We talked to: The Community Classroom
We are thrilled to speak with Megan Allen of The Community Classroom and hear about her business and services.
Hi, Megan! Could you give us an overview of your business and services?
Of course! So I was working for an education nonprofit out of DC for three years before Covid hit. It was already a rocky time for education funding in the grant world, and then the pandemic was a one-two punch. I was let go at the beginning of the pandemic, as the nonprofit almost went belly up, and I then used that time, while on unemployment, to not only check out opportunities, but also write some business plans and flesh out some ideas I had. I also had quite a few phone calls with friends and family requesting help with remote learning in the pandemic, and I saw that many of my former graduate students at Mount Holyoke College were losing their secondary streams of income as new teachers—the waitressing, after-school-care, and bartending gigs that teachers take on to make ends meet. So it all began to come together and synthesize around the idea of supporting kids with their learning and helping them to gain confidence in their studies by connecting them to these amazing teachers I had in my life who needed second jobs. Then, when Lexi from High Five Books alerted me to the fact that they were moving and their old space would be available, it just felt meant to be.
As of now, we have 27 certified teachers working with us, as well as two junior tutors who work under the supervision of certified teachers. We support families both locally and nationally, pre-K through college, in all subjects. I initially started offering services for K through 5th grade only, but due to a fantastic network of teachers, I am now able to offer support to kids of all ages. I essentially operate as a matchmaker and clearing house, collecting information from students and families and asking what they would like in a teacher, what their hobbies are, etc. I then evaluate which teacher might be the best fit, and send a couple of resumes off to the families for their consideration. This is a resource to help families navigate the ups and downs, from a student who is motivated but failing one particular subject to a student who needs some help staying on track during the pandemic. I have loved building and curating my own team, and helping to encourage strong, positive teacher-student relationships.
How are things going overall for the business at this point in time?
Things are going well! I love working with teachers from all parts of life. We are definitely busy and getting great feedback, and we have a lot of students that are phasing out because they are maturing and doing well on their own. And of course, that’s the goal, ultimately—coaching and encouraging students to thrive and “outgrow” us.
What are some challenges you endured, and what are some positive things that you’ve learned/that have come out of the past (nearly) two years?
Every day brings a different challenge, but also a new learning experience. I’ve adjusted my mindset to realize that everyone is going through their own thing, especially in these crazy times with the pandemic. I try not to take it personally and practice grace and forgiveness. It can be difficult to let it go, as I’m very much a type A, but I also have to realize I cannot control everything or manage everything on my own. I have to rely on my amazing team, as well as the wonderfully supportive community I both live and work in.
I don’t think I wouldn’t have opened the classroom here in Florence if I hadn’t known how many incredible business owners were here, offering their support, advice, and friendship. It’s such a special community, with so many women business owners who truly support and care about each other. And the families we’ve gotten to know, along with word of mouth and referrals, are just amazing. The community support has been great. I don’t know that I’d find that just anywhere-–this is a very unique place to grow a small business.
As a business owner, what do you do to unwind/relax/rejuvenate?
I’m a runner, but I must say, I don’t love cold weather running! I do practice yoga regularly with an online program called Online Fitness RX, which meets daily via Zoom. I also love hanging out with my family, playing with my two-year-old daughter Cora, being around friends, and traveling when I’m able to do so. I just derive a lot of joy and energy from being around the people in my community.
Is there anything you’re excited about regarding the business in upcoming months, from events to growth opportunities?
We started doing a monthly spot on WWLP’s Mass Appeal, which is really fun. We are also collaborating with local photographer Tiffany Chapman on the Resilient Project, which will be focusing on women-owned businesses in Florence and telling their unique stories. We are partnering with the Chamber and DNA to showcase the project as we sponsor an Arrive at Five in April. During January, February, and March, Tiffany will be doing a composite portrait involving three business owners each month. There will also be an accompanying podcast called “Monday Moxie”, on which the owners of the businesses (some of which will include High Five Books, Wild Chestnut Cafe, Cycle Pottery, Marcella NYC, Little Roots, The Community Classroom, and Tiffany Chapman Photography) and Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra will be interviewed. There’s definitely some great creative energy as well as some fun events to look forward to, including creating a Little Free Math Library outside the Classroom to accompany the Little Free Library, which will offer families math games and supplies.