The Coder School Connecticut opened its first location in October 2018 (read the interview: The Coder School Opens in Farmington, CT ). The nationwide after-school program teaches kids ages 7 to 18 how to code. The new Glastonbury location will be Connecticut’s second Coder School.
Co-owner Vaishali Shah caught up with MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price to provide an update—and news about opening a new location.
NAN PRICE: It’s been less than a year since you opened your first Coder School. As first-time business owners, what is the most valuable thing you have learned from the experience?
VAISHALI SHAH: We went into this knowing the most valuable thing we wanted to provide is customer service. And we knew we had to be community-based. We’re focused on getting to know the parents and students in the area. That led us to more and more clients over time.
Kids would come into the school and enjoy their experience. They told their friends and parents about it and the word spread. That was the goal, because we want it to be a community-based school.
NAN: So, you’ve mostly been building clientele through word-of-mouth. Any other marketing efforts?
VAISHALI: Yes, it’s been mainly a lot of word-of-mouth. The franchise has its own PR team, which was a good marketing push when we were launching. They helped get us featured in local newspapers, including the Hartford Business Journal.
The other marketing piece that had a lot of success was yard signs. People saw them up everywhere. The newspaper features and yard signs really helped draw people in.
Farmington Continuing Education has also been a great resource for us. They connected to the entire Farmington public school system and included the Coder School in their online list of local after school activities.
NAN: Let’s talk about your exciting news. You’re opening a second location!
VAISHALI: Yes! We saw there was a need for it. We went into this knowing there was a need for it, but not knowing the extent. Public schools teach very basic coding, so kids can’t create the type of full-blown projects they’re doing at the Coder School.
After opening in Farmington, we had interest from many people who lived east of the river. They’d check out the school and a few of them would sign up. We realized those who didn’t sign up wasn’t due to a lack of interest; they didn’t want the hassle of getting through Hartford traffic.
We saw there is another population similar to the Farmington Valley in the area east of the river, so we thought: Why not just open another location in Glastonbury?
NAN: When will that come to fruition?
VAISHALI: The space in Glastonbury is currently under construction. We’re hoping to have a grand opening the first or second week in September.
NAN: Is the process similar to when you opened in Farmington—except you obviously know more now?
VAISHALI: Yes, very similar, except it was much easier this time around. With the Farmington location, we had to jump through a lot of hoops because it was such a new concept. This one is going much smoother. The timeline is falling into place, whereas with Farmington, we were almost a month behind because it took so long to get the zoning and building permits processed.
This time, too, we’re not an unknown. People have heard about The Coder School and they’re able to come for a tour or a trial class to get an idea of what the school in Glastonbury will be like.
NAN: Tell us about how the schools are making an economic impact.
VAISHALI: We’re creating job opportunities by hiring coders and now looking for someone to manage the Farmington facility. The coding jobs are great opportunities for college students who want job experience before they start working in the real world. It’s like an internship for computer science majors.
Most importantly, the schools give kids skills they’re going to need in the future. It also provides another outlet for kids who may not be interested in other activities like music, dance, or sports. We’ve had many parents tell us they’ve been looking for something like this for a while.
NAN: Will you open additional locations?
VAISHALI: It’s funny, when you open one location you think: I have to see how one goes before I open two. This is the same thing. We have to see how two locations goes before we can think about adding more.
We would definitely love to. It’s mostly a matter of finding the right people to run it, which is what we’re doing for Farmington right now.
NAN: Would you say that’s your biggest challenge right now?
VAISHALI: Right now, yes. It’s challenging to hand off what we have built in this short time. The key is to find the right people to run your business who are passionate about what you’re doing. Once we find those people, it’s almost like the sky is the limit.