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How Code Camp staged its comeback to teach kids code after a devastating 2020

- March 3, 2021 2 MIN READ
Code Camp co-founders Hayley Markham and Ben Levi with the next generation of coders. Photo: Jacquie Manning
Code Camp was one of Australia’s fastest growing social impact and education ventures when the coronavirus pandemic hit 12 months ago.

Founder Ben Levi had spent six years building the country’s largest STEM school holiday programs, teaching more than 100,000 Australian students to design and code apps, online games, digital worlds, and websites.

The business had 16 permanent staff and more than 1,000 casual employees when the Easter 2020 holiday programs vanished overnight and then 90% of the year’s revenue disappeared faster that you can say “lockdown”.

“We were faced with owing parents  hundreds of thousands of dollars that we had already committed for the upcoming cancelled school holidays, and an HQ team who had been with us for many years,” Levi recounts.

“My business partner Hayley Markham and I were not prepared to let the team down and put our Australian business into hibernation, but that meant that we had one  option; to fight for our company, to drive new revenue streams to get us through the other side of COVID.”

Like many in that moment, Levi and Markham had to make quick decisions. They put Code Camp’s international operations in the UK and USA on hold (they’re hoping to reinstate UK classes this month) and shifted their focus to online learning and product development.  

It worked in a moment where kids had already shifted suddenly to online learning. The new online Code Camp opened its digital doors to children who otherwise couldn’t attend the physical camps and more than 15,000 sign signed up, generating around $400,000 in revenue through a tough winter for many. 

“Between our online revenue and JobKeeper, we were able to retain our head office staff and focus on a brighter future,” Levi said.

Hayley and I realised that while we had built Australia’s largest coding programs, we had  actually built the systems, teams, logistics, and operations to run trusted holiday camps and after-school programs at more than 200 locations around Australia and internationally. We knew we had the opportunity to invest in expansion  and growth for when kids would be back attending school holiday programs again.”  

Code Camp’s new summer holiday offerings included DJ Camp, Animation Camp and YouTube Creators Camp. It worked.

Code Camp 2.0 saw a 100% increase in attendance per location, alongside “outstanding” feedback from kids and parents. By the start of 2021, the company was off JobKeeper and now the duo have set their sights on ambitious revenue targets over the next 15 months, hoping to generate more than $10 million in revenue by FY22 – a 57% jump on the pre-COVID annual revenue.  

“Our focus has always been to inspire kids to be creative with technology,” Levi said.

“We are back, we are growing,  we are hiring new staff, and we are excited to offer more exceptional camps to kids across Australia. We are proud to empower and educate Australian students with tech skills of tomorrow.” 

Code Camp also has corporate sponsorship from the likes of Westpac, HP, Google Chromebook, and Intel.

As the business rebuilds, it’s offering programs in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane for the April school holidays, catering to up to 5,000 kids in 300 classrooms. On top of that, Code Camp will continue to run its at-home online programs

For details, see codecamp.com.au