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Fiona Holmstrom, Founder of STEM Punks

How STEM Punks is surviving (and thriving) through COVID-19

UQ people
Published 13 Oct, 2021  ·  3-minute read

“In an era where we already have so much technology and electronic input on a daily basis, writing that is clear and effective is imperative to cut through the noise."

- Dr Richard Newsome, convener of the UQ Master of Writing, Editing and Publishing

Just a year ago, world-leading education program STEM Punks was a face-to-face company. Yet, like many businesses, this Brisbane startup had to rethink their approach during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Transferring all of STEM Punks’ content online wasn’t as easy as it sounds – it required a significant amount of writing and editing skills. Luckily, founder and UQ graduate Fiona Holmstrom had already picked up plenty of those skills from the Master of Writing, Editing and Publishing.

“All the content for all of our programs had to be transferred online – fast,” she says.

“We had to pretty much restart the business from scratch and tell a compelling story about who we were and what problem we were solving.”

Balancing this global pandemic with motherhood and a thriving business is testament to Fiona’s passion for providing kids and adults with a mindset of innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship to solve the problems of tomorrow, today.

"I can stand back with admiration for the team and say wow, this garage startup has gone global." - Fiona Holmstrom

The STEM Punks story

Providing education programs for students and teachers in primary and secondary schools with learning outcomes linked to the Australian Curriculum, the STEM Punks mission is to develop and inspire people to learn about science, technology, engineering and mathematics in a fun and interactive environment.

Alongside her husband and fellow UQ graduate Michael, Fiona used her flair for communicating science in an engaging and innovative way to grow STEM Punks from its humble beginnings into the leading STEM education provider it is today.

“We believe that STEM education should be available to everyone and provide an experience that caters for individual needs and different skill levels,” says Fiona.

Writing and editing skills are essential

Clear and effective writing in an age of data overload is so important, and Fiona is well placed to pass on those skills to this emerging generation of creators.

During COVID-19, she also started a magazine for STEM Punks, Future Learning Magazine, to further communicate their value to the world’s teachers. It is distributed to thousands of schools across Australia and overseas.

“As the editor and publisher, I’ve been able to directly utilise the writing, editing and publishing skills I learnt at UQ only a couple of years ago, to take this idea from concept to commercialisation, and to drive the thought leadership of STEM Punks as a STEM education industry benchmark in the world.”

As a past Telstra Business Award winner and finalist in the 2020 AusMumpreneur Awards, things were going well for Fiona and STEM Punks before the pandemic hit.

COVID-19 certainly brought about challenge and change – but thanks to her skills and passion, Fiona was able to adapt, pivot and continue taking the business from milestone to milestone.

"From not knowing where revenue would come from one day, to pivoting the whole business model and completely reinventing the business the next, I can stand back with admiration for the team and say wow, this garage startup has gone global,” says Fiona.

Fiona believes humanities and social sciences skills, such as writing, are relevant all over the world and across all industries.

“We need storytellers and communicators to deal with facts,” she says.

“With the onset of high-speed broadband and 24-hour streaming services, there are more opportunities to write, to think, to enquire, to solve, to learn from history and even to relearn.”

“Problem solvers and creative thinkers will always be in demand.”

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