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Rescue of UK’s Apple Languages brand realised

The owner of UK study travel agency, Apple Languages, has heralded the company’s success following the collapse of the previous incarnation of Apple Languages as a testament to strong industry support and collegiality, especially among IALC member schools.

Jos van Kerkhof, owner of StudyTravel and Apple Languages, spoke with The PIE News

"As we say in the Netherlands, the casualties come out of the cupboard"

Apple Language Courses Ltd. was founded in 2012 as the original company behind the trading name Apple Languages [Language Courses Abroad Ltd.] went into liquidation, owing over €1 million to language school partners.

Owner Jos van Kerkhof, who also owns a number of other education agency brands including StudyTravel, set out to acquire the assets and try and rebuild a company that would continue to send to students to schools most impacted by the liquidation of Language Courses Abroad Ltd.

He acquired the company’s website and asked for schools’ trust as he tightened back office operations and restored the Apple Languages business.

“The support of IALC schools kept me going”

He told The PIE News in 2012 that he would work with affected schools to try and ensure they could recoup some of their losses, even though he was not responsible for the historical debt of the previous company. Because of this pledge, many language schools were supportive of his rescue bid.

“One of our most significant achievements was sending [French language school] Alpha B, the most affected school, well over €300,000 of business since January 2013,” van Kerkhof told The PIE News, adding that the company sent 5000 student weeks worth of business in 2015 in total.

The collapse of Apple Languages in 2012 did send shockwaves around the industry and was a stark reminder that not insisting on prompt payment from agency partners could lead to disaster.

For his part, van Kerkhof said that unpicking the assets of the business he bought was an eye-opener. He bought the assets and was responsible for ongoing business but explained, “As we say in the Netherlands, the casualties come out of the cupboard.”

“We had a Brazilian boy who paid in July 2012 $10,000, he travelled in March 2013 and so I had to pay $9,000 to the school [he was studying at].”

He added, “If [the payment] is not listed, if you don’t know, that is the worst part. You think you have all the information but then, you find out that it is worse and worse. The worst part was if you don’t know…”

Van Kerkhof unpicked the problems that had beset Apple Languages succinctly: “Normally, for example, when you receive $1000, $800 you have to keep because that that is for the schools and then maybe 20% you use for your staff, for your fixed costs and if you manage that then ok, at the end of that you can make a profit.

“But if you start using the 80% for other things and then sales go down and you use new money for old debts, and then it goes wrong.”

Van Kerkhof said he doesn’t think he would go through the same process again. “The support of IALC schools kept me going,” he noted. “In the back office we changed a lot, and worked very hard solving all the small problems.”

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