When co-founders Katie Brunelle and Rachel Weinstein launched The Adulting School last year, they didn’t imagine how much media attention they’d receive, nor did they foresee their potential to launch a million-dollar business. The idea for The Adulting School—a community that offers practical knowledge on things like cooking healthy meals and creating a budget to help adults lead successful lives—formed when Weinstein, a psychotherapist who runs her own private practice in Portland, noticed that her clients were lacking useful adult skills. Brunelle, a former public school teacher, also saw practical skills gaps in her students and in the curriculum.
New York Magazine, The New York Post, Cosmopolitan and Fox News have all generated buzz around The Adulting School, as have international outlets The BBC, The Guardian and media channels in Amsterdam and Chile. The media attention, which has been both positive and negative, has helped Brunelle and Weinstein further hone their purpose and re-emphasize the need to support “adulting,” (a term used to describe doing the things adults must do, like change a tire or pay monthly bills on time) by teaching the practical and useful skills needed for successful everyday living in the 21st century.
“The rapid growth and media buzz around TAS is a sign that people want and need support and education about adulting,” Weinstein says. “We’ve hit a chord and we’ve had a blast so far engaging with people’s excitement about TAS and their desire to learn and grow.”
The founders have faced some criticism. During a segment on Fox & Friends, Weinstein was interviewed during a segment called “The Wussification of America.” And on Fox Business Network’s “Kennedy” show, host Lisa Kennedy Montgomery remarked, “I think I must mourn the loss of rationality in our culture when we have to teach people who are already adults how to be adults. That is so sad.”
But Brunelle and Weinstein say that the critical media attention has only bolstered their efforts. “It really helped us build up this platform and our whole existence,” Brunelle says. “We had a lot of tough interviews that felt like a firing squad, and we held tight to the fact that there is a problem and we’re offering a solution, rather than pointing fingers and shaming, particularly millennials and so-called ‘Helicopter Parents.’ It helped us hone our purpose and directed what we wanted our mission to be—we saw even more clearly that there is a need for this kind of supportive community and advocating for people to have a successful adult life.”
Following the “Kennedy” appearance, Brunelle and Weinstein received an email from a U.S. veteran, commending them on their work. “He said, ‘I wanted you to know that someone you don’t know thinks you’re doing a great thing.’ It was really empowering,” Brunelle says.
The Adulting School’s target demographic is 20-45 year olds, which encompasses millennials as well as some Gen X and Gen Zers. “People have always been paying bills, doing their taxes and making budgets,” Brunelle says. “The only difference between past generations complaining about these things and now is that we have the internet, so it’s more visible now.”
The term “adulting” has spread like wildfire on social media (Twitter usage of the term grew 700 percent in 2016) and has also spawned stereotypes such as that millennials are lazy, self-centered, self-entitled and unsuccessful in their lives and careers. Brunelle and Weinstein hope that The Adulting School will help to debunk these stereotypes and give millennials (and the generations that bracket them), more confidence—and maybe also a better reputation.
The Adulting School launched in July 2016 with a series of happy hour workshops and networking events, followed by an all-day November Summit at Portland’s One Longfellow Square, which featured six presenters focusing on different practical skills such as how to generate a side income, how to save and pay off debt and a workshop titled, “Time Management for the Chronically Over-Busy,” among others.
The momentum has continued in 2017 with the launch of a January Winter Session consisting of three targeted workshops: “Personal Branding,” “Know Your Financial Type” and “How to Get What You Really Want.” The January sessions, held at Portland venues O’Maine Studios, Rhum Food & Grog and The Honey Paw, also included food and drinks and an “After the Bell” lesson, such as how to change a tire. In February, The Adulting School launched a subscriber-based online school, providing content to enrolled students in four focus areas: finances, health and wellness, relationships and community and make it/fix it. Workshops run from $5-10 a session, and a subscription school is $19.99 a month. As of January, nearly 100 students were enrolled from across the U.S. and Canada, and over 10,000 people had taken the web quiz, “What’s Your Adulting IQ?” The quiz asks questions about one’s knowledge of practical skills like budgeting, car and home maintenance/repair, culinary know-how and job interviewing/application skills. The results generate an “adulting” score for the user and provide helpful information that helps drive TAS’s site content and workshops.
As it’s grown, The Adulting School has continued to focus on marketing and web design, growing it’s online and social media presence and recruiting and screening teachers to provide online content and run live workshop events. It has also continued to recruit local partners to host live workshops and secure paid sponsorships to support the subscriber-based network.
The Adulting School’s long-term business plan includes airing a podcast, publishing a book and e-newsletter and launching a TV show. Brunelle and Weinstein also hope to replicate and expand their model beyond Portland to include other cities around the U.S. “This started as a side business and it’s become a full-time job,” Brunelle says of TAS’s momentum. “We’re still working on our business plan, but we’ve projected a million-dollar business by the end of 2017.”
Brunelle and Weinstein ultimately hope that The Adulting School provides “a community where students and people with know-how can come together to learn about adulting and support each other,” Weinstein says. “There are so many people with great expertise in Portland, and if we can help create a live platform to highlight their skills and help them connect with students in fun venues around Portland, we feel like it’s a serious win-win situation.”
Mercedes Grandin is a freelance writer, editor, English teacher and tutor. She lives in Brunswick with her husband Erik and their chocolate Labrador Fozzie. In her spare time she enjoys hiking, biking and exploring Maine’s midcoast by water.