Nine years ago, Vivian Tai started her business, Computer Adventures, to provide tech classes to children ages 6-16. Her company offers 30 different STEM-based courses on topics like Robotics, Computer Programming, App Building, Digital Graphics, 3D Printing, and Game Design. These after-school courses are now offered at 30-40 local elementary and middle schools. The company also runs a summer camp each summer, and offers private events. One would never guess from its overwhelming growth that Computer Adventures was not initially a planned business venture, but an idea that took on a life of its own.
It started as a spark of inspiration while Vivian helped her own kids with their school projects. At the time, Vivian had a full-time job of her own. But she found that as her kids got older, the best way to spend quality time with them was by getting engaged in their educational endeavors, “even though it was like having a second full-time job,” she laughs heartily.
When her youngest daughter became involved with robotics, Vivian was amazed. This was the magic place where learning and fun met. She had the same experience when her middle daughter worked on a movie-based project. And things really exploded when her son asked if he could learn how to make video games. Vivian wasn’t sure her 9-year-old child could grasp the logic involved in such a complex task, but she found videogame coding software nonetheless, and they gave it a try.
“When my son was successful, I was convinced he was a genius. But then, kids in the neighborhood caught wind of the fact that he was creating his own video games, and they wanted to try too. The next thing I know, I have 4 kids in my dining room, learning how to create games. All of these 9-year-old children just got it. This generation has the motivation and the ability to understand this stuff. It amazes me.” Vivian recalls.
Vivian was the perfect candidate for this role. A driven woman with infectious energy and a great sense of humor, she was born in Malaysia. She came to the U.S. as a junior, and attended Las Vegas High School, where she was able to graduate early, and immediately begin studying electrical engineering at CCNY. This collegiate path gave her the opportunity to pursue a career in Network Engineering, as well as an H1 Visa as needed. Around this time, she met her husband and the pair had three kids, while both continuing to work full-time.
But, by the time she found herself in a dining room full of coding 9-year-olds, Vivian saw that there was a great need for fun, interactive, STEM education, and a hunger and readiness on the part of the local children. By this point, her job description at work had changed in a way that was less satisfactory to her. When her company executed a third round of layoffs, Vivian jumped at the chance to take a severance package.
Vivian’s business has grown exponentially in the years since. Vivian currently employees 20-25 teachers, 2 full-time staff members, and is in the process of hiring more staff this year.
“I love what I do. We’re filling a gap that there was a need for. And there is no child who is too naughty. Even the most challenging students may be tough in the moment, but once they feel confident and successfully have learned what they can do, you realize, ‘that was so fun.’ I wish I could split myself in two just to double the joy.”
Vivian credits Women’s Enterprise Development Center with helping her to grow her business, and simplifying the way it runs. After attending WEDC’s Business Growth Accelerator course, she reflected
“WEDC helped me secure my MWBE (Minority and Women Business Enterprise) certification. This immediately qualified me for project approval in the amount of $125K. Since then, I’ve been working on another 3 MWBE projects!
The WEDC classes were insightful and practical. After learning about CRMs, I implemented a CRM system for my business, and it has been working well to manage my client base better. I also learned a better system to write proposals. This used to be a struggle, but the guidelines from the class are a timesaver.
WEDC Attendees also learn from each other. For example, As I spoke to a construction business owner, I learned that I could use the same software to schedule my teachers.
I am looking forward to attending more training sessions with WEDC, and I have not been this excited about expanding my business, since I started my business years ago.”