How to Start a Kids Coding Academy
With technology becoming ever more integrated into our everyday lives, the need to start teaching our kids how to interact with technology has been ever-growing. Parents are aware of this need, and most of these parents want to see coding taught in schools. However, few schools currently offer it, and even some of the ones that do are limited in what they can offer due to their staff’s limited ability to teach, or lack of proper tools.
Compound that with the effects of the recent global pandemic and how that’s shaped the learning environment, and you’ve got parents looking for outside resources, and ways to supplement and nurture this important modern skill.
As a rapidly growing company that offers complete and comprehensive services needed to build an effective online coding curriculum, we frequently receive inquiries from educators and business owners about how to start their own academy or program. With that growing interest in mind, we’ve decided to create this helpful guide on what you’ll need to start your own kids’ coding academy. Let’s get into it!
So you want to start a kids coding academy? Don’t know where to start? Worry not, we’ve got you covered. In this guide, we’ll be going over a step-by-step process to help you figure out what you’ll need going forward. Below are the essential talking points we’ll be discussing, and each point will have its own section discussed in detail. These are:
- Setting up a legal entity. For-Profit vs non-profit, LLC, Corporation, etc
- Own Company or Franchise? Decide whether you want to start your own business or buy a franchise
- Form a business plan
- Mission, Vision, and Core Values – Forming the culture and community of your academy or camp (This step is important, do not skip)
- Schedule Planning
- Curate your Curriculum
- HR plan for hiring, training, and development of teachers or counselors
- Adhere to Country, state, province, and/or local regulations regarding your camps or classes
- Insurance – consult a professional, determine what you’ll need, and purchase accordingly
Setting up a Business
This will be the first step you’ll want to figure out as it will lay the groundwork for how your business operates at its core going forward. First thing’s first, decide on what type of organization you’ll want to be. The main options to choose from are for-profit or non-profit. Let’s talk about non-profit first.
Non-profit organizations are, well, non-profit. They operate totally for the benefit of the society and people they serve, usually to provide an important need (like education). Most are funded by either generous benefactors, donations, grants, or government funding. Finding funding can be challenging, but there are some ways to do this.
STEM and coding for underprivileged youth are high on the list for many charities and foundations. As such, you should have a good chance at procuring funding if you focus on this segment and come up with a good business plan.
Should you decide to go the non-profit route, you’ll need to apply for tax-exempt status. Depending on where you are in the world, you’ll need to research your country, state, province, and/or local laws and regulations relevant to starting your new business.
For-profit is a different story since you’ll be making money for the services you provide and you’ll be subject to paying taxes. Your initial funding may come out-of-pocket, from a loan, or interested investors or business partners. If you decide you want to start a for-profit business, you’ll need to set up your organization type. This will vary between countries, but generally the most common are LLCs and Corporations.
Disclaimer: This guide is in no way designed to provide legal advice. We are not lawyers, and we are only sharing our experiences with you to help you get a good idea of what you’ll need to be doing. Always consult a reputable attorney when setting up your organization. Their knowledge and expertise are valuable and can save you a lot of hassle down the line.
Franchising, is it for you?
This section goes more into detail on for-profit business. There are two main ways to start a business; build your own from scratch, or buy a franchise. Starting your own business can be a lot of hard work and trial-and-error, but can be rewarding. On the flip side, franchising is an easier way to get things off the ground and offers more assurance of success (if you choose a good one). Below, we’ll try and help you decide the right choice for you.
When it comes to franchising; the benefit of a proven business model, and the fact that a lot of guesswork is taken out of the process, are extremely attractive. If you are new to starting a business, franchising can be a great way to launch your coding camp. Choosing a franchise can ultimately be a good decision if you invest in the right one.
While franchises can be helpful and cut out some of the hassles, they can also have their downsides, especially if you partner with an established brand. You will generally have to pay a large one-time franchising fee along with smaller monthly franchising fees. You may also be limited with what you can do with the brand, and you may be restricted to certain locales or territories.
Though this is not always the case. While older, larger, and the more established franchise may have strict rules and high entry costs; they are not the only viable choice. Franchises in their earlier stages tend to offer better terms, better customer service, better support, and a better overall experience. We’d recommend you take a look at these great examples of early-stage franchises:
Building Your Own Business
Starting your own business can seem like a monumental task, but it can be a rewarding undertaking. You get to call the shots, create your own brand image, and see your vision through to completion.
To start, you’ll need to get a business license, research the legal requirements for your academy, figure out your program, create or license curriculum materials, hire staff, create operations and procedures, etc. The list goes on.
While that may seem like a lot, the benefits of running your own company are significant. You can choose your locations, don’t have to worry about franchise fees or regulations, and all net profit goes to you.
However, it can also be risky, expensive, and you may make mistakes along the way that may have been prevented if you had a franchise partner. We’d only recommend this path if you’re already experienced with building a business or are determined to do things your way.
