Diane Greenbaum was getting ready for the grand opening of her art education studio as authorities in Alexandria, Virginia were planning steps to slow the spread of coronavirus. When she officially opened Kidcreate Studio on March 14, 2020, it was the day after the local government announced schools would close for at least two weeks.
This would have been a big setback for any new entrepreneur, but Greenbaum quickly pivoted and bounced back.
After building a career in the corporate world, Greenbaum wanted to strike out on her own and have the flexibility to spend more time with her family. So she invested in a Kidcreate Studio franchise, which offers creative classes, camps, and other activities for children. By early 2020, she was busy setting up her studio and receiving bookings for classes and birthday parties.
None of those classes and parties took place in the Alexandria studio — Greenbaum had to close it right after opening.
That was when her years of business and marketing experience came to the fore. Within days, she was offering do-at-home art kits with video lessons.
“We switched from primarily a service offering to a retail offering,” says Greenbaum. “That was a very big pivot for us because we expected to do only about 10% of our business as retail, with a small shop of items.”
Going Fully Virtual
When Greenbaum realized schools would be closed for longer, she decided to fully switch to virtual classes and train her teachers to deliver art classes online. But first, she needed a reliable video conferencing platform.
Kidcreate Studio’s franchisor recommended a popular video conferencing service it had been using for staff meetings. But reports about the service’s security problems discouraged Greenbaum from using it. So she looked into other options, including BlueJeans Meetings.
“BlueJeans’ promotion of its security feature was very important to us,” says Greenbaum. “I also found its sound and visual quality much better than the others I had looked at.”
She considered using another platform for its user experience but decided against it.
“The associated cost and the hurdle of having to get every parent to open an account, that was not the experience we were looking for,” she says. “To engage our customers, we had to give them the ability to join video calls and participate by just clicking a link.”
Earning a Loyal Following
Kidcreate Studio Alexandria kicked off its virtual classes in April using BlueJeans, with two types of classes: one for students who bought the studio’s art kit, and the other for those using whatever materials they had.
Although it wasn’t easy in the beginning to virtually teach a typically hands-on activity, BlueJeans’ ease of use helped the studio’s teachers become more confident in delivering art classes online. Importantly, they can share their screen with the touch of a button to demonstrate techniques, whether they’re using BlueJeans’ desktop or mobile application.
As a result, Greenbaum’s studio has been able to sustain its virtual classes since the lockdowns began. It has also built a loyal following.
“We even have parents who schedule private virtual classes for their children.”
Adding More Exciting Activities
Even though Kidcreate Studio reopened in June 2020 for in-person activities, some parents prefer to continue with online classes, and not all teachers are ready to return to the studio.
“And by having virtual classes, we’ve had students who otherwise might not have found us,” says Greenbaum. “We’ve some students who live just down the street, and surprisingly, they found us on different platforms instead of our website — or through word of mouth.”
The studio has even expanded its activities on BlueJeans. Now, children can also have fun, art-filled birthday parties online.
“We decided to discontinue birthday parties at the studio because when we reopened for summer camps, we noticed that children who knew each other very well weren’t good in following social distancing guidelines,” says Greenbaum. “So we took birthday parties online, and I was so thrilled!”
BlueJeans allows the studio not just to host these parties, but to also easily record them and share a link with parents.
“During a party, we had all these girls saying, ‘this is the best birthday party we’ve ever been to.’ So that’s another wonderful addition to what we do,” Greenbaum says.
What’s also pleasing for Greenbaum is how her franchise has turned a difficult situation into a successful new business model.
“By forcing ourselves to adapt, we’ve expanded our offerings,” she says. “The question is, are we providing virtual classes and do-at-home kits permanently? Or maybe for the next six months or year? We don’t know. What we know is we’re going to do them for a while.”