Entrepreneur: How STEM Sports CEO is taking his love of sports to the classroom

This article was originally published by the Phoenix Business Journal

By Barbara Smith  – Editorial Intern, Phoenix Business Journal a day ago

Jeff Golner always thought of himself as a right-brained person, learning and expressing himself through more tactile means. 

When the opportunity presented itself to buy STEM Sports in late 2017, Golner knew it was the right fit. Using a mixture of personal savings, credit cards and help from family and friends totaling $50,000, he officially took over in 2018. 

“It’s education in the form of play,” said Golner. “Real-life application is the best.” 

The entire mission of STEM Sports is to make concepts in science, technology, engineering and math easier to digest for K-8 students through hands-on, sport-centric activities. One of its most popular activities is a module that uses basketball to teach students about force and gravity. 

Despite Golner’s background in the sports world, he had to nail down the education aspect of the company. Before acquiring the company, Jeff ran the Game Operations Department for Major League Baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks from the inaugural season of 1998 until 2005 as an executive within the franchise’s Marketing Department.

“It’s corny, but I’ve had to learn about learning,” said Golner. “The power of learning and observation topics has been very useful and helpful.” 

Another obstacle for Golner and his company has been the constant trial and error for this business.

“There is a lot of disassembling and building things over in order to make them work,” said Golner. “You want to be able to do everything, but it’s also important not to sacrifice quality.”

Like most businesses, Phoenix-based STEM Sports has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. He was on track to turn his first profits this year. Generating $240,000 in revenue during 2019 — a 31% increase over 2018 — he had projected a 50% increase in revenue until schools across the country shut down before the school-year ended.

Now his revenue stream is unpredictable. He’s already used an $11,000 Paycheck Protection Program loan to cover payroll, and he also received another $10,000 grant from Phoenix Industrial Development Authority. He’s still waiting on an EIDL grant.

With the company experiencing a hiring freeze, internal operations have changed. 

“We’ve pivoted to independent contractors where needed, such as graphic designers, digital marketers, etc.,” said Golner.

In order to keep things running, STEM Sports has turned to offering free lessons for parents to supplement what students are learning through remote instruction. 

Even with an uncertain future, Golner is working hard to make sure STEM Sports is the best it can be.

“We are still creating new modules and curriculum as we’re about to release a Multi-Sport kit for K-2 students as well as STEM Golf,” he said. “It would be easy to go with the pandemic current and ride it out. Rather, we’re being very proactive, and making sure schools are aware of our curriculum opportunities for when, hopefully, school returns in the fall.”

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