Driving global change from the Coffs Coast
Kelly and Greg McLoughlin-Wilden never imagined just what an impact their online learning solutions would have when they started their business 18 years ago.
Together, they founded and operate Canopi Learning Solutions, providing online educational courses to protect and educate Australians. And they do it all from the lush Coffs Coast hinterland.
From their colourful offices nestled among the Banda Banda ranges, the McLoughlin-Wildens have not only been able to combine business with lifestyle choices, they also have the creativity and input from experts to create a game changer like Play by the Rules: an initiative of the state and territory human rights commissioners and the Australian Sports Commission to help ensure the safety of our kids.
Playing by the rules
“It’s a very special resource … and our role was to help build it,” explains Kelly.
Play by the Rules teaches those involved in local community sports clubs to deal with conflict, complaints and how to protect their members. It’s designed to deal with discrimination, harassment and child protection issues at the grassroots level in clubs.
“I think there’s a real idea that if your address is in the middle of Sydney or Melbourne or Perth that somehow you are going to deliver a better service to a client than someone in regional Australia,” says Canopi co-founder and COO Kelly. “I think the last decade has shown that’s absolutely not the case.”
Canopi co-founder and CEO Greg says leaving the city to set up in regional Australia wasn’t a hard decision to make once they knew they’d have access to fast internet via services over the nbn™ broadband access network.
“The nbn™ access network gave us more choices,” says Greg. “We’ve been waiting for it for a long time. Coffs Harbour was one of the early installation points for Fixed Wireless, so that gave us choices.
“It was a big decision to make, and our friends couldn’t believe that we were leaving pretty secure jobs in law and in the education sector to come out [here] and give it a go.”
Giving it a go
But give it a go they have and they’ve done it sourcing local talent.
“We found that, rather than being a shortage of skilled people, there’s actually a lot of people who want to stay in regional Australia who are very skilled, very keen, willing to learn and want to stay here,” says Kelly.
“The nbn™ access network gave us the choice to say, ‘Hey, we can get an office here, in the footprint of the wireless network’, and then start employing people. So, we moved down here with two other employees and we’ve now got seven with contractors in China and the Ukraine, Adelaide, Sydney and one in Melbourne,” adds Greg.
“Being able to actually connect with those people and grow the business: we couldn’t have grown the business without the nbn™ access network; it’s just impossible.”
As Greg takes the time to stretch his legs on the veranda that loops around the Canopi office, looking out over the hills and valleys to the west, he explains that inspiration comes from being quiet.
“When you have to write a storybook or a script, or something like that, you actually need five hours for the phone to stop ringing, no interruptions from employees; so the ability to work from home in a quiet place like this, surrounded by a very big green forest, is absolutely incredible.”
It’s not just the view that’s incredible. This team is producing ground breaking, life-changing online courses.
A change for the better
Kelly says one of the most rewarding moments they’ve had since the business started was when the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse recognised their Play by the Rules website.
“They said it was an effective resource that required greater promotion. We knew what we were doing was important, but to have that publicly acknowledged has ensured we are on the right path with our learning solutions.”
That recognition strikes a chord with Kelly. Fighting back tears, she admits that, like many Australians, she too has had to deal with child sex abuse issues.
“There are people in my family, my friends, [where] I can say, ‘Hey, I know how you feel’. With our small part that we have been able to play in Play by the Rules, I have to say is something that is very special to me. I was actually able to say to a few family members and friends that we have made a difference in a small way.”
And they will continue to do so, with Greg admitting international markets are now wanting to learn the ‘Canopi’ way.
“Here we are, breathing the wonderful fresh air, raising our family, working with like-minded professionals and creative geniuses, changing the world. We’re doing it here because Australia’s nbn™ access network has allowed us to do it.
“Without that flexibility, the connectivity* and the freedom, these amazing results would never have been possible. The way we are currently educating adults and children via services over the nbn™ access network has allowed us to reach more people than ever before.
“I go to bed every night and can say I trained 500 people a day [on] how to be better people, how to build better communities. How cool is that?”