Form a Business Plan
Creating a business plan is a solid idea, and will help you organize things going forward. If you don’t intend on pitching your plan to investors at first, you can start simple, then expand it over time to meet your needs.
Below is an outline that will cover the essentials. You may expand on this, or customize it in a way that better suits your needs
- Company Overview
- Business Structure
- Nature of Business
- Business Objectives
- Target Market
- Why Us?
- Our Advantages
- Current Alternatives
Plan of Execution
- Marketing Plan
- Sales Plan
- Locations and Facilities
- Safety and insurance plan
- Revenue by Month
- Expenses and operational costs
- Quarterly and Yearly Net Profit (or loss)
- Source of Funds
- Use of Funds
- Projected Profit and Loss
- Balance Sheet
- Cash Flow Statement
- Additional Documentation
Creating a business plan will take time, effort, and energy, but will serve as a great roadmap going forward if you ever get lost. Be sure to double your efforts when creating a financial plan, as attention to detail in that section is vital to the success of your business.
If you are new to financial planning and modeling, worry not, there are plenty of resources out there to help you. You may want to hire a financial adviser or consult with a local financial services firm to help you set expectations and goals.
Understanding Your Market and Competition
Understanding your market, and the competition you’ll be up against in that space is one of the first things you should do no matter what business model you have. Finding out which companies are market leaders in your field, and which aren’t, shouldn’t take too much effort. If you pay attention to the details and analyze them, you can figure out the reasons why they are succeeding (or failing) in your market space.
For this, you’ll want to make a list of your competitors and create a spreadsheet outlining important things about them. Start with the following:
- Brand Strengths
- Competitive Advantages
- Program types
- Growth and Marketing Strategy
If your competition is well-established, has built a reputable branding, and has excellent reviews, you will have to figure out your own unique niche or offer that others do not have. This could be a geographical, programmatic, or community niche. It’s also a good idea not to compete solely on price unless your competition is gouging the market, and/or you can maintain your profit margins
Choosing a brand name for your organization is an integral part of launching your own academy or camp.
The best brand names stick with you, are catchy or aspirational, and are easy to recall. They also have to have a level of uniqueness to them so they stand out, as well as to avoid confusion with other brands. This process might sound more difficult than it seems, but I assure you it’s not.
A spreadsheet is a good place to start, giving each brand name idea its own column for available URLs and notes. .com extensions are preferable when creating a URL, however, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find ones available. If you can’t find a .com extension, a .net or .io extension can work perfectly fine.
Next, you’ll want to visit a trademark search website, such as this one for the United States. You can search your brand name idea and see if there are any live or active registrations. If there are any, and they are in your category or something closely related, you’ll have to think of another name.
However, if the live registration is used for a product or service completely unrelated, there might still be a chance you can use it. However, you may still run into brand confusion, so consider this choice carefully should you proceed.
Although it may not be necessary to register your trademark with your relevant patent and trademark office (such as the United States USPTO), it is still highly recommended you do so. Suppose you launch your company and invest in your brand, only to receive a cease and desist letter a few years in the future from another company that has trademarked your branding. You can imagine the headache that will cause. Better safe than sorry.
If you have the funds to do so, we’d recommend you hire an attorney with experience in patents and trademarks to help you secure your branding. Again, their experience is valuable and may save you much hassle.
Choosing a Location
Due to the events surrounding the global pandemic, and the health concerns that came with it, many parents have begun to prefer academies and classes that offer online services. While having a physical location can still benefit your growth depending on your local market, it is not as important in the environment we are currently in.
With this in mind, you should focus your efforts on your website design, integration, customer support, and online resources. This will bring you the most benefit and is cheaper in many ways compared to having a physical location. Website domain costs range anywhere from $2 to $20 per year on average, and there are numerous affordable and easy-to-use tools available to start building your website.
If you still want to have a physical location, you’ll want it to be in an area with a high density of families with kids. Being closer to schools is also a big plus, and you may wind up developing a rapport with these schools.
For short-term rentals for your kids coding camp, the best places to consider are ones accustomed to short-term rental agreements such as community centers, schools, co-working spaces, and the like.
Depending on your situation, we know cash flow can be a challenge in the beginning stages of starting the business. This is yet another reason why having your operation completely online is attractive due to lower initial costs. Rent can be expensive, and if you are set on renting a space, you can try to ease costs by offering a revenue-sharing agreement with your landlord. It may take some negotiation, but it may save you money.
Programs and Curriculum
Choosing your program(s) is choosing how you want to generate revenue. Most kids coding academies do this in several ways. The most popular of which are:
- Offer online classes and curriculum
- Use games like Roblox, Minecraft, or a similar game to teach coding to kids in a fun way
- Do one-on-one tutoring online, at home, or in classes
- Learn at your own pace courses
- Online Workshops or Code-a-thons
- Offer classes at local schools or community centers
Online programs have become increasingly more popular, partly due to the pandemic’s lasting effects. But on the flip side, that means it’s easier than ever to start an online program. You can easily teach online either directly to students, or through a platform like Outschool.
