South Bend Code School, South Bend Code Works & Give Grove
From a young age, Alex Sejdinaj wanted to help make the world a better place. For a long time, she thought that meant becoming a doctor. It wasn’t until she was in college at the University of Notre Dame that – with a nudge from a counselor – she realized her true passion. She can make the world a better place through coding. This developed into three organizations South Bend Code School, South Bend Code Works, and Give Grove.
“What unites all three companies is that they’re all mission driven organizations,” Alex said. “We started all of them out of noticing a need or a problem that we felt passionate about and knew that we could use technology to help solve – or at least help improve.”
In summer of 2015, Alex started South Bend Code School with her two co-founders – her husband, also named Alex Sejdinaj, and Chris Frederick. The school started with the intention to teach children how to code, but once the pandemic hit, the organization pivoted to include adult learners. It offers a free educator program where the Code School will come to a school and teach a team of educators coding skills, so they can in turn teach it in their classrooms.
“It’s pretty exciting getting to launch it and just being able to help lower the barrier to entry for learning how to code, and then, in particular, being able to help educators as well because you’re able to reach more students that way,” said Alex. “Teachers already have enough on their plates. The fact that Indiana has a state mandate for students to be learning how to code in school – K through 12 – that puts a lot of pressure on teachers. With the training, they get curriculum and support throughout the school year. Being able to provide that feels incredibly needed at this time.”
South Bend Code Works came to fruition about a year after the Code School. The digital product studio partners with companies to help fulfill their technology needs. One of the biggest components has been their technology assistance grants, which help small businesses up their technology. The Digital Storefront grants develop websites for small businesses.
“It started with the pandemic, when a lot of businesses had to close their doors,” Alex said. “Unfortunately, many didn’t have an online presence and so their ability to continue operations didn’t exist. We started this grant program originally with the City of South Bend to be able to create websites for these businesses and set them up with different tools and systems to help their business processes run more easily.”
The program has since grown with a new partnership with Boone County, Indiana, when the area created a similar grant.
The third endeavor from Alex and her team is Give Grove. A fundraising platform, Give Grove aims to be simple and fun for not just the organization, but donors as well.
“Our logo was a lemon and so we like to say that we make fundraising easy peasy lemon squeezy. You know, just to make it fun,” she said. “I think fun is a big part of the platform. We want it to feel enjoyable for the organizations as well as for the donors.”
It includes a gamification component and fun graphics and colors. But the key feature is in its flexibility and affordability for organizations of all sizes.
Alex finds a great deal of support and collaboration as part of a team of co-founders. She sees being married to one of her co-founders a benefit, especially since she’s navigating being a first-time mom and managing three growing businesses. Their son, Isaiah, was born in July.
‘You always have your partner – your collaborator – there with you,” she said. “I’d really say that collaboration piece in having co-founders is incredibly helpful. Being able to talk through ideas as well as not being the only person responsible for solving them. You know it helps take some of the pressure off of your back and knowing that you have other people to share this with.”
For Alex, the future of her organizations falls under one main goal – growing accessibility to technology.
“Code School is continuing to be able to reach more people and being able to empower them with the knowledge of how to use technology,” she said. “We also are working with adults; we have a course called Intro to Careers in Code. It’s a free virtual course, so adults from anywhere can be able to join a weekly zoom call with our coding instructor and learn real world coding skills and build projects. Code Works continues to make technology resources accessible to help more people and businesses. With Give Grove, we continue to help mission-driven organizations with our technology. Accessibility to technology is our goal across the board.”