Silicon Valley SBDCSan Jose, CA

“We had no idea that running a company was so complex, especially after hiring several employees.The SBDC counselors really help us think about the bigger picture and transition my thinking from an entrepreneur to a managed organization to achieve efficiency and growth.” 

Jackson Chow

Company Profile:
Communication Academy offers a series of hands-on, fun-filled public speaking, debate, reading, writing and listening classes to elementary, middle school and high school students in the Silicon Valley. The Chows have crafted an innovative program for students by incorporating the best practices from college communication classes and professional presentation training, and carefully adapted them for younger students. Their process takes the fear out of public speaking and promotes critical thinking skills.

Owners Jackson and Karen Chow both have strong marketing backgrounds and knew first hand how important communication skills are in business. They wanted to originally help their son, who at the time was in 7th grade, build communication skills towards his goal of becoming a lawyer. After some research, Jackson discovered there was not a program available to develop students’ communication skills and at the same time increase a learner’s self-confidence and self-esteem. The Chow’s had discovered a need that was not being met in the marketplace; so they started their business in the Fall of 2002. Students aged 5 – 17 can now gain knowledge of, and experience with, essential communication skills at the Communication Academy.

Challenges:
Prepare for and managing growth in terms of system development/situation analysis, traditional and Web-based marketing, financial analysis and hiring know-how. The Chows were turning down opportunities because they were not properly positioned for, nor managing, their business growth.

Actions Taken:
First, met with a Silicon Valley SBDC Counselor who identified organizational processes that needed to be systemized with roles and responsibilities. Second, met another SBDC counselor to better understand the financial position of the business (data mining for investing in some classes and not others, tax pros and cons of an S-Corp, and risk/exposure mitigation for his accounting processes). Third, the SBDC counseled the Chows on hiring, compensation, and an employee and contractor retention program.

Results:
Following engagement with the Silicon Valley SBDC, the business hired two full-time employees and a third part-time employee. It has also hired and maintained about 20-25 contractors for professional instruction. Communication Academy has experienced rapid growth and is looking at additional locations around the Bay Area.

Communication Academy offers parents the opportunity to help their children to communicate better at a right, young age. They help high school students to be more competitive in speech and debate competitions.

Also, they have recently expanded to assist professional adults to feel more confident delivering a well-organized presentation.

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Funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA or HSU Sponsored Programs Foundation.