How I Started a Virtual Education
Platform Fostering Growth Mindsets
Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
I’m Emily, born and raised in Montreal, Quebec. I was a teacher for 7 years until I realized I wanted a different lifestyle and I started to feel that the education system was not aligned with my values. I spent 8 months working alongside my fiance on our cabin rental business, while also exploring how I could become more sustainable.
When COVID hit, I had time to reflect on what the world needed right now. Kids were at home, parents were confused and overwhelmed… something needed to change.
As of April 2020, I decided that I could use the skills and passions I have to create something new and exciting for both children and their parents… Bloom Class: a virtual education platform with private tutoring and small-group extracurricular activities, led by certified teachers with growth mindsets. Moreover, I wanted to empower children and adults alike, by creating a business that gives more than it takes. In order to achieve this, Bloom Class plants a tree for every class booked.
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
I studied at McGill University in Elementary Education and worked as an elementary teacher for 7 years at a private school in Montreal.
I then took a leap of faith and decided to go off on my own to work with my fiance on our cabin rental business called hintercompany. While working together, we explored our love for the planet and decided to make sure that we give more than we take from the environment. We decided to plant 10 trees per booking which would thus empower our guests and unite to better the common good.
A few months later, COVID hit. Schools closed and our business was temporarily on hold given that we could not rent in Quebec. Parents of students I used to teach reached out to me with concern for their children. I suddenly had time to think about how I could implement my love of education with my new-found love for working independently.
Combining that, with my love for the planet, I created Bloom Class– an online teaching platform that plants one tree per class.
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
My first thought was – “Well there must be other people doing this. What makes me different? What makes Bloom Class special?” I realized that there will always be competition and someone doing something similar, but that can’t be the reason you don’t try to create something. I realized that although there are other virtual education platforms, they certainly didn’t all plant trees.
Moreover, what set us apart from the beginning, was the quality of our educators. I hand-picked our first few educators from my network of teachers I’ve either taught with in the past or studied with at McGill. I trusted each of them and I believe that was what set us apart.
Another challenge was expansion. We started by reaching out to our close-knit community of parents that we had worked with at our schools. My question was, “How do we make this bigger? How will people find out about us?”. Luckily we were featured in the Good Trade newsletter in July, which really expanded our community outside of Montreal and Toronto, into the United States and across Canada.
Who is your target market?
Our target market is parents with children aged 4-14 at this time, with a small exception for the occasional adult book clubs. Our typical customer is a parent who is looking for either private online tutoring or a way for their children to have an educational yet social experience online in one of our small-group extracurricular activities.
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
The most successful marketing tactics have been Instagram, a weekly newsletter, and a feature in the Good Trade newsletter. I tried paying for ads on Pinterest, but it didn’t bring me any paying customers and it took a lot of time and money. I also work with some mom influencers to get the word out to their community.
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
Since we launched, I like to keep in touch with customers. Once they’ve completed a program, I reach out to ask how it went, for any feedback about the program and/or educator, and anything else they may like to share. I’ve sent surveys in my newsletter as well, to get a sense of what people want, what they’d change, and if there’s a need we haven’t yet filled.
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
We have a really nice culture despite us being a virtual team. We’ve had an educator happy hour evening on Zoom, which was really fun! We plan to continue these in the coming months, to keep everyone motivated and excited, without creating extra pressure to attend many events. These are not compulsory, just an option if they wish to attend.
What software, services or tools do you use within your business?
We use Zoom to run our classes, and Referral Candy to generate a referral program, which also helps us grow. Most of the other processes are done by me, Emily, manually. I am always looking to grow in this department.
What are the most important lessons have you learned on your business journey?
I have learned so much in just 3 months. I have realized that we will never make EVERYONE happy, and that is okay. I’ve also learned that the most important part of online education is the relationship we build with the students and making sure they have a fun, educational time with their educators.
I’ve learned that running your own company is A LOT of work. It never ends. You work nights and weekends… and you even dream about your company! It’s crazy and hectic, but I still wouldn’t have it any other way.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
My favourite part of being an entrepreneur is working from wherever I am and running my own schedule. I love that I am my own boss, and that I can create the lifestyle I want and need. I can use my creativity, my organizational skills as well as my leadership role to lead like-minded people toward joining my team and working toward a common goal: creating a sustainable business that makes people happy, all while learning something new!
What is your LEAST favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
My least favourite part of being an entrepreneur is never having a break! I’m constantly thinking, wondering and creating. It can get exhausting! I have to remind myself to block of specific times that are “off-duty” as much as feasibly possible.
What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?
Although I only read Untamed by Glennon Doyle after starting my entrepreneurial journey, her book has inspired me to keep going, to follow my inner “knowing” and to do what feels most authentic for me. Her book isn’t about business, but rather about resetting and unlearning social norms to find our way home back to ourselves… and it’s all connected right?
When you listen to who you are and what you want, you often realize changes that you need to make in your life. Some of those might be changes in your career. If going to work every day isn’t empowering, creative or enlightening, then maybe a change is needed.
Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?
In 2-3 years I envision Bloom Class to be worldwide. I see myself working with a partner and some right-hand people to help make things run smoothly, expand the markets to other countries, and to each have different roles, so that I can focus on vision, and mentorship, rather than running the whole show on my own.
Right now we have about 15 educators. Perhaps someday this will grow to 50 or 100! I’d like to see revenue grow, and I’d like to have some of our educators become involved in the back end of the business.
I see online education as an add-on to the normal school system, and for some, perhaps an alternative. Our world is ever-changing, and we should be too!