Written By: Coreena Ford 25/06/15
The Durham firm’s 10 apps are are available in 22 languages, with exports accounting for 70% of sales.
A family business inspired by a couple’s quest to find educational apps for their disabled child is now seeing its products used in more than 100 countries around the world.
Special iApps has grown in only four years to have a global reach with its apps, which are sold through the Apple and Google Play stores, being available in 22 languages and international sales accounting for more than 70% of revenues.
The Durham-based firm was founded by Beverley and Colin Dean, who were inspired by the difficulty they had to find appropriate learning apps for their son William.
The nine-year-old was born with Down’s Syndrome and a number of physical problems, including duodenal atresia, Hirschsprung’s disease, hearing impairment and thyroid deficiency, which affect his speech and learning abilities.
Both come from an IT background, so set about devising their own apps, which are engaging and stimulating for young people with disabilities and learning difficulties, and only months later, saw their first App, Special Words, retailing around the world.
Special iApps has been supported since its inception by chartered accountants Leathers LLP.
Catherine Milbanke, partner at Leathers, which has offices in Newcastle and Durham, has worked with Mr and Mrs Dean since their business was still a concept, and is now a non executive director.
Since its launch four years ago, the business has grown to such a level that their website,specialiapps.org, is being relaunched in response to global demand.
Supported by a team of 50 volunteers, the team has won a host of accolades, including success at the Vodafone Foundation Europe Awards and Excellence in Diversity Awards.
Mrs Dean said: “The whole business stemmed from when we received a grant for William to have an iPad, and while he was amazed by it, there was very little to hold his attention.
“From speaking to other mums in my position, I realised there was a real lack of resources for children like William.
“While Colin and I have worked in IT, we had no idea about apps or iPads. We had an old PC at home and mobile phones that we’d had for years, so started reading books about how to create apps and it went from there.
“Four years later, we have 10 apps, and are retailing in over 100 countries around the world in 22 languages. We have received requests from places as far afield as Brazil and the United States from people asking if we can do a version in their language, and the feedback we get from around the world from parents saying how much our apps have benefitted their children is truly remarkable.
“We are thrilled with the success of Special iApps, but even more so that children like William can benefit from educational and stimulating material that enables them to learn and express themselves in a way they previously couldn’t.”
Leathers LLP’s Catherine Milbanke added: “Special iApps has gone from being a concept to a global player in its field in only four years, which is a phenomenal achievement for any business, but particularly one run by two busy parents and a team of volunteers.
“I am delighted Leathers LLP have been able to support Beverley and Colin with the creation and growth of Special iApps, and we are very pleased to continue to work with them as their business goes from strength to strength internationally.”