Treasure Trunk Theatre is a theatrical arts program that offers imagination-based classes, camps, and birthday parties for children. In 2013, Elisa Pupko founded Treasure Trunk after she began teaching theater classes to children she babysat. As an actor and childcare provider, Elisa saw a need for programming that could allow young children to explore their imaginations, and develop a strong sense of self. Treasure Trunk has since expanded to a flagship location in Brooklyn Heights with a staff of 25 teaching artists and classes running in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Hoboken, and online!
We sat down with Elisa to hear how using Sawyer Tools helped expand her business into a physical location and — more recently — enabled her to launch an online streaming service for preschool and elementary school-age children.
How long have you been using Sawyer Tools and how has it helped you scale your business?
I started working with Sawyer in June 2016! Before using Sawyer Tools, I was spending so much of my time making spreadsheets, PayPal button links, and many other time-intensive ways of running my business. I honestly have never looked back since switching to Sawyer! With a streamlined system, I was able to devote more of my time to thinking big, expanding our program offerings and eventually securing our own flagship location in the heart of Brooklyn. An added bonus to using Sawyer was the amazing support from the Sawyer team. The tech department is incredibly helpful and prompt whenever we run into a glitch or have a technical question and the provider support side has been invaluable with providing resources to me as a small business owner.
Prior to the coronavirus, what did your in-person offerings look like?
Before the pandemic, Treasure Trunk Theatre offered in-person classes, camps, special events, and birthday parties every day of the week! Our programs were offered at our flagship location in Brooklyn Heights and at various satellite locations across Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Hoboken. We partnered with residential buildings and community centers and ran after-school programs in local schools.
“The power of imagination is an incredible gift, and children will always be a source of infinite imagination.”
What do your offerings look like now?
In the current state of the world, online offerings are our only business. We started with free live classes via Facebook and also did a few free private virtual classes. It gave us a chance to try things out and also gain a wider audience. Our first week of virtual classes we did four live classes and learned a lot!
We are constantly reviewing and tweaking things, but I'm thankful that our creative classes made a quick and easy transition to a virtual format. We currently offer the following online options for Treasure Trunk programming:
- Imagination Club: A membership program that gives families the option to enjoy over 60 on-demand virtual classes, 3 exclusive live Zoom classes per week, and bi-monthly virtual parent nights. The membership has offerings for children ages 0-8.
- Private Classes: One-on-one classes via FaceTime
- Virtual Summer Camp: Themed digital camps — inspired by Disney movies, Harry Potter, and beloved fairy tales — that make sure summer is still packed with fun!
- Virtual Birthday Party Adventure: Themed magical fun through Zoom.
How are online classes impacting your business?
They are allowing me to continue paying my teaching artists — many who have lost their other gigs — while also staying connected with our students, both past and present. Thankfully our classes have always been rooted in the power of imagination, so there is no need for kiddos to have specific materials for our classes. We give a hint of the theme before a class in case they want to dress up or bring a fun item to the class, but the rest is left up to their imaginations.
Do you use any Sawyer Tools features for your online classes? What works well?
Absolutely! It was important to me to use Sawyer for our online classes because it allows us to build our audience and have the tools to track how things are going. We have all our live classes listed as free events in Sawyer, with optional add-ons of suggested donations if families are able to give at this time. This allows us to see our roster for each class, track the number of registrations, and follow up with families via email.
For our private class bookings, we added a "package" in our birthday party section of Sawyer Tools. This allows families to select their desired date and time for the private class, and then we can send the request for payment.
For small group classes, we create a private class listing and send the registration link out to that group of friends, allowing them to register and pay individually.
“If you have a great class, your loyal customers will continue to support you and share you with their friends.”
Summer camp is a huge topic of conversation post COVID-19. How has your transition to virtual camps been? What successes are you seeing?
For our virtual camps, we are again sticking to what we do best but condensing them to fit on a Zoom screen and adjusting the time for screen-time attention spans. Not all virtual programming is created equal and the biggest success we have found is keeping our groups small. Since schools shut down, kiddos have been missing the chance to connect with their peers and be seen and heard in the same way as before. By keeping our groups small (no more than 7 kids with 2 teachers), they have ample opportunity to share their ideas, express themselves, and have fun in a small group setting, even on Zoom!
My favorite emails from parents so far have been the ones that say, “I cannot tell you how amazing it is to see him engaged for that long over Zoom” and “She is excited to sign on each day.”
What advice do you have for other businesses testing online activities and classes?
Stick with what you do best. There is so much happening in everyone's lives right now, so you don't want to add more to your plate than necessary. Take your tried and true classes and curriculum and put them online. By offering the classes you already do on a regular basis, you are taking a lot of guesswork out of the process. If you have a great class, your loyal customers will continue to support you and share you with their friends.
What inspires you to keep working with little learners?
Their imaginations! No matter what is happening in the world, children are present and ready to jump headfirst into an imaginary adventure every day. They don't doubt that the magical fairies just flew into their living room, or that we visited the dragon at the castle — they are fully living the story.
My daughter loves to go to the playgrounds in Brooklyn and I've felt so bad telling her we can't go during the pandemic. However, every day she jumps around the living room and tells me, "I'm at the playground in my imagination! It’s always open!" It breaks my heart, yet fills me with immense joy all at the same time. The power of imagination is an incredible gift, and children will always be a source of infinite imagination.
Want to learn more?
See how — and why — educators like Elisa use Sawyer Tools to manage their business.