Q&A: Steve Liddell – ‘I Believe in Doing Business for Good’

“I am a big believer in putting yourself out there for others to judge your performance and the impact that your organization is truly making.”

Science, for all its wonder and the countless contributions it has given to make our lives better, is not a brand favorite with most people – especially students.

Steve Liddell, the founder of Brisbane-based Street Science is working to change all that by teaching science with engaging stage shows as well as thoughtfully designed hands-on workshops to complement the Australian National Curriculum.

Liddell, who is set to judge at the upcoming Asia-Pacific Stevie Awards talks about the Street Science brand, making the move from teacher to entrepreneur, and more.

 
 

In terms of branding, science is not often a favorite with students. You’ve taken a different approach with Street Science. Can you tell us about that?

At Street Science, we make science seriously fun.  Think of coloured fireballs that light up the hall with a loud bang to teach students about energy transformations and combustion reactions, or thick white clouds crawling along the ground towards our younger students as they learn about the water cycle.

My philosophy has always been that science education should be linked to real-world contexts and presented in a way that children can see, feel and touch. This in turn brings scientific concepts to life, it engages the class on a deeper level and allows children of all abilities to learn.

From a branding perspective, we’ve positioned ourselves as a world leader in science education, pushing the limits inside and outside of the classroom, and clearing the path for other organizations who also believe in student centred, contextualised learning.  Our product range is innovative and constantly evolving to support teachers and parents around Australia and more recently, across the world!

 
 

When leaving your job as a teacher to start Street Science, you had to take on the additional role of being a marketer. What was that experience like and what were some lessons you learned along the way?

When I stepped out of the traditional classroom teaching environment some ten years ago, I had to take a leap of faith and back my ability to use transferrable skills to set up a business from scratch and then market it to the education industry.

An additional complexity that many people aren’t aware of is that in 2012 when I launched Street Science (or Liddell Education as it was back then) there weren’t other organizations in this field operating in a way even similar to what I had envisioned.  This meant I was breaking new ground, innovating in its purest sense and creating a niche market within a quite conservative landscape that is education.

This meant that my marketing approach was crucial from the outset in order to get cut through and disrupt the market.  I found that by focusing on a few key values for the business worked best for our marketing and our ability to continuously overdeliver for our clients meant they kept coming back year on year.

At Street Science we are still known today for our high-quality presentations, delivered in a fun and entertaining manner with a price point that provides great value to the customer.

Any advice for people thinking of making the jump into the education industry?

I feel that the education industry is still quite conservative here in Australia and across South East Asia which means setting up a new business within this industry can be quite difficult.  I’ve found that educators and administrators tend to stick with what they know as opposed to trying new things.

This can create a real challenge for those trying to break into the sector, however if the product or service is truly valuable and improves outcomes for the school and its students then I would definitely recommend having a crack.  This is because once the product or service is engrained within the system, your client is not looking to jump on the next shiny alternative to hit the market.

My final piece of advice for anyone looking to enter the education market is to make sure whatever it is you are selling is genuinely needed and make sure it is mapped to the local curriculum being taught in that region.

You’re Chair of the Company/Organization & Achievement jury at the Asia-Pacific Stevie Awards this year. What are you looking for from entrants that will make them stand out from the rest?

One of the highlights of my year from a business perspective has been my involvement with the Stevie Awards and the opportunity I have had to chair the ‘Company / Organisation & Achievement’ jury at the Asia Pacific Stevie Awards. The 2022 applicants will again all be of the highest quality so what I’m looking for is that they are making a significant impact on the local community.

I believe in doing business for good and when I read the numerous award applications, I am constantly blown away by the impact that our Global businesses are making at the Local level, and how Local engagement can in turn create Global opportunities.

Why do you think awards like the Stevies are important?

I am a big believer in putting yourself out there for others to judge your performance and the impact that your organization is truly making within the business landscape.  Applying for awards such as the Stevies forces you to reflect on your systems, processes, human services and business model in order to describe what you do and why you are worthy of winning the category.

Applying for a Stevie Award will allow you to benchmark your business performance against the competition and other companies/organizations across the Asia Pacific Region.

I’ll close by saying that as a past winner of a number of Gold and Silver Stevie Awards, there is no feeling like taking out the top prize!  It is great for staff morale, it builds profile amongst your community and always great to get a pat on the back for all the hard work that you keep putting in!

This is part of a series of interviews done in collaboration with the Asia-Pacific Stevie Awards. To enter go here. The final entry deadline is January 17, 2023.

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