Preslava Voyden is the Managing Director and Founder of Cosmo Study Abroad – an international educational consultancy serving across 2 continents – Europe & Asia. Her company has offices in Dubai, UAE, and Bulgaria. She is planning to expand in some other European countries soon.
Miss Voyden is an experienced business development manager with a proven professional track record. She is enthusiastic about helping students get the best educational opportunities from prestigious universities. Following her passion, she is making significant contributions toward United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4, Quality Education, through her company, Cosmo Study Abroad.
Explain your and your company’s background in detail.
I graduated from Oxford Brookes University in the United Kingdom with a master’s degree in Business Management. In addition, I also have a bachelor’s degrees in Economics and International Business.
I lived in the UK throughout my higher education and gained valuable management experience. I have worked for international corporations such as Veolia – the world’s largest water supply company, and Wincanton – Europe’s biggest logistics company. Such experiences equipped me with the expertise needed to excel as an entrepreneur.
After five years in the UK, I moved to the UAE and began working in a managerial position for a local education company. It took me less than a year to learn about educational consultancy practices, and the key gaps in the educational sector. Most of these consultancies use education with a profit motive and partner with any university, irrespective of the institution’s quality. Therefore, I decided to create my own company and a team that uses a unique business model instead of the traditional profit-driven educational business. I put more emphasis on “educational business” because these two words shouldn’t be put together. For me, education is not a business but a pathway to nurture our future generations.
What are your goals?
Companies across the world have turned education into a sole business or profit source, neglecting its true meaning. Our company’s mission and values focus on getting students into the most prestigious colleges and universities instead of the mediocre ones. Universities and colleges with higher rankings generally offer better education, higher salaries for their alumni, and better employment perspectives. This is why we believe students and educational companies must aim for the highly ranked institutions for creating better professionals in all fields, respectively creating a better future for all of us.
What do you feel is your biggest strength right now?
Our strength is the differentiating factor that makes us unique from other educational companies in the Gulf and Europe. We put effort in getting our students to the top 100 prestigious universities worldwide. We do not seek profit from mediocre universities, which is the main revenue source of our competitors.
What was the path you/your company took to get to where you are today?
Our ethics and values that differentiate us from other competitors and help us keep moving forward. We focus on providing valuable solutions for students. I believe what has gotten us to where we are today is our sense of values and the mission. We follow quality education only, and never compromise on the quality of our services.
Why did you start (or want to be the head of) this company?
I was not interested in the business models that most educational companies employ by partnering with low-rate institutions, promoting them in front of students and families for high profits. As the saying has it, “If you don’t like something, create a better version.” That is what I did.
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome?
One of the biggest challenges I faced is setting up a company as an ex-pat in the UAE. Even though the government is trying to ease the process, I can say that without my local friends’ help, I would never be able to go through it on my own. The resistance ex-pats experience when setting up a company in the UAE is a real challenge.
Give us one word that describes you the best.
What makes you excited about Mondays?
For me, every day is a Monday. I’m the type of person who works 7/7. For me, Monday means any other working day, and I look forward to my work every day.
What are your company’s strategies, and how do they stand unique from your competitors?
Besides guiding students to prestigious universities, we also provide options for studying in different destinations globally so students can access vast choices for quality education. Most people are familiar with the popular foreign educational destinations – the USA & UK. But some of the universities across different countries that have ranked Top 8 in the world and provide quality education in English may still be unknown to students since there are no educational consultancy companies that provide information about them. This is why we are opening up to different destinations that offer prestigious diplomas in English, such as Italy (Bocconi University, Bologna university, University of Milan), Spain (Ramon Llull university, Pompeu Fabra University, Carlos III University) and several other locations.
What are the key values which helped you to overcome the roadblocks/challenges in your career? Tell us something about a memorable incident in your leadership.
A significant challenge I faced was the formation of a competent team. It took me maybe 2 years to find the right people to work with who shared the same educational values as mine. In addition, our current team is like a big family. Thus, choosing the right people and letting go of some who did not match our mission was worthwhile.
How do you see the company changing in two years, and how do you see yourself creating that change?
With the foundation of Cosmo, I believe I have created a change within our industry.
Our work process within the country has also transitioned due to COVID. Currently, 90% of our work is done remotely. Due to COVID, our team adapted to remote working and even noticed that this model of work increased their productivity by up to 60%.
Where is your leadership going? What benefits do your clients get from your company in this competitive world?
I focus on connecting with each of my client personally, even though each client has their own account manager from our team. The ability to be close to your clients and provide them with personal service is a proven selling point and develops trust between them and our company.
What are the services/solutions or products offered by your company as par with the current industry standards? Tell us something about your upcoming products or services.
Besides expanding into other European countries such as Romania and Croatia, we have started offering exam preparation courses such as SAT exam practice, IELTS, and TOEFL.
Moreover, we have started to offer immersion camps in countries such as the UK, Spain, Switzerland, Singapore, and France.
Recently, we announced our collaboration with the UNED department of the Spanish Ministry of education. The UNED department of the Spanish Ministry of Education is responsible for international students in Spain. In the Middle East, we are the only educational company licensed to provide diploma accreditation since 2021. Applicants to Spanish higher education institutions need go through this process in order to be eligible for admission in Spanish universities.
“We should focus on education of the younger generation for economic growth, political stability, good healthcare, and bright future. If all educational companies focus on profits by compromising on the quality of education, in next 20 years we will have underqualified people, incapable of fulfilling their responsibilities towards their nations.”
Connect with Preslava Voyden on LinkedIn.