GoAbroad Interview

Mike Maitland - Founder & Director

Mike Maitland - Founder & Director

Mike started teaching English abroad back in the summer of 2005 and fell in love with Thailand. From then, after finishing his business degree back in the UK, he decided to start recruiting people there as a sort of hobby mixed with practicing business skills. After a while of doing this part-time, he saw a real demand for teaching abroad and set up Experience Teaching Abroad Ltd. Mike now lives in Thailand with his wife and three children.

Today, Experience Teaching Abroad Ltd is better known as TEFL Heaven, the brand and trade name it shares with TEFL Blue Pty Ltd. The company specializes in recruiting people to fill teaching positions in Asian and Latin American countries. Mike is not only the Founder of the company, he also serves as Director of Experience Teaching Abroad, TEFL Blue, and TEFL Heaven's operational arm in Thailand, Echo English Ltd.

Mike Maitland and Family

Mike’s Family

What inspired you to develop Experience Teaching Abroad Ltd. and establish TEFL Heaven as its trade name?

It started as a hobby actually. When I left Thailand after teaching English for the second time, I asked my boss if he wanted help recruiting teachers and he said yes. My friend kindly set up a website for 50 UK pounds and I started advertising; it was a really small thing, only a few hours per week really.

After a few years of this and having sent about 20 people abroad, in 2009 I had 90 applications! I told my wife I had best get to Thailand and find more schools as I only had 10 spaces! She agreed (after thinking I just wanted a holiday) and I traveled Thailand in my suit, visiting three schools and agencies per day. After all that, I didn’t get any extra spaces!

But, I did find a contact who said he wanted to train teachers and give them a guaranteed job, and the training was on a paradise island called Koh Lipe in the south of Thailand. I accepted the challenge and branded it my own, I called it TEFL Heaven. I quite liked the name, but I didn’t imagine it would grow into what it is today - sending over 100 people per year into training and a guaranteed job!

Experience Teaching Abroad Ltd. is a relatively young organization. How does it stay competitive in an industry dominated by veterans?

We are so so small compared to our competitors! We are literally competing against multimillion pound companies in this industry with lots of money for marketing. What makes us good is that when people find us, they like us better because our packages are better, cheaper and you get more with them! We also are a lot more personal, and people like that. Last year 45 percent of all bookings were friend referrals, so that speaks for itself.

Google likes us too, we are high on searches because we have quality content and like to shout about what we do on all social media.

Ships coming in to port in Thailand

To TEFL Heaven!

What has been TEFL Heaven's greatest triumph?

A very hard question! All I can say is that sometimes you do forget why you do these things, until you read a review by one of our teachers of our program. Lives have been changed through this program. I would say I very much enjoy reading reviews!

What has been Experience Teaching Abroad Ltd.'s greatest challenge and how did you overcome it?

The greatest challenge for me was when we tried a new paradise location and resort in Thailand for the TEFL Heaven course, and when the trainees got there it was not up to standards! We had sent a scout months beforehand and he brought back great pictures, but when the trainees got there, only some rooms were as the pictures - the rest were terrible! There were holes in the ceilings and water on the beds and it was just not liveable! Not what you expect from a TEFL Heaven course.

At this point we could not get our money back for three weeks and 28 people (staff and trainees) staying at this resort...so we moved them all to a new more expensive resort at the cost of the entire profit of that course and more. That day I almost quit the whole business, but I got over it and in the end those trainees perfectly appreciated our decision to move them, and even though it costs thousands of pounds, it was worth it and of course the right thing to do.

People acting like monkeys in Thailand

Monkeying around on TEFL Heaven

Experience Teaching Abroad Ltd. offers teaching positions in Thailand, China, Vietnam, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru. What do these countries have in common, and what makes them ideal destinations for those who want to teach English as a foreign language?

The most common thing about these countries is that they are so different than western countries. This is why it is ideal to go to these countries; people want a different experience, and these countries have such a diverse culture, they have much to offer the young traveling teacher.

What is your most popular program currently?

Our TEFL Heaven Internships Thailand program is our most popular.

How do you ensure the safety of your participants?

We instruct them on health and safety as part of our courses, and make sure everyone has purchased travel insurance.

How many participants typically join your programs every year?

Around 120 to 150 people get sent abroad by us every year.

TEFL student receiving feedback in Thailand

Mike Giving Feedback

Experience Teaching Abroad Ltd. is a member of Social Enterprise UK. What does being a social enterprise mean and how do you impart this ideal to participants?

We are a social enterprise because our main goals are to provide work and life experiences to young people. We don’t actually broadcast it much through words, but rather through our programs.

Being a social enterprise means we are focused on developing people more than making money.

What can we expect from Experience Teaching Abroad Ltd. and TEFL Heaven in the next few years?

More programs, more shouting on social media, and a lot more people being sent abroad.