Meet Our Founder - Learn Our Story

Sharon Duke Estroff M.A.T.

Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Challenge Island

Sharon is founder and creator of the Challenge Island™ program, She is an award-winning elementary school teacher with two decades of experience in Atlanta public and private schools. She started Challenge Island in her second grade classroom and began running it as an enrichment business using the current model in 2003. It has been growing by leaps and bounds ever since.

Sharon is a nationally recognized parenting and education expert and a freelance writer for numerous national publications including Scholastic Parent and Child, Parents, Woman’s Day and Good Housekeeping magazines. She is the author of the popular parenting book, Can I Have a Cell Phone for Hanukkah? (Random House) and co-author of the upcoming Challenge Island book series that turns the Challenge Island curriculum into an exciting and educational story. She is sought-after speaker who has presented to scores of communities nationwide about the trials and tribulations of raising kids in the digital age.

Sharon received her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Emory University where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Summa Cum Laude.

She continues to run her local Challenge Island business in Atlanta, Georgia where she lives with her husband and four children.

Our Story

Originally Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle

In 2003, Sharon Estroff was at the height of her Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde phase. She spent her days as a cheerful, engaged second-grade teacher and her evenings as a stressed-out mom who could barely muster the energy to help her own four children with homework. It was time for a career shift, but as an educator born into a family of educators, she couldn’t imagine straying too far from the school yard. Besides, there were​ plenty of things​ she loved about teaching​: ​the creativity and vibrancy; ​​those smiling second grade faces​; and perhaps most of all, ​​​the predictable promise of the back-to-school season – an annual chance for a new beginning.

So Sharon took Challenge Island, a STEAM program (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) that she created for her students, and turned it into a full-time gig. She began offering Challenge Island as ​an afterschool enrichment class in nearby schools while tutoring on the side to make ends meet. Before long, she  had created a profitable home-based business that she could run around her family’s busy schedule.

With the popularity of STEM, STEAM and 21st Century Skills in the educational marketplace, Sharon had a hunch that this business model would work for other moms and dads, too. That hunch was right and today, Challenge Island is one of the fastest growing and revered educational franchises in the world.  Ranked on Entrepreneur Magazine’s 2018 and 2019 Franchise 500 List and tapped by Entrepreneur as one of the 100 Fastest Growing Franchises in the world, Challenge Island now has 90 units across the United States and Internationally.


Hear Our Founder Discuss the Philosophy and Magic Behind the Challenge Island Franchise