Cracking the Code

PROVO, Utah – Jan 14, 2019 – According to the, the United States has nearly half a million open computing jobs, compared to just fifty thousand students who graduated in computer science in the last year. The education system has yet to catch up with the massive demand for skilled coders, and parents can struggle to find ways to educate children in computer programming. Parents’ frustration led BYU Marriott School of Business students to found Skill Struck, a company that teaches children how to code by providing them with a personal instructor. 

Skill Struck was born in the entrepreneurship junior core at BYU Marriott, where professors emphasize the importance of identifying pain points in the entrepreneurial process. For entrepreneurs, pain points are not problems; they are opportunities to provide products or services that can alleviate, or entirely eliminate, problems or inconveniences that consumers face.

Entrepreneurship professors encourage students to constantly search for pain points in all facets of life, and Skill Struck founder and CEO Parker Gentry, then a junior in the entrepreneurship program at BYU Marriott, took that advice to heart.

When Gentry was beginning the entrepreneurship junior core, his younger brother, Max, had just returned from a week-long coding camp in California. At the camp, Max learned the basics of writing code and even made a simple video game. “My parents loved it because he wasn’t actually playing video games,” Gentry says. “He was doing something more productive, developing a skill.” 

However, when Gentry’s parents began searching for ways to help Max learn more about coding, they were disappointed with what they found. “At that time, I noticed my parents had a pain point,” Gentry says. “They started Googling things like ‘coding for teens,’ and what they found were a lot of websites with software and video lessons.” 

Such tools might be helpful for adults with the willpower to sit through long coding lectures, but Gentry’s parents knew Max would react much better to a more personalized training. That’s when Gentry saw the chance to apply principles taught in his entrepreneurship courses to a real-world situation. 

“In the junior core of BYU Marriott's entrepreneurship program, we talk all about understanding customer pain points, and then we try to figure out what the current options are to address those pain points,” Gentry says. “From there we get creative in determining what is missing from the current options.”

Gentry concluded that the kind of personalized training his younger brother received at summer coding camp might be the element that current coding instruction options lacked. Emboldened by what he had learned in the junior core, Gentry began creating coding curriculum with his cousin, Brian Rasmussen, who currently studies information systems at BYU Marriott.

Armed with this curriculum, the two set out to teach coding to youth at summer camps in California. “What I learned in the junior core is you can think and Google as much as you want, but you don’t get anywhere until you actually go out and do something,” Gentry says.

Gentry and Rasmussen aimed to answer two questions during their summer experiment: would parents be willing to pay for the course, and would kids interact well with the curriculum? By the time the Fall 2017 semester came around, the pair could confidently answer both questions in the affirmative. “We learned so much that summer and even made some money,” Gentry says. “And with that money, we were able to start exploring other business models.”

When Gentry returned to classes that fall, he found mentors in entrepreneurship professors such as Nick Greer, Nile Hatch, and Chad Carlos. Concepts he learned from professors that year, both in and out of class, helped Gentry and Rasmussen lay the groundwork for Skill Struck’s current business model. 

After graduating in April 2018, Gentry decided to make Skill Struck his sole focus. Today, the company operates on a monthly subscription model and offers coding instruction from its team of “skillstructors.” “The BYU Marriott entrepreneurship program was phenomenal and definitely helped make Skill Struck into what it is today,” Gentry says. 

The Skill Struck team poses for a photo
The Skill Struck team poses for a picture at RevRoad in Provo, Utah. Photo credit: Claire Gentry
A boy learns coding skills on his laptop
A Skill Struck student learns how to code on his laptop at home. Photo credit: Claire Gentry
Two girls learn how to code on their computers
Two Skill Struck students help each other learn the basics of coding. Photo credit: Claire Gentry
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Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Carson Perry