Things can change in a lot in a year, and this newsletter looks at one of our biggest clients: Pomona School District (located a bit east of downtown Los Angeles)
In 2021 we taught 0 in-person culinary workshops. In 2022, we’ll teach somewhere 700-1000 hours of in-person culinary workshops. Here’s how that transformation started.
One of the key lessons I learned this year was to focus on a segment of our customers that are low-income (aka Title-1) charter and public schools with access to the ASES grant, which is a special after-school grant in California to help students from low-income areas experience free after-school care. Schools can apply for it and budget their funds for healthy, educational and fun enrichment programs like LIFT Enrichment’s culinary workshops.
With Pomona, we first became connected with them years ago through the BOOST conference, an after-school themed conference that’s in Palm Springs every Spring.
Our most recent experience in 2022 was the BEST conference ever, because we had a great time connecting with our current clients AND gained a lot of NEW clients. I think by the end of 2022 that conference alone will result in 500 hours of workshops (btw, each 1-hour workshop is teach healthy cooking to a group of up to 20 students)
A few new clients include:
- Mount Miguel High school in San Diego where we’ll teach 60+ hours of in-person workshops this year
- Communities in Schools of the South Plains: A group of 11 schools in Texas where we’ve already taught 80+ hours of virtual /hybrid culinary workshops to 400+ students.
I’d call that a success! The conference was a blast…and even had a funny moment that went down at our VIP dinner at the steak house at Agua Caliente Casino.
When the pandemic hit and all in-person workshops ceased, LIFT Enrichment (and me!) went into hibernation made to figure out what to do. We started teaching virtual culinary workshops (and taught over 300 hours!) and adapted to the “new normal”…but around late 2021, I spoke to some of my friend at Professor Egghead Science Academy and realized that in-person classes were coming back.
I called former clients like Keiller Leadership Academy, a charter elementary school in San Diego, and got some interest in bringing back in-person workshops. I then reached out to Pomona where I got connected with, Rosie, their new Director for their after-school programs. We went back and forth for a bit and at one point they asked if we could teach at ALL 21 schools.
At first, I was nervous, as I had only a handful of Chef Teachers ready to go, but that was a LOT of schools, and we’d be teaching 2 back-to-back workshops at each site for a total of 42 hours of culinary workshops.
How could I get my Chef Teachers to teach these classes? I thought to myself.
I had a great Chef Teacher in Hawaii that I had been working with for years, and I could probably fly her out to teach, but I’d have to pay for the flight, room and board, meals and transportation. I had another Chef Teacher in Oregon. I could also hire and train some local Chef Teachers as well.
If push to came to shove, I could even fly out myself and teach!
As I figured out my proposal for the session, something unexpected happened. Rosie asked for DOUBLE the workshops.
“Where there’s a will, there’s a way!” I figured.
I got to work and did what I do pretty well: Figure out logistics. Soon, we had a plan in March and April of 2022 to have a team of 5 Chef Teachers (including me!) be in Pomona to teach 800+ students at their 21 sites. It would be a total of 88 hours of culinary workshops!
What happened? The students LOVED the program.
One student said “This is the best pasta I ever had!” as he referred to our Pasta Primavera which is loaded with fresh veggies like zucchini, bell pepper, onion and peas.
Another parent went to Rosie and said, “My son never eats spinach, but he actually ate the spinach in your quesdaillas!” which referred to our Black Bean & Spinach Quesadilla with Pico de Gallo lesson.
It was a huge success, and launched my company from being a little player in the after-school to being back in the big leagues.
It fueled us with necessary cash so I could hire full-time staff as account coordinators, operations assistants and even a full-time cold caller to reach out to new schools. (If you’re this, our caller Roj has probably called and emailed you at some point to seutp a meeting on Zoom!)
It also boosted (pun intended!) my confidence knowing that I could hire, manage and service dozens of workshops in California while I lived and operated in Phoenix, Arizona (where I currently live)
After having taught over 100+ hours of workshops this Spring and Summer with Pomona, we’re planning to teach an additional 150 hours during the upcoming 2022-2023 school year at 25 schools.
We now focus SOLELY on clients like Pomona where we can service at least 20 hours of workshops and it’s way better for my staff and myself. I’ve learned that I prefer having a handful of clients we can really give a lot of attention and care to, rather than having a TON of clients that are much smaller in scale (but take up a lot of time and energy)
In Fall 2019, we partnered with 120+ schools and taught about 2000 students a week…but most of the clients were small where we taught only 8-10 workshops at each
In Fall 2022, we will partner with maybe 40 clients total, but will teach MORE workshop and students than we did in Fall 2019. These clients are districts or large Title-1 schools like Pomona. In fact, we just signed a contract with Aspire Schools of the Bay Area in Northern California to teach 140 hours of workshops over 10 weeks.
If you’re a district with Title-1 Schools with access to the ASES or 21s Century grants and want culinary workshops for your students, let us know!
You can email email@example.com or call (310) 890-8704 and we’ll work with you to create a custom plan for in-person or virtual/hybrid workshops in any state in the US.
The goal of a workshop is to inspire students to learn a key life skill: how to cook healthy foods at home so that they don’t eat awful and cheap fast food.
Our workshops have transformed the students at Pomona and we can do the same for your students!
Chef Eric Horwitz