The pandemic was tough for Einstein’s Workshop, an afterschool center and camp focused on science, engineering, tech and arts — topics that really require hands-on learning. The center closed entirely for a while, and when it reopened, both students and staff were slow to return. Even now, enrollment isn’t quite up to pre-pandemic levels.
Luckily, last month, Einstein’s Workshop was approved for a grant from the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation, which helps support small businesses in the state. The particular grant Einstein’s received is a crowdfunding matching grant, designed to encourage grassroots support from local residents by matching every dollar raised with two dollars from the state. The program gives preference to businesses owned by women, immigrants, and other minority or marginalized groups.
Einstein’s Workshop is owned by Rebecca Rapoport, who helped found the business over a decade ago with partner Henry Houh. Rapoport used to work for Amazon and Akamai Technologies, where she noticed firsthand that females were at a great disadvantage and represented a smaller population in high tech. Houh and Rapoport worked to create classes ranging from architecture to Scratch programming, with an emphasis on empowering all kids, regardless of gender or background, to explore STEM subjects.
“We try really hard to hire women and people of color so that all kids will see role models that look like them,” Rapoport said. “We also work hard to have a diversity of classes that will appeal to kids with different interests, not just the traditionally male dominated STEM classes many similar businesses have.”
“We get families where the parents themselves are techies and they want their kids to love it the way they do, or we get families where the parents are not techies and they know their kids are interested but they don’t know how to encourage it,” Rapoport said. “Whatever the kids are interested in, we kind of work backwards from that. We think that if kids are having fun, it’s easy to teach them.”
Rapoport left the business for a few years for personal reasons, but came back a little over a year ago, when Houh was ready to move on, “in order to keep Einstein’s going and help it recover from the pandemic,” she said. Rapoport’s daughter Allanna, who was eight when Einstein’s first opened, deferred college by two years to work with her mother to help rebuild the business. Rapoport credit’s Allanna for pushing her to keep Einstein’s going. “Her persistence, and willingness to help the recovery, are what made it possible for me to come back,” Rapoport said.
As of Sept. 19, Einstein’s has raised more than $14,000 — surpassing their goal of $13,296. The matching funds will help keep this small, local business afloat.