Boosting education one page at a time

Think back to your time in primary school. Every day you’re absorbing brand new material. You’re learning how to read, how to write, how to do basic arithmetic. You have regular homework so that you can keep practising what you’ve learned.

Now imagine you had to do all of that without any school materials – no paper to jot down notes, no way to reinforce what you just learned at school. For 250m students around the world, this scenario is a reality.

Without school materials, it can be difficult for students to continue learning and to stay engaged in the classroom. That’s where Correctbook [ ] comes in. Correctbook is a social enterprise that produces endless erasable notebooks. Each notebook contains erasable pages, instead of sheets of paper, and is accompanied by a special marker and eraser. For every book sold to customers and students in the developed world, Correctbook supplies one child in need with a notebook, pen, eraser, and ink station.

Founder Sam van Tol developed the idea for Correctbook during a family trip to South Africa. He knew he wanted to start his own business but didn’t know where to begin – until one fateful dinner

“We were sitting in the restaurant, and I noticed everyone taking food outside to give to those in need,” he said. “I decided to do the same and that changed everything. I realised I wanted to combine my ambition to start a business with my desire to help people.”

His vacation became a fact-finding mission, with van Tol trying to understand some of the problems facing those living in poverty. He visited schools and noticed that few students had any classroom materials. Instead, they had to listen to the teacher and try to retain all the knowledge coming their way. With this image fresh in his mind, van Tol returned to the Netherlands and immediately set about designing Correctbook.

He started with a crowdfunding campaign, which, though successful, was small in scope. To make matters more difficult, he didn’t have any major customers, or the skills needed to grow a business. The turning point came when he joined LiveWIRE. In 2016 van Tol applied for the LiveWIRE Netherlands programme, where he received extensive one-on-one coaching and learned how to pitch his business. He was also one of the finalists in LiveWIRE Netherlands’ Rising Star awards [ ].

Empowered with his enhanced skillset and the visibility of the Rising Star awards, van Tol began growing his sales and hiring staff. Today, over 37,000 students have a Correctbook. To add to these successes, Correctbook recently received a 1.5M Euro grant from the National Post Code Lottery [ ] in the Netherlands, which will help the company reach an additional 400,000 students across Ethiopia, Malawi, Kenya, Uganda, and Ghana.

And while van Tol has graduated from the LiveWIRE programme, his relationship with Shell continues. Correctbook is now an official Shell supplier, with staff able to purchase Shell-branded Correctbooks [ ] for their own use, for event giveaways and more. Since this partnership began, Correctbook has sold 350 notebooks to Shell. This means 87 students can now write for a year thanks to Shell’s purchase.

Van Tol said that starting a business certainly wasn’t easy but that Correctbook’s impact has made all the difference. And for aspiring entrepreneurs looking to kickstart a business and give back to society, he has one clear piece of advice:

“Patience is the key,” he said. “Don’t give up! Always believe in yourself and don’t ever give up.”