Originally from Oklahoma, Shannon Landin, co-founder of Codecraft Works, an educational technology company, used to visit her grandparents in Melbourne every year. After college, her dad moved to the area and she happily followed. She pursued other opportunities and ended up in Atlanta for five years, working as a front end web developer. Longing for the beautiful beaches and more mellow pace, she moved back to Melbourne and worked remotely for the same company for six to seven years.
In 2011, Landin founded a company that was more or less the precursor to Codecraft Works. "We started off as a custom software consulting company called Float Check," she said. "The concept was to help people check whether an idea would float or not. Through that work, and our shared passion for technology, we saw a pattern and the challenges small businesses had recruiting talent. We also noticed a need to prepare students in K-12 for new opportunities and challenging college-level courses. By early 2016, it was obvious to focus exclusively on designing and developing technology to help scale what we do today."
Codecraft Works is expanding access to computer science, engineering, and cyber-security education for secondary and elementary school students across the nation by offering both in-person and virtual learning opportunities. They believe that everyone, regardless of finances, should have access to coding resources and learning opportunities. "We see ourselves as the back-end provider, connecting parents, students and instructors," Landin said. "We started with six kids, but now run programs in Leon County, Orange County, Indian River County and Brevard County."
During their early growth phase, Codecraft Works applied for, and received an NSF Grant. With the grant money, they were able to build out more technology and used it to scale Codecraft Works. For Landin, the work they're doing is much more than just turning your kids onto the computer again. "We're all about the idea of inclusion and changing the face of computing," she said. "Women in computer science have been on the decline since the 1980s. We want to give them, and others, the STEM skills they need so we can work together to transform the space of computing and adequately prepare the next generation."
To be clear, the services offered by Codecraft Works do not replace a formal education in computer science or other related fields. They simply act as a supplement to traditional learning and in the process, help to create a sense of community. "Students in the K-12 space that participate in Codecraft courses are more willing to take on the challenging courses and also recognize themselves as part of an exclusive STEM group," Landin said.
Looking ahead, Landin hopes to scale to a national level. They're also hoping that their virtual programs will enable them to reach more students and have an even bigger impact. "We need to make sure we focus on the business and staying ahead of technology," she said. "We need to keep the overall mission of the company in mind and remember that we're trying to impact lives."
What advice does Landin have for aspiring entrepreneurs? "Just do it," she said. "Looking back on times where I hesitated, I'm not sure what I was waiting for. Just get started, build on it and go to Groundswell." For those not familiar with the Melbourne area, Groundswell is a high-tech incubator and co-working space. "It's great to be close to other entrepreneurs that have faced similar obstacles, road blocks, highs and lows. Having a community of people that have gone through some of the same things you're going through is so valuable. Co-working spaces are also great for students. Codecraft high school juniors and seniors are getting opportunities for hands-on work with startups."