South Bend Code School Adds Revenue Stream with Code Works Dev Shop

When South Bend Code School launched in 2015, its founders were looking for a way to teach kids career skills that might enable them to find a job without a college degree. As that effort grew and gained popularity, people in the community began reaching out to SBCS seeking software development work.

“As we were getting going, we realized the program was going to be a big thing,” says SBCS co-founder Alex Sejdinaj. “We asked ourselves questions about our future growth. What do we do when people ask us to build things? There weren’t a ton of tech companies in the area, and, at the time, we kept our focus narrow.”

After the code school held its first cohort, Sejdinaj says there was an outpouring of residents who wanted to contribute to the school’s efforts, which involve teaching underserved kids ages 7 to 18 how to code in a variety of programming languages. So much so, that for the school’s second cohort, there were more instructors than kids.

“Six months later, we realized that we had a potential employment base—maybe we should do more,” he adds. “So we started doing paid projects.”

In 2016, the code school decided to spin out a small group of developers to do “precision work” for local tech companies that lacked the muscle to do it in-house. That team eventually morphed into a separate venture called Code Works, with a small staff consisting of professional coders as well as interns from SBCS.

Sejdinaj says the plan is to align what’s being taught at the code school with demand from Code Works customers, and provide an additional revenue stream to the for-profit school. He says Code Works has competed projects for Indiana companies, as well as those from startup hubs like 1871 in Chicago and Raleigh-Durham, and Techstars in New York.

“The really cool thing is that we’ve found our way into hot startup communities,” Sejdinaj explains, adding that the company’s “Rust Belt work ethic”has proved valuable to customers. “We’d like to keep doing that. If you want to start a project or company that needs more software development bandwidth, we can step in.”

Sejdinaj says that in the future, the bootstrapped Code Works would like to grow and take on more customers. “We’re excited about the interest generated by our tech talent,” he says. “But we want to grow in the right way. We’re more of a technology partner—we don’t want to be a vendor, we want to solve tough problems.”

Sarah Schmid Stevenson is the editor of Xconomy Detroit/Ann Arbor. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET_AA

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