It was an honour to speak with Christine Whittaker, the founder of International Education Links (Edulinks), the leading International Higher Education recruitment service in Southern Africa. Christine was an employee for many years before she became a mother, which led her to decide to find a career where she could work flexible hours. This fateful decision led her on the road to starting multiple businesses. Her latest venture, Edulinks, has been providing students in Southern Africa with higher education services ranging from career assessments, processing entrance applications and arranging the practicalities of getting the students to their new international universities. Edulinks has assisted over 3000 students in this manner since it was founded in 2006. Key take-aways included:
- Starting her journey as a Founder: Christine noticed that many school leavers in her native South Africa were unable to get into local universities, she then invested considerable time and money to investigate whether there were suitable foreign universities that were interested in taking on students from Southern Africa.
The lesson here is that one should try and visit key partners in person to assess their capabilities, interest in partnering with you and form a relationship.
- Key Challenge: Getting access to capital was Christine’s most difficult challenge initially as she found that banks and other traditional financial institutions were unwilling to lend to her. She overcame this problem by bootstrapping – using her own limited financial resources to invest into the business without seeking external help – leading to Edulinks growing slowly but organically.
The lesson here is that one can overcome a lack of capital by bootstrapping and reinvesting in the business.
- Key quotes:
“You’ve got to push yourself and not be restricted by thoughts that you cannot do it.”
“Once you’ve achieved one hurdle, then you’ve got to push yourself to the next one.”
- Tip to her younger self: 1. There will always be challenges, but every day is a new day, so you’ve got to just get out and start afresh again.