“It’s never been done before,” says Rusty McCarty of his new business, Extraordinary Ed, which cuts its ribbon May 23.
“I’ve lived in Collingswood for a while,” McCarty says, “and I looked around and thought, ‘What’s the thing that’s most frustrating about education?’ It’s inconvenient.”
When a guy like McCarty says that, it makes sense; he’s seen a bit of the world.
Originally from Lubbock, TX, McCarty taught in El Salvador and Rio de Janeiro, where he was the director of curriculum and instruction at the American School, before becoming the president, COO and creative director of a large, education-focused nonprofit headquartered in nearby Cherry Hill.
But McCarty’s still never seen anyone else attempt what he’s trying to do with his new downtown Collingswood business: create a multi-dimensional learning experience for students of varying ages, skills and abilities.
“We’re taking education and making it as convenient as going shopping,” he says.
“Learn, Connect, Grow” are three words that appear in the motto of Extraordinary Ed, and McCarty is insistent that every customer who takes a class at his a la carte, boutique learning center will walk away richer for the experience.
He’s also taking a page from the same book that businesses like and read, in that Extraordinary Ed is based entirely upon crafting a memorable night out.
“As we look at the economy, we find that people are more interested in experiences rather than products,” McCarty says. “We want you to have an experience where you’re a little different when you leave us than you were before.”
For $25, anyone can walk into Extraordinary Ed and plop himself down into any of several, rotating courses offered at the facility. From landscape design to investment banking to cooking on date night, the menu of options will change almost weekly, McCarty promises.
“We’re not a school,” McCarty says. “We don’t have a registration process. We don’t have an enrollment form. Once our classes start, we’ll have about 20-30 classes every week. They’ll be different.”
In selecting the courses to be presented at Extraordinary Ed, McCarty says he’s looking for topics that are relevant, interactive and challenging. Instructors are always welcome to submit their ideas, experiences and resumes for consideration. Class sizes will approach 24 or 30 at most—and instructors can make a decent hourly rate if they approach their cap.
“As our instructors grow with us, we’ll roll out more courses and more camps, and that’s an open process,” McCarty says.
A single one-hour class is $25, but McCarty says that the value lies in buying courses, which are six-hour programs broken up into three weekly two-hour sessions, for $60.
“If you get one of our no-strings membership, you get unlimited classes, discounts on all the retail stuff and a free course every three months,” McCarty says. “You prepay, there’s no recurring payment. You can come as much as you want.”
The other big differentiator for Extraordinary Ed, McCarty says, is the ease with which the company has worked to establish a formula that is easy and convenient for potential students.
“If the adult school has a class Tuesday night, that’s when that class is. You can’t make it? You can’t take it,” he says.
One of the earliest to participate as an instructor is Kevin Gatto of in Collingswood, who will be holding a blow-dry boot camp at Extraordinary Ed as part of its initial offering.
“We thought it would be a good cross-promotional opportunity,” Gatto said. “I love that we have great salons, boutiques, restaurants. I think this can give Collingswood an edge.”
The town can dream—and so can McCarty, who believes Extraordinary Ed is has the potential to become a national franchise.
“Our ultimate goal is to have about thirty of these centers around the country within five years,” he says. “We’re spending this first year developing the initial site, the language, the marketing, how the center actually operates. We’re here to document and learn a very straightforward and simple business.”
Extraordinary Ed is located at 710 Haddon Ave. and at extraordinaryed.com.