgrade and modernize the country’s education system, incorporating the latest technologies and teaching methods. This is a massive project with over 30 companies, many represented by Panworld, contributing to the solution that is being implemented nationwide. In July 2020, Panworld introduced Curriculum Works to LIMS Egypt, the company that was hired to be the lead of this critical project.
LIMS Egypt saw the unique value of the Curriculum Works platform and introduced it to the Ministry of Education, who requested Smith meet with them in Cairo. The MEDC approved the grant for the company’s first trip to Egypt to meet with the Minister of Education in April 2021 and approved two follow-up trips in July and September of that year.
In January 2022, Curriculum Works received a signed contract by the Minister of Education to implement the company’s educational platform for Egypt’s K-12 public school system; the product will be available to 50,000 public schools, and 1.2 million teachers educating 22 million students in Egypt.
Smith says his company’s success and reach wouldn’t be possible without the support received from MEDC. With MEDC’s financial assistance, Curriculum Works created an international website specific to the Middle East/North Africa region and produced a video to help potential international customers learn about their educational resource product. The company has also participated in trade missions with hopes that connections made during those meetings will develop into additional significant international contacts.
“As a small, Grand Rapids-based company, we did not have the experience, ability or contacts to set up meetings with potential resellers and customers in UAE or anywhere outside of the U.S.,” said Smith. “Nor would we have been able to afford the expenses associated with building and supporting an international client base. This significant win for Curriculum Works is already opening more opportunities in Africa, UAE and India. We are blessed to have MEDC as a partner and help us.”
Learn how MEDC helps Michigan businesses grow and succeed internationally through its International Trade services at https://www.michiganbusiness.org/export/.