A smart school management system that was born in Poland and it’s not going to stop. The company plans to expand its business area to the UK & the USA! Adam and his team prove that school can be both innovative and easy-manageable. Discover their incredible story in the #3 episode of our Merchants to Follow series.
Straal: From a childhood memory to… running a well prosperous business. Can you tell us more about your journey to create ActiveNow?
Franciszek Olejnik, Growth Lead at ActiveNow: The idea for ActiveNow was born a few years earlier. Adam, the founder and the CEO of the company, had the opportunity to observe his parents while running a swimming school. As a result, he knew that his business should be based on the real needs of schools. From January 2018, since the very beginning, just on the early stage of development we based on the feedback of the first customers, and now, at the beginning of 2021, we already own a database of over 500 schools we work with. We constantly strive to improve ActiveNow and to reach out more widely to our customers in Poland and abroad.
S:What’s the company’s target market and the biggest challenges right now?
AN: Our target group is primarily schools that conduct various types of extracurricular activities. The three largest types of schools are language, swimming and dancing school. In addition, there are also programming schools, art schools and dedicated sports clubs (e.g. gymnastics or combat sports).
The biggest challenges are now related to the expansion of our business beyond the borders of the country and the COVID-19 restrictions regulating the conduct of classes by various schools.
S: Could you describe your business model and explain why you chose it?
AN: Our business model is a classic SaaS. The products are offered in a subscription model with automatically renewable payment every month. Such a business model not only makes scaling up really easy but also gives flexibility to our customers in terms of collaboration.
S: What is your competition? How many companies offer that type of service?
AN: In fact, there are several companies with a similar product to ActiveNow. Most of them highly specialise in a specific type of classes, for example, support one type of activities only. However, our main advantage lies both in simplification and the level of advanced management that we provide: flexibility and full adaptation to the needs of the customer regardless of the industry. The next one is direct customer service. To be honest, as our competition you can even include several tools such as Excel or Google Sheets. In our opinion, dedicated management school software (like ActiveNow) meets the needs of customers way better than this, but we are aware of the fact that many schools still operate in Microsoft or Google.
S: How online payments help you with running your business?
AN: Thanks to Straal solutions, we’re able to collect payments from our clients automatically on a monthly basis. This makes the operational side of running a business much smoother – we can easily assume that an additional staff would be needed to supervise as many as 500 transfers per month – so only individual issues related to the transactions (e.g. lack of funds on the account) are solved individually with clients. It also makes it relatively easy to start cooperation with a new client by paying for the subscription directly by card during the meeting.
S:What’re the plans for the future development of ActiveNow?
AN: Speaking of development, we’re obviously focusing on our homeland (Poland) but at this point we are also starting new sales processes in the UK and we plan to enter the american market soon. In the meantime, we’re constantly working on the development of our products based on the current needs of customers.
The Covid-19 effect: from decreasing 40% during the 1st pandemic wave to getting back on track by the end of the summer.
S: How have you been coping with the COVID-19?
AN: At the beginning of the pandemic, our clients could use, for example, text messages to quickly contact the participants of the classes, and ActiveNow certainly also helped in the financial closure of the semester – which made using our system useful all the time. Of course, during the suspension of classes in April and May, about 40% of customers suspended their subscription. Some schools, however, switched to the online format with the classes – it’s one of the few functionalities we introduced then that helped in the organization of such classes. We were able to return to the pre-pandemic scale at the end of the 2020 summer holidays.
‘In general, we are on the second line of companies affected by the pandemic – the restrictions that regulated, for example, swimming pools directly blocked the customers and as a result they affected us’ says Franciszek Olejnik from ActiveNow
ActiveNow in numbers
500+ satisfied schools
65 000+ active users
250 000+ signed up for classes
S: What about the future? Are you an optimist or a realist or maybe both?
AN: The best news is the constantly growing demand for extracurricular activities: over 70% of children in Poland attend to such activities!
On the one hand, one could expect standardization and consolidation of this sector, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that educational services are largely based on the individual relationship with the participants of the classes (many school owners actively conduct classes) as well as knowledge and the teacher’s attitude.
There are, of course, several franchises operating on the market – but most often based on dedicated and tailored know-how that makes assessing the direction of the market development extremely difficult – at the moment it looks like it will remain more dispersed and there will be many new schools due to relatively low entry barriers and high demand for services.
From our perspective, we are ready to service both individual local schools and several dozen franchises. The development of the market itself in the context of constantly high demand is the most favorable for us.
ActiveNow – a smart management system for extracurricular activities. It facilitates the management by automatic payments, simplifying communication with clients or supporting the operational activities of the institution (attendance, enrollment for classes, homework). They want to bring schools and sports clubs to the digital world.
Straal – an international provider of payment, optimization and fraud prevention solutions for future-minded businesses proud to be AciveNow’s payment provider. Thanks to our comprehensive suite of products we’re able to make accepting digital payments easier, as well as more effective and secure and support their dream of digital & modern education.