Learn how this entrepreneur switched gears from teaching coding to adults to franchising a coding school for kids in this Success Story Interview with Code Ninjas CEO and founder.
While Code Ninjas is a new franchise just starting to grow, they know that the demand is there. After realizing that there were no ongoing after school programs for coding for his own kids, David Graham set out to create a school to do just that, not only for his own kids but for children in communities across the country. Kids love it, parents love it, and franchisees love it.
In this Success Story Interview, we catch up with CEO and founder of Code Ninjas David Graham, who turned his focus from teaching coding to adults to teaching coding the new generation. Learn more about how Code Ninjas is helping prepare kids for the digital world, how franchisees can enter an untapped market, and the future of the business.
Can you tell us a little about the history of Code Ninjas and the part you play in the franchise?
I was a computer programmer for nearly two decades, and started a chain of code schools for adults. While that business was a success, it kept coming up in conversation that we should be offering this for kids. I’m a father of two boys who love computers, and there were really no ongoing programs out there for them. It was clear that this was lacking in our community and in communities across the country.
Last year, my business partner and I decided to make the dream of teaching kids to code a reality. We sold our stake in the company and founded the Code Ninjas franchise. The first location opened in Pearland, TX in early 2017. There are many more are on the way.
Tell us about what makes Code Ninjas a proven franchise brand.
While we are a new franchise, we’re not new to franchising. We’ve been fortunate to build a savvy team with decades of franchise experience – not to mention software developers, curriculum creators, designers, operators, and marketers. Also, education franchises are a proven concept. We’re taking that model and adapting it for the 21st century. Code Ninjas is an education franchise for the internet age. And, based on the statistics, and the response we’ve had, we know the demand is there.
What are some trends to look out for in your industry segment?
We’re going to see more parents realizing that they need to go beyond school offerings to prepare their kids for life in a technology-driven world. In fact, a Gallup poll found that 9 out of 10 parents want their kids to learn to code. That’s great for kids and families, and it’s promising for Code Ninjas. Our franchisees can enter a market that’s virtually untapped, and feel great about filling a huge unmet need in their community.
How competitive is the industry, and how does Code Ninjas set itself apart?
We believe that we’re in a class by ourselves. While other STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) franchises exist, no one else teaches kids to code with a custom-built curriculum that’s based on building video games. Kids love it, and can’t wait to come back. Parents love it too, because their kids are gaining confidence and skills that will benefit them for their entire lives.
How would you describe the impact Code Ninjas franchises have on their communities?
Many communities are greatly impacted because they’ve never had anything like a Code Ninjas. They may have had technology camps, but not an ongoing program where their kids can make sustained progress over month or years, like they can with us. Parents are anxious to give their kids every opportunity to succeed, and schools can’t keep up with technology. Code Ninjas comes in and fills the gap. That has a very positive impact on families and communities. And that’s why we love what we do.
What advertising is the franchisee responsible for to promote the business?
The franchisee is responsible for marketing that’s best handled at the local level, including printed materials, local media buys, and community outreach. We collaborate with franchisees for online marketing initiatives including website, Facebook, Google, and local listings services.
Do you assist potential franchisees on finding a site location?
The location that the franchisee selects for their center is one of the biggest early decisions that they make, and it should not be taken lightly. In addition to recommended location criteria that is a part of Code Ninjas University, we have partnered with Morrow Hill Commercial Real Estate to help our franchisees find the perfect site location for them. They are a national brand that specializes in working with franchises to find real estate that works for the franchisor and franchisee.
What kind of experience does a franchisee need to be successful?
One of the first questions that potential franchisees have is, “Do I have to be a coder or technology expert?” Thankfully, the answer is no. While experience in technology, education, franchising, or entrepreneurship doesn’t hurt, it is not required. In fact, we specifically developed our program to be friendly to the less technically-inclined. As we like to say, “Not a coder? Not a problem.” We look for franchisees who are passionate about helping the next generation reach their highest potential. Beyond that, if you’re willing to learn, work, and follow a system, you have a great opportunity to thrive with us.
Can you tell us a little bit about the day-to-day activities of a Code Ninjas franchisee?
We believe that being directly involved in the day-to-day operation and supervision of their facilities puts franchisees in the best position to succeed. At a minimum, the franchisee is required to be involved in general oversight and management of the center. Either way, it’s important that the franchisee hire a great team to help successfully run the center. And it’s important that they love kids!
What advice would you give first time franchisees?
Learn to fail small and fail often. One of the scariest things a person can do is start their own business. It's inconceivable that anyone can start a business without making mistakes. The sooner you are okay with your small errors, the faster you can bounce back from them. If you aren't making small failures often, then you are probably playing things too safely.
What’s next for Code Ninjas in terms of expansion?
Soon we will be opening franchise locations in Charlotte, and adding more locations in the Houston area, and that’s just the beginning. Expect to see 30-plus Code Ninjas locations nationwide soon. Territories are moving fast, but there’s still plenty of opportunity for the right franchise candidate.