Joyce Lee is the founder of Beyond Distinction, an academy based in Concord/Cabarita. Beyond Distinction’s goal is to provide quality programs for school-aged children to learn and have fun after school, and give parents the support they need to pursue goals that enrich their family’s lives. The academy opened its doors in February 2017 and since that time, it has expanded its program to provide activities across multi-disciplinary activities including sports, art, languages and music.
Tell us about yourself.
I’m a mother to two school-aged boys and the owner of Beyond Distinction. If I was asked to use one word to describe myself, I would say ‘nurturer’.
I firmly believe all children are incredible individuals, each with their own unique talents and abilities. With the right guidance and support in the early years, children can learn almost anything that they put their minds to. Once committed, children can develop a variety of interests and skills that will also serve them well for greater success and satisfaction in adulthood.
They say learning is infectious – well, it’s true! When I see our students enjoying our classes and having so much fun, I want to learn them myself. I’m currently learning to play my favourite music pieces on the piano and guitar. To finally play something nicely gives my brain a real buzz, and a sense of achievement, knowing that the result was through my own practice and dedication.
What did you do prior to setting up your business?
Prior to setting up Beyond Distinction, I spent 18 years working in the business and product management arms of the major finance and investment management companies in Sydney. I also did a stint working in London, which satisfied my ambition to travel and see the world. While I was good at the corporate work, it didn’t particularly give me much personal satisfaction or fulfilment.
It can be daunting to become a small business owner, especially in the highly regulated children’s services sector. However, my previous corporate experience spanning legal, compliance, sales, marketing, systems and process development, has prepared me well to pursue my vision of setting up a service like Beyond Distinction.
What inspired you to set up Beyond Distinction?
During kindergarten orientation for my eldest son, I was struck by the lack of quality services for children after school that also fulfilled the needs of time-poor working parents. Long day care previously covered our workday from 8 am to 6 pm, but once a child starts school, what happens at 3 pm? How do families that have no workplace flexibility or extended family support juggle this? That was my lightbulb moment!
What if there was a service that could offer a genuine variety of premium programs and activities in the one spot? A place where children could try their hand at different activities supported by professionally qualified coaches and educators in a fun and supportive environment? And parents could have peace of mind, knowing that their child is learning and having fun after school?
After discussing my idea with the family at length, and undertaking lots of market research, I made the bold decision to establish Beyond Distinction.
We formally opened our doors in February 2017, and we are now servicing student families from six out of the eight schools in Concord/Cabarita.
What services do you offer?
We offer an afterschool program and school holiday programs for Kindy–Year 6 students. Our current afterschool program includes tennis, golf, swimming, art, piano and guitar classes on different days of the week. We’re about to add a new Mandarin Chinese language class from Term 4, 2018 for families wanting their children to learn a second language.
We provide a minibus service with free pick-ups from local schools in the Concord/Cabarita areas. We are open until 6.30 pm, so parents with long commutes have sufficient time to make their children’s pick-ups.
Our coaches and tutors are all qualified professionals in their disciplines. I work with each of the coaches to develop programs that are suited to our students’ ages, interests and abilities. It’s always important that we link their learning with fun activities, as we find kids learn so much deeper when they are having fun.
We started offering school holiday programs this year to support the gap in annual leave faced by many working families. Children who enrol in our holiday programs can experience fun and learn something useful as well. Our themes this year include: space, STEM and art, with excursions to museums, galleries, observatories, sports clinics and engaging workshops related to the chosen topic.
What can clients expect from your services?
The children who attend Beyond Distinction can expect a fun program with a range of activities aligned to their own interests. Parents can expect their child will experience a high level of support from our coaches and educators.
In order to deliver the best learning outcomes for our students and provide opportunities for the students to showcase their progress, Beyond Distinction hosts a variety of events including student art shows, concerts, sporting events, Christmas concerts etc. These events also allow parents to engage with their child’s new interests and talents,
What do you enjoy most about your work?
There is SO much that I enjoy!
There is always something new to learn and our students’ progress energises me. I am constantly amazed by our students’ progress and transformation – from that initial ‘I can’t do it’/‘I don’t know how’ phase to seeing that spark of interest in their eyes and then witnessing their joy when they realise their own achievements. Some students who have started with us in sports and music just last year are now invited to play in junior golf leagues, tennis competitions and/or sitting their first AMEB music exams at the Sydney Conservatorium.
My team and I were really chuffed to be recognised as one of the Finalists in the 2018 Inner West Local Business Awards (New Business) this year. It’s a testament to the quality of our program and parents recognising the benefits that our program brings to their children.
I am very fortunate to have a team of wonderful coaches and educators, most of them since the inception of the business. They are all just as passionate as I am about nurturing and supporting the children in our programs.
As a mother, do you have any advice for new parents?
My advice would be, don’t try to do it all; it’s just not possible. Don’t spend your weekends squeezing in lots of classes and activities for the kids. Spend quality time as a family instead. This is what special memories are made of.
One of my fondest family moments was the first time we wrapped wonton dumplings together with the kids. Everyone was gathered around the table, flour everywhere, sticky fingers and messy wrapping abound, but they tasted great in the end, because we made them together as a family. It was such a simple thing, but still brings a smile to my face thinking about it.
Favourite places in the Inner West?
We’ve been living in Concord for more than 15 years now. We are very lucky to have lots of beautiful parklands in the area, great facilities for a variety of different sports and lots of good coffee shops and gelato bars too!
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