How Casandra Stewart And Christina Walker Built A Platform For After-School Enrichment Programs

By Amit Chowdhry ● June 30, 2019
  • Homeroom, a convenient platform for after-school enrichment programs, announced it raised $3.5 million in seed funding recently
  • This is the story behind the company

Homeroom is a convenient platform for after-school enrichment programs that recently raised $3.5 million in seed funding to scale operations and expand offerings. This round of funding was led by Forerunner Ventures with participation from Felicis Ventures, Precursor Ventures, and Kapor Capital. The angel investors who participated in this round include Deborah Quazzo (GSV partner), Tyler Bosmeny (Clever CEO), Jared Simon (HotelTonight founder), and Max Rhodes (co-founder and CEO of Faire).

There are 5.7 million elementary school students enrolled in after-school programs in the U.S. and parents spend an average of $4,000 per child on these programs — which creates a $23 billion national market opportunity. However, the demand remains largely unserved by today’s marketplace. For every child who is enrolled in an after-school program, there are two waiting to get it. And across the U.S., over 40% of children who are not currently enrolled in an after-school program would be if it was available.

Some of the existing challenges for after-school activities include date coordination with vendors, insurance tracking, maintaining quality of classes, and ensuring student safety. And the demands of these programs have left PTA volunteer organizers frustrated with a piecemeal approach to managing all parties.

Fortunately, Homeroom provides parents, vendors, and organizers with an all-in-one solution for discovering, booking, and managing after school classes hosted directly on their child’s elementary school campus. Since after-school enrichment activities on Homeroom are promoted by local PTA’s, the courses sell out immediately — which creates a healthy marketplace for vendors. And the PTA organizations vet and pre-approve all courses listed on Homeroom so parents can rest easy knowing their children are safe and are receiving valuable enrichment.

Homeroom co-founder Christina Walker is a former teacher so she knows firsthand how parents and teachers are interested in using after school as an opportunity to expose children to enrichment activities not found in the daily curriculum.

And Homeroom co-founder and CEO Casandra Espinoza Stewart is a former venture capitalist who is familiar with the rise of marketplace companies as a way of creating flexible opportunities in today’s workforce.

Walker and Stewart were classmates at Stanford when they realized how important it was for providing children with an opportunity to learn new subjects and for creating a seamless transition for working parents to keep their child on site end of the workday.

“Dual income homes have become the norm in the U.S., and after-school programs are an expensive necessity for many families,” said Stewart. “We’ve taken an inefficient, fragmented market and brought it online, creating a streamlined platform that provides ease of access for everyone.”

School budget cuts have been resulting in a decline in subjects like art and music being part of the school day curriculum. But with Homeroom, it enables PTA enrichment organizers in all types of districts with a turnkey platform for building robust after-school programs and providing all students with access to these important subject areas that have proven benefits.

“Homeroom is a game-changer for our after-school enrichment program,” explained Prisca Ekkins — who is a PTA enrichment organizer at Chabot Elementary in Oakland, California. “We’ve received extremely positive feedback about the simplicity and professional feel of the platform from parents and vendors.”

In Homeroom’s first month of inception, Homeroom surpassed an annual gross merchandise volume (GVM) run rate of $1 million dollars and 10 months later, it experienced 400% growth in school partnerships scaling to elementary schools in 5 states and over 17 districts across the U.S. even without an onsite sales team.

And 60% of schools that have partnered with Homeroom have seen an increase in their program size since joining with many others expressing interest in growing their program. There are thousands of classes being set up for the fall and Homeroom is preparing to support the families they served last school year along with thousands more.

“Family life has changed dramatically since I was in elementary school. Given the predominance of dual-income families, today’s parents need solutions for their kids after hours, but writing checks, clicking web forms and generally not knowing where their kids are doesn’t work anymore,” added Forerunner Ventures general partner Brian O’Malley. “Homeroom is building a three-sided marketplace which makes the experience better for parents, schools and the vendors that serve them. By owning what happens on campus, Homeroom is in a unique position to drive better adoption, pricing, and transparency across the industry. We’re excited to work closely with the team and help provide all students with access to high-quality programs, no matter where they live.”