This Fall I made a decision to try something very different from the last 12 years of running LIFT Enrichment: I decided to stop working with parent-paid programs so we can focus solely on grant-based programming for low-income/Title-1 schools. Here are how they differ
Grant-Based Programming: Title-1 schools are schools that serve a low-income demographic where a significant amount of the student population gets free/reduced lunches. These schools can apply for after-school grants such as ASES or ELOP or 21st Century that they can use for specialty enrichment programs like LIFT Enrichment’s healthy culinary workshops. Our programs helps their after-school program by teaching students about healthy eating, developing a key life skill as they learn culinary techniques, culture, science and it’s a very fun class that boost enrollment (which is an important metric for schools to continue receiving grants).
- Keiller Leadership Academy – a charter school in San Diego (Mesa) that serves low-income students
- Pomona Unified School District (See our Client Case Study post here) – made up of 21 Title-1 schools where we taught 800+ students during the Spring 2022 session.
Parent-Paid Programming: This type of programming is for schools that serve mostly medium or upper-income families. They could be regular public schools, charter schools or private schools (non-religious or religious) in nice areas like Venice or Huntington Beach, CA. Our cooking classes are offered to parents, who can purchase a 10-week session for their child and enrollment can vary from 8 to 20 students in a class. This program is free for the schools because the parents pay for it, and sometimes we pay a percentage to the school as well.
- St Monica Elementary, a Catholic private school in Santa Monica, CA
- Chandler Learning Academy, a public charter elementary school in Sherman Oaks, CA
These are the reasons we are focusing only on Grant-based programming in the Fall 2022 session
- Parent-Paid programs have enrollment that is unpredictable. We’ve partnered with schools where we charge, as an example, $250 for a 10-week program per child ($25 a class). The problem is that we spend a lot of time planning, marketing, creating flyers, hiring teachers, assigning staff to a client and then one or two weeks before the class starts, we might find out we have 6 kids enrolled. Our minimum is around 10-12 (our maximum is 20) and with the costs to run the class (pay the teacher, pay for mileage and for the fresh ingredients), we would make no money (or very little, so it’s not worth it). One of our Core values (Here’s a link to our Core Value video on Youtube) is Win-Win, and that would be a Win-Win-Loss (Client-Chef Teacher–Company). Plus it’s frustrating to cancel a class, refund parents and message everyone involved, which takes up a lot of time and energy.
- Parent-Paid programs are made up of Individual Schools that take up a LOT of time and energy for not much revenue. When we work with each school, we have to complete a lot of odcuments including: certificate of insurance, workers compensation, background checks, TB test, Covid vaccination results, signed partnership documents and more. For Catholic schools, we have to make sure each instructor is VIRTUS certified, which is a very complicated training to schedule for our staff. Plus if a staff gets reassigned, we have to quickly get new staff into the Virtus system, which is needlessly complex. If we book 14 kids in a class at the above price point, we might earn $3,500 for a 10-week session…but if it’s 9 it’ll be a lot less.
- Grant-based Programming have bigger budgets. We work with a lot of schools (see this blog post on Pomona USD), where we can service hundreds of students at multiple sites. Instead of working with a lot of small individual schools, we can work with one client (like a district) that could be worth 20-40x more than any single school. We work with ASES and ELOP grants that give sites up to $120,000 per year (link: https://www.fontana.org/DocumentCenter/View/11045/CDE-ASES-Frequently-Asked-Questions?bidId=), so there is definite room for our program. Our current workshop price is $525 (for exisiting clients) per 1-hour workshop that services 20 students at a time. Some clients have purchased $10,000-$80,000 worth of workshops in one session! In business, I have always found that numbers tell the true story of what’s worth focusing on.
- Grant-based programming is guaranteed (once the contract is signed). This basically fixes the issue with point Number 1. If we book a school to teach 40 workshops, then that is guaranteed to happen and we can hire and staff with 100% certainty the teachers will be teaching at those date and times. There are no last-minute cancellations. Plus it makes it easier to budget for the future. Also, we can spend extra money to do things for our clients like rent a car for a chef to drive over 100 miles to a client or even take an airplane flight!
- Grant-based programming is generally less complex to service. Typically, at any individual school there might be a volunteer parent or an assistant principal or even a teacher that takes on the burden of organizing the enrichment program. This is a LOT of work and it can be tricky to get a response sometimes because these individuals have a ton of other responsibilities. Meanwhile, the grant-based programming has a fully staffed after-school program with coordinators, managers and more that are generally well organized and it’s easy to do things like change a class date, check-in with the program and much more.
Here are the results I’m predicting: In the Fall 2019 session we worked with over 120 individual clients. In the Fall 2022 session we’ll work with about 40 clients and do the SAME amount of revenue and workshops. If all goes to plan, we’ll be teaching over 800+ hours of workshops this Fall and change the lives of over 2,000 students as they learn to cook over 10 weeks of lessons.
This will result in less internal staff to run everything, which makes running the business simpler and more sustainable for the long-term.
So far, I’m seeing great results. I had a funny moment earlier this week where I politely turned down an opportunity to run a parent-paid program this Fall. Unfortunately, I had no one I knew to refer them out to because I simply don’t know of any other providers of high-quality in-person cooking classes based in Southern California.
The future: To be clear, we are NOT doing parent-paid programming this Fall, but in the future we might bring it back. Part of being an entrepreneur is taking calculated risks, evaluating the results and seeing what happens.
So far we have booked over 400+ hours of workshops this Fall exclusively from grant-based programming and I only see more of that coming as educators get back from summer break.
If you are part of a grant-based program and would like to bring healthy culinary workshops to your students that are nutritious, educational and FUN, reach out to us at email@example.com or call (310) 890-8704.
Chef Eric Horwitz