How Glasgow Tech Firm Is Keeping Kids’ Clubs Going Through Lockdown
- ClassForKids and its real-time cloud technology steal a march on Covid-19 social distancing
A few weeks ago, the prospect of 20 street dancing kids, 60-odd choir members and a group guitar lesson in your living room would have sounded like a logistical nightmare.
But just as the Zoom meeting has gone from novelty to normality for millions of workers, children turning up for clubs and classes online is part of everyday life now.
It could be a watershed moment for Nikki Th'ng, whose ClassForKids business has been helping clubs organise online payments and classes by video for years.
Th'ng formed the company in Glasgow in 2014 after overhearing his partner and a friend bemoaning the hassle involved in booking kids' gymnastics classes.
"As a former tennis coach, I understood the challenges faced by those running an activity business," he said. "It was only when I had kids of my own I realised parents were also having problems, from finding up-to-date class information, to making class payments."
Th'ng - who admits he disliked computers as a child - sold his car valet business to fund the start-up. With digital expert Kevin MacDonell, now chief technology officer, he set up an online listings service for clubs and classes. It soon evolved into a platform for registering, bookings and payments.
"Since then the company has gone on to develop a very niche management CRM system used by Dance Schools, Football Academies, Gymnastics Clubs, Swimming Lessons, and just about every activity type in between. We also serve parents, making the mobile booking experience simple."
Duncan Ross, who has a business consultancy background, joined as operations manager in 2017 with the aim of organising and growing the business, which has since gone from a team of six to 30.
A deal with a national franchise helped the business to grow but it has really been turbo-boosted by the adoption of cloud-based technology. It's now used by more than half a million parents, processed more than £30 million in class payments in the last year.
That has left the company well placed to take advantage of a world that has been driven even faster towards things digital by the coronavirus lockdown.
Th'ng, who is now the CEO, said: "Clubs have been incredibly quick to adapt and it' been great to see the support they've received from parents and kids.
"Since lockdown we've seen a mixed reaction, which is probably typical of businesses the world over; some have decided to pause operations and hope to return, while others went straight into action and immediately began building new online content and revenue streams. We've responded by offering as much support and information as possible, from how to run classes online to how to communicate with parents, or offer gift vouchers.
"We're also doing our best to connect our clients so that they can learn from each other. What we've noticed is that our website has never been busier, with thousands of club owners and coaches looking for the information we're providing.
"In a way, clubs using our software are already in a better position than most, as they have the advantage of our CRM database and messaging tools, so keeping their own customers updated and 'in the system' is fairly straightforward. Those running subscriptions have been able to simply pause or change the price, and they'll all be able to pick up where they left off with relative ease."
The lockdown may present an opportunity for ClassForKids but it's also frustrating for the staff, who were about to move in to a new expanded office in West George Street, Glasgow.
"We make no secret that our success as a business is down to the culture we've created. Moving to a new office is a significant investment in our people, and we can't wait to be back together as a team."