Updated: Apr 29
Damen Fletcher is the founder of Train of Thought, a program that gives every child access to the wonderful game of Chess. The purpose of Train of Thought is to give children the tools they need to make the right decisions in chess, but also in life.
Giving back to his childhood community
Growing up in Compton, Damen lived in a place of frequent violence and drug use. He wanted to bring a positive influence to Compton and other cities so that kids and adults can find their own path. Damen’s goal is to teach Chess all over the world and make it accessible to anyone, no matter their background.
Value sells itself
When you build something that is valuable and that people need, it will sell itself. If people see value in what you are offering, you won’t need to pitch it so hard to others.
Using social media and other business tools
Social media hasn’t been something that Damen uses often to grow the business. Instead, he always makes an effort to have conversations with new people, creating connections and sharing what he does.
In terms of hiring and advertising, they post on platforms like Indeed and use word of mouth. In the interview process, there is rarely conversation about chess itself, but rather about their values and lifestyles.
Train of Thought uses tools and resources such as Asana as a project management tool, Keep for communication, and chesskid.com to manage all of their students.
Find out more about Damen and Train of Thought at https://www.chesstrain.org/
Sean McCormick 0:00 This is Earn More Tutoring, the ultimate crowd sourced education entrepreneurship Show. This week I speak with Damen Fletcher. Damen and I talk about how he built the chess empire that includes chess clubs, private lessons and school partnerships, his experience of growing up in Compton, California, and how that informed his vision of giving back to his community, and the power of talking with others, and building relationships everywhere he goes. Damen Fletcher 0:27 Talking to people, talking to people, everywhere I go, I met them at Target. In the line, we're all waiting in line, I talk to the person behind Hey, what do you do? You know, I might, we might as well we're standing in line together, we might as well get to know each other a little bit. What do you do? Sean McCormick 0:45 You know, you know, my guest today is Damen Fletcher. Welcome, Damen. Thank you for having me. Absolutely. So I always like to start with this question. Tell us about what you do your, your business and just enlighten us. Damen Fletcher 0:59 Oh, man. So my business is about chess. My business is chess, I believe that every child should learn chess, or should get an introduction, at least, to the game of chess at some point in their life. And so I've made it my business to make sure that every child gets access to the game. Sean McCormick 1:19 I love it. And so how does that look in practice? Like, I know, I was looking to your website, you're in a lot of schools, you run classes tell us about like, what does that look like? And how do you actually, you know, make that business function, you know? Or like, how does it How does it operate so that you can do that. Damen Fletcher 1:34 So first, I'll say we're always looking for new ways to engage with kids. So you know, the ways that I mentioned are not the last or the least of it, you know, so we'll keep adding more. But we started as an after school program, you know, we if you're going to work with kids, you got to be where kids are. So we started as an after school program. And after about three years of working with different schools, principals and parents alike, started to see that we had something very special, and they wanted more kids to be exposed to it. And so we were one of the only chess programs that got into the school day as like a core subject that essentially what most what most schools did, is they replaced PE with chess. So it's like mental exercise, you know what I mean? And so that worked. And when schools more schools, you know, caught wind of it. It just spread like wildfire, all over Los Angeles. And then we started looking for ways to engage, you know, children who were not a part of the schools that we were contracted with. There were just so many parents who say, Hey, how can I get my kid interested in your in your program. And so we wanted to create a platform for them for just any parent who wants their kid to learn chess, to be able to do that. So they can engage through what we call a chess club is basically like a virtual chess club. And it's just a small group of students, various skill levels. And we all meet and we explore and study the strategies, the discipline, you know, of the game of chess, and it's super cool, man, we love it. A lot of the parents have gotten into the game because of their children, you know, that their kids are learning to play, they're getting really good. They sound all excited. And so hmm, you know, maybe maybe I can learn, you know, and so we engage with parents as well. We're doing private lessons with adults. Also, you know, so those are the main three ways we have our chess clubs, we have private lessons, and we contract with schools, and we work with schools in many different ways. But that's the base of it. Sean McCormick 3:39 Yeah, that's awesome. You know, it's so good to have. Many of our guests share, like different revenue streams, because you know, maybe one dries up for a little bit or summertime, whatever it may be. And then you got your other other options. How did you get now it sounds like schools. I mean, I'm sure you were playing chess and maybe teaching someone before you actually got a school contract. But how did you get your first contract with a school? Damen Fletcher 4:00 That's an interesting story. So I essentially just started with my old elementary school. I said, what better place to start than where I started. So that was Florence Griffith Joyner Elementary in Watts, California. A lot of people know this about me. I grew up in Compton, California, many challenges there. But I started at this small elementary school in Watson, I just walked in with my little business card and said, hey, you know, I'm having dreams of teaching kids how to play chess. I've been working on a program for a while now. And I'm just looking for an opportunity to get started. Is that something you'd be interested in? And the principal was like, yes, absolutely...
Check out the full interview below!
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