Building a national brand was always part of the plan for Code Ninjas CEO David Graham—but it is definitely happening more quickly than he imagined.
“I originally thought we’d have 20 franchises in Year 1. We ended up with 240,” he said.
Launching its first location in Pearland in 2017, Code Ninjas is on track to have close to 400 locations nationwide and has an active enrollment of over 5,000 students. It had 10,000 summer camp students in 2018.
“This year we could see quadruple that,” Graham said.
It is also opening locations in Canada and is looking into Australia and the United Kingdom. In the U.S. alone, Graham said there could be as many as 1,000 locations at full build out.
“We definitely hit a winning formula where we let the kids have fun; we make sure that’s part of everything we do,” Graham said. “We get the kids engaged in what they want but also teach them something real, tangible. It’s not paint-by-numbers stuff.”
The camps are built around a two- or three-year process where students learn skills in coding, video game design, app development or robotics.
Driving part of the growth is a suite of software developed by Graham’s parent company FranchiCzar, which streamlines transactions between each franchise and headquarters, and a dashboard called the Dojo that manages information for each camp site.
“No franchise works without a culture of helping each other, so we’ve made it easy to make that happen,” Graham said. “Once we had everything in place for 5, 10 franchises, it was easy to scale up from there.”
The camp business is not new to Graham, a Pearland resident and father of two. His first was Coder Camps, designed for adult learners. It was sold to a group in Arizona and was later folded into Woz-U, a for-profit technical education initiative led by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.
“I’m a builder, and Code Ninjas is the best idea I’ve ever had. I don’t see myself leaving it anytime soon,” he said.