Community ties, a strong client base, staff motivation, and a strong voice where it matters most are a sure-fire formula for success in just about any arena, but for businesses weathering a global pandemic, this is especially so – just ask STEM Minds.
STEM Minds, a learning hub on Earl Stewart Drive focused on teaching more than just the fundamentals of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, has found this a winning formula as they move forward, and now on an international scale.
The business was recently awarded with the Pivot Award by the Aurora Chamber of Commerce, a newly-created honour within their Business Excellence Awards program.
They were singled out for their strong efforts in getting down to business and translating many of their popular in-person programs over to digital platforms to ensure learning – and especially having fun in learning – can continue.
“It is an absolute honour in a time which has been tough for a lot of small businesses to keep our doors open,” says STEM Minds founder Anu Bidani. “No one was prepared for the pandemic so, for me, it is such an honour to be recognized as a small business in a small community where we were able to keep our doors open and continue to grow.”
And, despite the challenges of doors having to be closed through several lockdowns, STEM Minds’ growth has marched forward.
While new and existing local clients have continued to thrive through the online translations of their favourite programs, over-the-web platforms have allowed STEM Minds to expand their programs nationally, into the U.S., and they are now offering digital programs in Asian markets as well.
No matter where they reach, however, their heart remains in Aurora and Ms. Bidani says the community’s support has been integral in their success.
“The Chamber’s award has motivated us to keep doing what we’re doing,” she says. “It demonstrates that small businesses can keep thriving even when times are tough. There were a number of factors that made [our success] happen. One was a team of staff who are all local from York Region and live in the community, and the recognition that even though the pandemic was hard, we need to be there for the kids and families, and we have got to find solutions to stay relevant. Pivoting into virtual gave us the opportunity [to provide service and bring in revenue] and it was one very important development.
“The second one that was very critical was government support,” she continues, specifically sighting supports, including wage subsidies, from the Provincial and Federal governments. “Without that support, I don’t think we would have kept our doors open. With the motivation of staff to stay relevant, the funding available to fuel that energy to want to do things made a big difference. I also think the Chamber played a very important role. They were our voices, they opened platforms for us to stay connected in the community and… it was very important to have our voices heard.
“At the end of the day, the community of York Region and our client base stayed true to us. They came to us with whatever offerings we had and were very understanding and supportive. Our customers made our business continue to thrive and grow and all four themes were key in keeping our doors open during the pandemic.”
Although remaining public health restrictions mean that they’re not yet able to open back up at full capacity, Ms. Bidani says they are “so excited” for what the fall might hold, including getting back into schools for lunchtime and after-school programs and workshops.
“I want parents to be confident that their kids will enjoy the learning in a safe environment. We really encourage virtual programs so much more than we did before. We hope they will come back to our programs and join us. The new programs we’re offering include e-sports, a brand-new program now. Plus, all our coding and programs…. I hope parents come back and give us a try. If online learning is something they want with kids at home, we have a platform and we would love them to try that out.”
Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran