STEM Punks finds silver lining in challenging year

Published 7:51am 5 January 2021

STEM Punks finds silver lining in challenging year
Words by Jodie Powell

The same passion and drive that saw Samford’s STEM Punks win a Moreton Bay Region Business Successful Start-up Award in 2019 has seen them identify and embrace opportunities brought about by the challenges of COVID-19.

With the aftermath of the pandemic ruling out the 2020 awards, we’re shining a light on superstars from previous years and asking … what are they up to now?

CEO and founder Michael Holmstrom says STEM Punks, which provides children and adults with a mindset of innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship to enable them to solve the problems of tomorrow today, initially struggled with the outbreak.

“At the beginning of COVID there was a tough few weeks – we lost eight months of revenue in two weeks,” Michael explains.

Silver lining

“But COVID was probably the best thing that ever happened to our business.

“The strategy was always to expand to online – last year we had massive growth, but it was face to face.”

He says the need for the educational STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) programs delivered by STEM Punks intensified as the magnitude of COVID-19 set in, with students working from home online and traditional classroom learning on hold.

“Schools had a bigger need than ever for the content – the only issue was how to reach them.

“We had to work out how we could maintain our brand promise of delivering content.”

STEM Punks finds silver lining in challenging year

Nimble response

The result was STEM Punks Live, which delivered 24 free episodes across eight weeks.

“It was free – it was the right thing to do,” Michael says.

“We had to learn very fast – we didn’t know how to do streamed content and video production – the first episode was a bit cringy,” he laughs.

Now, STEM Punks has two – soon to be three – studios producing content for audiences around the world.

In a little over six months, STEM Punks grew well beyond humble beginnings as a garage start-up to a leading global educator, but Michael says the ethos remains the same.

Broader reach

“We have always provided content for good outcomes,” he says.

“By doing this online, now we can do it at a better price point and reach the home market, schools and internationally.

“We have always prided ourselves on doing a lot of regional work, but that’s very costly because of the travel.

“Without those costs we can reach more people.”

STEM Punks finds silver lining in challenging year

New audiences

STEM Punks’ core customers have always been schools, but they now provide school holiday programs, as well as serving up content to kids after school.

“It’s great for kids who don’t want to go out and play sport,” Michael says.

So, what’s next?

“In society we swing towards extremes – all online or all in person.

“Human connection is needed now more than ever, so we need to move towards a hybrid program.”

Michael says STEM Punks has been successful because it has held true to its core values, and not been afraid of failure.

“The difference between successful people and those who are not is actually having a crack at something.

“Dare to fail.”

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