Fiona Holmstrom is on a mission to inspire a new generation of innovators and make STEM education more accessible for all through her EdTech startup – STEM Punks. As part of our entrepreneurial alumni profile series, Fiona reflects on her journey of overcoming the fear of rejection and failure that first held her back – to the success of becoming the director of her own company.
1. In 10 words or less, describe your business:
STEM education for school-aged children that is curriculum-aligned & industry-linked.
2. How is it different to competitors?
Everything we do at STEM Punks is about real-world problem-solving. Research shows that 75% of the fastest-growing job opportunities require STEM skills (PwC Report April 2015).In addition, industries are crying out for STEM skills to cover future resource needs that traditional education does not meet.
Our business model relies on constant innovation to stay relevant. For example, developing our STEM education tools in IoT (Internet of Things), drone coding, and autonomous vehicles creates immersive learning experiences with curriculum-linked learning outcomes, enabling us to reach a broader market.
Content creation for our STEM Punks TV platform, similar in style to Netflix, is produced in-house at the studio we built during COVID as we pivoted from in-person educational programs to online. With help from a Mythbusters Executive Producer, we produced ten episodes of STEM Punks Explorer, which provides industry links for primary schools and is delivered freely. This is just one of the shows that will be available on the app early next year.
3. What’s the most difficult lesson you’ve learnt?
How to pivot during a global pandemic! When the COVID-19 crisis hit, the immediate impact for STEM Punks was severe. In under two weeks, we lost eight months of revenue. While the need for education was still there, schools closed and we could not reach school students and teachers in person. So our online model was born, and we will never go back to how we operated pre-COVID.
4. What’s your greatest achievement?
I want girls to take the stage in STEM as often as boys do. Having just one mum or dad email us and say we got their daughter interested in STEM is a win. Having just one teacher say they feel more confident implementing STEM in their classroom is a win. Having someone from a marginalised community or minority group give us feedback that they never thought they could participate in STEM is a win.
5. What values are important to you in business?
Honesty and integrity. Being able to look after clients respectfully, regardless of whether they are buying something from me or not, is something I’ve always held dear. I enjoy going above and beyond and treating people the way I like to be treated, with exceptional customer service.
6. What advice would you have given your younger self?
Don’t be afraid to do what others are not doing. People don’t become entrepreneurs by following the crowd. Create your own sector. Be a pioneer. Don’t be afraid to fail. Fail fast and fail forward. I also love telling people there’s no need to sell yourself, just be yourself. Get out of your comfort zone, for nothing of value usually comes from staying in your comfort zone.
7. What advice would you share with aspiring entrepreneurs?
Have a plan. Not just a business plan, but a marketing plan is essential for the long haul. Get help to implement this if it’s not your strong point. Insource where you can to save money - but outsource the important things like good marketing and financial plans and advice. Arm yourself with advice from people who have done what you are setting out to do. Do your due diligence. Ask questions. Think creatively. A strategic growth plan is also critical for mapping out the first five years. Make big audacious goals by all means, but make sure there are attainable mini-goals to achieve along the way.
8. What impact would you like to have on the world?
I would love to see a world where gender disparity no longer exists, where women have seats at the table wherever decisions are made. Where for every male leader, there’s a female counterpart. For every male professional sporting team there’s a female equivalent with equal pay. Where girls worldwide have access to quality education and don’t live in fear of oppression because of their gender.
More about Fiona
Fiona Holmstrom completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Creative Writing) from QUT in 2017. Currently, she is the director and co-founder of STEM Punks – a company dedicated to ensuring STEM education is available and accessible to everyone.