While the spread of the Coronavirus necessitated the cancellation of classes across the country, in the spirit of a flexible palm tree, Estroff, the founder of Challenge Island, quickly developed a solution to bring her innovative programs to students. By Rochelle Miller
The recent outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) across the U.S. has forced many companies to suspend operations, causing an unavoidable loss of revenue. As many businesses brace for a major economic hit, veteran franchisor Sharon Duke Estroff has taken a different approach that she expects will not only lead her business to survive but also cause it to grow stronger.
“We’re ‘palm-treeing’ our way through Coronavirus,” said Estroff, the founder of Challenge Island, which bears a palm tree in its logo. “Palm trees are flexible, and they bend with the wind.”
Since 2003, Challenge Island has offered STEAM-based learning programs for children ages 4 to 14+ that include after-school enrichment classes, in-school field trips, birthday parties, and camps. While the spread of the Coronavirus necessitated the cancellation of classes across the country, in the spirit of a flexible palm tree, Estroff quickly developed a solution to bring her innovative programs to students.
Just as public and private schools have turned to virtual learning to ensure continuity in children’s education, Challenge Island quickly introduced a new program called “Home Island,” which presents students with STEAM-based learning challenges that could be performed at home. Created by Estroff, a former teacher who brought her innovative problem-solving lessons from the classroom to a business model, Challenge Island features various island-themed programs, such as “Time Machine Island” and “Fantastic Fiction Island.” Each island contains a semester of programs to challenge learners based on that theme.
For example, the “World Tour Island” program takes children on a journey to a different global location each week, from Paris to San Francisco. Each week features a custom “treasure chest” of materials students use to engineer a special project tied to that week’s theme. During the week that focuses on Brazil, for example, students not only learn about the South American country’s history and culture, but they also are tasked with using treasure chest materials to build a foosball game.
By adapting her proven business model to bring classes to her young clients’ homes, Estroff is bucking the trend of being hurt by the Coronavirus pandemic.
“One thing that happens in business, especially in a crisis situation like this, is you just shut down. Instead, we’re going to invite them to this, and they can still go to their classes,” she said. “Then, the franchisees are making money.”
Unlike some of their competitors, whose curriculum centers around specific items such as toy building bricks or robotics kits, Challenge Island utilizes everyday objects that any home will have handy, like cups, rubber bands, and paper.
“It would likely be difficult for other STEAM franchises to move to online classes because their materials are so specialized and include expensive kits and computers that people are unlikely to have lying around the house, but Challenge Island uses handy everyday household items that are easily accessible,” she said.
Estroff is expecting the program to be a welcome activity for students, because many school children are home waiting for the virus to wane. Not only can the online “Home Island” program be a successful way to get through the current crisis, but it also is now being considered by Estroff as a program option even after the Coronavirus is a thing of the past.
“It could be a brand-new profit center,” she said, adding that a new revenue stream will be a great advantage to franchisees.
“We’re turning it around to something positive,” Estroff said. “It’s the whole ‘palm tree’ approach.”
For more information about franchise opportunities with Challenge Island, visit franchise.challenge-island.com or call 404-692-3103.
– Rochelle Miller