I'm a huge fan of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education. There are STEM education advocates in non-profit organizations and school systems, but what about leveraging business to promote it? Gary and Shaun Tuch own and operate Professor Egghead, a family business and STEM education franchise. They provide real, and sometimes messy, learning experiences as a way to teach science and engineering. Their franchise model is just as creative as the services they offer.
STEM on wheels.
From day one, the brothers wanted to create franchises across the country around their idea. Instructors don't need a storefront to operate a Professor Egghead Science Academy. Instructors run the curriculum provided and travel to different locations to run science and engineering programs.
Being mobile allows everyone involved to bring a new culture directly to schools where STEM may not be a priority. Parents, not schools, pay for the program. This franchise model is a creative solution to enable more instructors and families to participate.
Family businesses can provide educational solutions.
"We don't have traditional teaching backgrounds. I think that's how we were able to make this thing work," said Shaun.
Gary and Shaun participated in after-school programs when they were growing up. They noticed that much of what is still being offered is daycare. They wanted to offer something more.
"It's not just about a one-off class that we want to give them. Part of our business model is to have someone come in week in and week out for three-and-a-half years," explained Gary.
It would be easy to leave it to school officials to catch the vision of STEM education and implement a curriculum. Taking an entrepreneurial approach to creating a positive change in students' lives is thinking outside of the box, and it's a great example of what family business can do for communities.
Don't let "no money" stop you.
Gary and Shaun turned a difficult situation into an opportunity to start a family business.
"When we founded the company, we were both working for someone else. As that company started to go under, we thought it was the perfect time to go on our own. I was 21 at the time and Shaun was 25," Gary explained.
Gary and Shaun each could have worked for someone else. They took a chance on each other, as well as their idea. They built their model on not having money, by using free space in schools and finding creative substitutes to traditional line budget items.
Shaun offers this advice, "At the beginning, you're going to make mistakes. Why make mistakes with a lot of money and fail? Rather, make mistakes with a little money and fail small."
Working with family can work.
Playing competitive sports while growing up has also helped them with team building and working toward achieving a common goal. They started their company from an apartment they shared, working nearly 24/7 in the early stages.
"I think that family-run businesses sometimes get a bad rap. Running a business, in general, is hard. And it can end badly, when run with a non-relative. It does not make it worse or more likely when running a business with a family member. In fact, the opposite is true," Gary explained.
The brothers begin their mornings with a walk to the local coffee shop. During their walks they chat about the work day. They each have specific roles in the company and use each other as a sounding board for ideas. They are also able to turn off work mode and get into family mode, because running a family business has shown them that there is more to life than just work. They admit that their mother is the arbitrator from time to time when they need input from a third party on decisions.
What makes Gary and Shaun most proud is the impact they are making on the communities they serve. Not only are they helping kids and families achieve educational goals in critical subject areas, but they want to provide a safe, fun and nurturing place for kids.