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People of Charlotte: Code Ninjas Helps Youth Program their Futureby Mai-Lis Bahr on November 11, 2019
People of Charlotte, please meet Anjali Dighe. She and her husband, Vivek, are the owners of Code Ninjas. With locations in Concord and Ballantyne, Code Ninjas provides a fun and engaging environment where kids learn computer coding. Students advance from “white-belt” through “black-belt,” similar to how they would in martial arts. In just a couple of years, the Dighes have created a thriving business that is making a difference in our community.
When did you move to Charlotte and what brought you here?
We moved to Charlotte in late 2017. Vivek (“Ve”) is a native Charlottean and went to Olympic High School. My family moved to Concord in the mid-80s and I went to Northwest Cabarrus High School. With a lot of family in Charlotte, we wanted to make sure our son (now 15) knew what it meant to have family in his life before he left the coop to start his own life in college. After living in Washington, D.C., for over 25 years, my husband and I decided we were also ready for a career change; one in which we could fulfill our itch to become entrepreneurs and also give back to the community we grew up in.
What led you to start Code Ninjas?
One piece of advice that all of our friends who owned companies stated was that whatever we decided to do, know that it will be a 24-hour job. With that, make sure you choose something that you can be passionate about. With our move to NC, one thing we realized was that our educational system was missing a beat when it came to STEM curriculum. We wanted to fulfill a gap, a need, and become a disrupter in the educational field to provide a resource that is right now too difficult for our schools to fulfill.
Don’t you also have a personal connection to STEM?
Our son, Deven, is a STEM kid through and through. We knew that there were a lot of kids like him who really wanted to learn about coding but didn’t know where or how to learn it, outside of YouTube or other sources on the internet. We did our research and created business plans and financial models around a few companies out there that were franchises and decided to focus on the Code Ninjas brand.
What makes your coding classes different?
What if we could harness a piece of that day to allow for students to use their creativity to learn to code by doing exactly what they are doing already… gaming? That is what drives the passion around our student population—how do you create your own app? The only way to do it, is to learn our three languages we teach, start storyboarding and developing the app, and then learn how to take it to market.
Most courses that families find in the Charlotte area for kids at this age are pretty much driven by either block coding or are very short-term classes that last a few weeks. In order to develop that black-belt goal of developing and taking to market their own app, students have to learn three real languages that can take 3 to 4 years to complete. This time creates a community full of students who create long-lasting friendships built around a passion. Our parents also partake in that community and contribute with their experiences and excitement around seeing the successes of their children.
You have exciting plans for the future, as you grow your business. Can you tell discuss your upcoming initiatives?
Currently, we are looking to work with several corporations around the Charlotte area to provide opportunities to those students who have the drive and passion but don’t have the means to partake in our program. We look forward to working with our professional community to drive the conversation about the needs that our future workforce will have and fulfill the need for skill sets that our children have to have as they work towards their own professional futures. We have to close the income gap and increase the economic mobility not just of the adults in our community, but also of the next generation of leaders within our community.
What are your thoughts on girls and STEM?
One of my personal goals is to really drive a conversation around young girls joining the program so we can continue to close the disparity of education for boys and girls. If we do not drive more young women into these STEM programs, we will continue to see an increase in the wage gap between males and females in the future. Creating relationships within the communities with the Girl Scout Troops and Girls Who Code programs in addition to working alongside non-profits such as the Dottie Rose Foundation and Smart Girls HQ, we can #affectchange for our young girls across the Queen City.
What are some of your favorite things about living and working in the Queen City?
One of my family’s favorite hobbies is to cook. We live to eat and do not eat to live! We also travel to try new places. Coming from the DC area where different types of restaurants are plentiful, we were pleased to find that Charlotte has some amazing restaurants as well! Food is always a great conversation to have with our students, our staff, and our parents.
Charlotte is an incredible community. It has all of the charm of a small city with a lot of the benefits of a large one. Living in the Queen City community for 3 years now, we have bonded with amazing people—both personally and professionally—who have either lived here all their lives or have moved here from another place. The sports, the weather, the people, the arts and music scenes, the food, the events, the culture—what is there not to like!
For more information, visit the Code Ninja website.