Technically Boom Malta was launched in July 2019, but we did not kick off operations until November 2019 – so not *exactly* launching during Covid-19, but close enough. Boom Malta is a premium student advisory support agency founded by a close-knit group of friends committed to helping Latin American students to have the best international study experience on the sunny island. We do this by providing tailored advice, support for visas, help in finding flats and any other needs incoming students might have. The first 4 months of operations were fantastic: we hit the ground running and were reaching our target for end of year in the first quarter, our partner network kept growing just as our reputation for quality.
Then, little by little we started to be more careful when advising our students on their travel plans, quickly having to rule out coming to Malta via Spain (excluding a big share of flights from Latin America) to figure out a few days later that international travel would be stopped shortly. On March 21st Malta closed down its airport – just in time for me to move during the pandemic. Contingency plans had to be developed, with large cost-cutting measures that would allow us to weather the biggest crisis this century hitting the tourism and international study sectors. We are reassured for having created a lean start-up with few financial commitments, as we are able to maintain our operations for quite some time while searching for new income sources.
I would also single out the following three aspects:
- Firstly, the creation of outreach initiatives that have allowed us to build our brand and reputation while proudly being faithful to our mission of helping people make the most out of an international experience. We launched a free consultation on Covid-19 legal status and repatriation queries for Latin American students in Malta, as well as a mentoring programme to support young professionals in reaching their international aims.
- Secondly, applying for Government Covid-19 support schemes, which go towards supporting wages, rent and utilities. Malta’s Covid-19 Government support package represents a whopping 22% of GDP, making Malta the world’s largest spender on Covid-19 relief measures in proportion to their GDP.
- Thirdly, the creation of new partnerships and our commitment to establish ourselves as a recognized actor in the Maltese education sector. We have recently been granted a Ministry of Tourism compliance certification and just joined the Maltese Small and Medium Enterprises Chamber, which will strengthen our connection to local partners, opening new collaboration opportunities.
The biggest test however has been the complete overhaul of our business plan and devising new income streams during the worst economic crisis since the 1930s Great Depression. This is particularly difficult considering the nature of our business depends on transatlantic travel, unlikely to resume before some time in 2021. The start-up nature of Boom Malta and its staff who is committed to success make this leap forward somewhat of an adventure and interesting challenge, a gamble that may well pay off. An important guide for us has been our company values, ethics and not losing sight of our mission to make people’s overseas experience as enjoyable as possible – which we can still do and has become more important in the context of Covid-19. While we cannot control the global economic or pandemic situation, every crisis has hidden opportunities and we intend to put everything at work to make the most of them.