Some websites offer services that make selling registrations to online classes straightforward, and cost-effective. This further adds to the ease of running online programs. Some great examples of these offerings are:
Online programs can be more convenient to both you and your clients, and they cut out some of the hassles that organizing physical classes comes with.
Alternatively, you can come up with your own ideas, or look at popular trends that other industry leaders are doing.
Once you figure out your programs, you’ll need to decide on your course offerings. The curriculum you decide on will be one of the most important decisions you’ll make and will be shaped by the type of academy or camp you launch. This decision will also depend on things like computer equipment, staff expertise, instructional style, and some personal taste.
To start an academy that is sustainable and builds momentum, you’ll really need to make sure your classes and camps are fun, engaging, educational, and provide something your competition doesn’t. No matter how much you tell parents how great your curriculum is, you have to back it up. If the kids don’t enjoy it, they’ll lose interest and convince their parents to drop out.
When it comes to a curriculum, there are two choices. You can create your own, or license course from 3rd party providers.
Developing your own curriculum can be time-consuming, pricey, and will likely require frequent updates and revisions that can get expensive fast. This is not recommended unless you really know what you are doing.
Licensing curriculum allows you to avoid the time spent developing your own, and get you up and running quickly. This allows you to put your focus elsewhere, like acquiring customers.
Marketing and PR
Marketing is all about building your brand and putting it out there for the world (and potential customers) to see. It will be a challenging part of your job while you are building your brand. Here are some ideas below for effective and relatively inexpensive ways to market your academy, camps, and classes:
- SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
- Blogging using SEO
- Facebook and Instagram ad campaigns
- Email campaigns
- Local presence; attending camp fairs and similarly focused events
- Sending home flyers through partner schools
It’s important to note that you should start advertising at least 5 months before your launch. SEO and creating and maintaining an email list should be the top priorities during these crucial starting months. Preparation is key.
PR, or public relations, is another great way to get your brand out there. What PR is, is a strategic communication process that builds relationships with the public and other organizations, and builds you and your brand’s image in the public eye.
You don’t necessarily need to hire a PR agency when you’re just starting. You can usually find or contact editors and reporters to pitch your story, and local media loves writing articles and doing videos on new businesses in their locale.
When you’re talking about your company, be concise. Explain what makes your academy or camp unique, and don’t be afraid to put in a personal story or anecdote.
You can also try going directly to media outlets and submitting your story through their editorial desk. If your pitch is interesting, they might just give you a shot as they’re always looking for a fresh, new story.
Once you start growing further, hiring a PR firm may be a good idea. They have the connections and the know-how to get your academy featured in prime spaces. PR is worth putting resources into since it has the potential to give you more traffic than even your ad campaigns if you play your cards right.
Equipment and Computers
What equipment you require will come down to what’s needed for the courses and curriculum you provide. If you’re running an online operation, this is doubly important. Parents and educators need to be informed exactly what will be needed to effectively teach.
Whatever these requirements may be, make sure you have clear and concise instructions on what is needed so that your students may get the best out of their experience. This also goes for physical locations that require students to bring their own laptops or equipment.
The drawback to this is that you may run into tech issues. This may come in the form of parents using inadequately spec’d computers, ones with out-of-date software, or computers with malware. This will lead to wasted time spent dealing with these issues that could slow down progress and cause scheduling issues. But this can be minimized with proper procedures.
For physical locations, there are a few ways you can go about equipping your academy, camps, and classes with computers. Having computers on-site means you can provide consistency and quality during your camps and classes.
Should you choose to get your own computers, there are a few options. You can purchase them, lease them, rent them, or even buy the parts and assemble them yourself if you or someone on your team has that knowledge and skill set.
Beginning of Operations
This is the moment you’ve been waiting for. Your months of hard work and planning have culminated in finally being able to open up shop and start your academy or camp. This is one of the most exciting parts of the process, and one of the most rewarding.
When you start your operations, don’t be disappointed if things start a little slow. If that happens, you can use this time to attract more parents through things like;
- Weekend Workshops
- Open house for parents
- Podcasts and online content
- Online Workshops
You can get the word out using local publications, flyers, advertise in local Facebook groups, and on local deal sites and community blogs.
When you do host events like above, we recommend you hand out surveys to gather important data on how to improve your operations and see what suggestions parents and kids may have to better your offerings.
Questions or Feedback?
If you have any questions or feedback you’d like to share with us, or want to go more in-depth about starting a kids coding academy, feel free to leave a comment below, or contact us at either firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-665-7799.
We hope we’ve been able to help you!