Pye eyes US literacy market

04:38, Sep 07 2010

Early education publisher and Rich Lister Wendy Pye is chasing a big share of new multi-billion dollar US federal and state government grants to improve child literacy, capturing the first rights to offer multimedia products on new Texas electronic textbooks.

Texas is offering US$650 million of "oil money" to fund initiatives to make sure every child in the state is  "21st century literate", Pye told the Global Women Forum 2010 in Auckland today.

An Australian who founded her $100m business in Auckland, Pye is also targeting New York, Florida and California for sales of her company's multimedia literacy and maths learning products.

She said the US Federal government has put US$3.4 billion on the table to improve teacher performance and lift child literacy standards.

She urged around 150 business women at the forum to write down their dreams, advising that about the only thing they probably could not achieve in their lives was to be President of the United States because they did not have a US passport. Everything else was achievable, the larger-than-life entrepreneur said.

"That's how I built a $100 million company and now I'm about to build another $200 million company in the US." 

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Asked to elaborate on her latest US deals after her presentation, the normally garrulous Pye declined because US officials had not given clearance for publicity.

Pye said she started selling her primary school educational books, which include the Sunshine, Funways and Award Interactive brands, out of the back of a car in the US. Today she has "a very nice apartment" on Central Park. 

Wendy Pye Publishing is the largest deliverer of online education products in the world. The US was one country with 50 separate markets, she said.

There were 37.9 million primary school level children in those markets whose educational needs cost US$308 billion. A slice of this business was available to private companies because the government in the US did not control education.

"Everything is provided by private companies. In Utah the expenditure per [primary] student is US$3886 and in New York it's US$11,572.  Which state do you think we chased?"

In the states of New York and Florida, new early education grants worth US$700m each were being offered.

"The boys I compete against are billion dollar boys - and they are very boring people, with very, very boring products," said Pye, predicting that some of the "big boys" would want to buy out her latest venture which would not be for sale.

BusinessDay.co.nz