Member Spotlight: Jolene Levin

Company: NorvaNivel

Title: CEO

EDmarket Leadership Position: Board Member, Equipment Manufacturers Council

Years in the education business: 11

When was your company founded and how? The story of NorvaNivel began humbly in 2008 as the full service logistic and installation company – UFM  Solutions. It was not until walking into a school in 2011 to deliver chairs on behalf of a client that Avron our Creative Director (and my husband) and I were introduced to the world of Education. At the time, educational furniture consisted of chairs and desks with very little in the way of collaborative or soft furnishings. What was presented in this meeting was a concept around a changing philosophy in education. It was at this meeting that the current school principal expressed his frustration at the lack of furniture and spaces that facilitated learners appropriately in the attainment of transversal skills required for future work and life success. As curious innovators, the conversation sparked the desire to tackle this as a design problem that needed to be solved. Utilizing Avron’s skills in industrial design, we began to design bespoke pieces of furniture and learning environments. 

True to intention, the impact these initial spaces activated was not only fascinating – it was immense. Not only did the physical transformation of the space facilitate learning and collaboration, but the very intentional design also incredibly impacted learners within these environments. The space itself proved to be a key initiator in creating an environment in which learners were able to seek out comfort, safety and engagement through the activation of the tools now provided to them within the spaces. 

Excited by the impact, NorvaNivel was created within UFM Solutions. The company continued to create designs both in furniture and space that valued form, function and emotional integration – key elements in facilitating greater learner engagement, continuous exploration, and the activation of the skill sets required for 21st to 22nd century learners. 

By 2015, the decision was made to dissolve UFM Solutions to focus on growing NorvaNivel. In 2016, NorvaNivel was invited to design the spaces for the annual CERA Conference. (Californian, Educational Research Association), where product was manufactured in Australia and shipped to the USA. Intrigued by the tremendous response to their products, we identified the opportunity to bring this niche point of difference into the USA market, leverage off their experience. In 2017 we moved our family to the USA to pioneer this new method of learning in space.

What makes your company unique? Our mission is a very personal one: to empower learners and educators now and into the future. Grounded in our own children’s future, and our promise to ready them for a world of unlimited opportunity.  Each one of them, unique in every way, gives us an invaluable perspective on what makes truly engaging learning spaces. Spaces that speak to equity, grow children as people, and ignite a passion for discovery and knowledge resulting in a lifelong love of learning. Fueled by our commitment to ongoing studies, we are guided by our research. We continually collaborate with learning experts observing students, teachers and all those involved in learning communities. We solely design learner-centered educational spaces and products that foster engagement and inclusion for not just one, but every student.We proudly design every product we make, and all are made in the USA.

EDmarket thoughtfully and intentionally brings together all stakeholders in the industry acting as mentor, informer and connector with the sole purpose of evoking positive change in educational space.

What do you like best about the educational products industry? I love the opportunity it has given us to create meaningful design that seeks to create a positive impact in the lives of both learners and educators. Education is the foundation of shaping human perceptions and interactions. Working and designing within this industry allows us to facilitate the growth and development of people from the very beginning of their lives. Working with learners, educators, schools and a district’s to implement change is a uniquely fulfilling experience. I continue to enjoy the ability to solve meaningful problems through design and collaboration in a fast changing industry.

What are you most proud of? I am most proud of the impact our products and spaces continuously have in the lives of all learners. Over 11 years we have been steadfast in our mission to create learner centered environments designed to serve learners and empower educators. It is through this mission that we have in fact seen this transformation. Our product and spaces do in fact help learners feel comfortable, engaged and connected to their learning and our mission for equity and inclusivity has seen many learners that once struggled now thrive in spaces that we have designed. It is this impact that fuels our relentless pursuit for innovation and relevance in our designs. Expanding to the USA to continue this mission was something that was a dream of mine and I am proud that we are here and able to continue our mission with USA schools.

How has the pandemic changed the educational marketplace? Education was certainly impacted immensely by the pandemic. Although challenging and scary I believe that it has proven to many people that they are more resilient to change than they thought. The uncertainty in this past year has forced everyone to rethink the way in which thing have always done and has brought to light key emotional and social needs that we now understand to be as important as the learning itself. I am hopeful that the impetus is now there to start to think differently and understand the very many needs required to create a healthy and safe learning environment. It is often in times of change and turmoil that we have the opportunity affect real impact.

How has your company adapted? We continue to design with the same intention as we have pre-pandemic. The nature of the products is such that the agility and adaptability of the design allows for the transition to any mode of learning or need in the space. Our mission is to help our customers create spaces that not only address current spacial needs as dictated during the pandemic but most importantly to do such without compromising on Educational paradigm progression and human social and emotional needs. The most important learning has in fact been the need to safely bring learners back to school and we continue to design and innovate with the intention of facilitating this safe and healthy return to the physical building.

How had EDmarket helped your business? EDspaces was the first event that NorvaNivel showcased at in 2017 on arrival in the USA. It is through the connection made at this event that I have had the privilege of being involved in more deeply in EDmarket. EDmarket thoughtfully and intentionally brings together all stakeholders in the industry acting as mentor, informer and connector with the sole purpose of evoking positive change in educational space. EDmarket continues to be a generous and supportive association that is an essential part of the development and relevance of our industry.  

With the sale of EDspaces, how can EDmarket best serve the industry? EDmarket as a guiding association in the industry can continue to bring all stakeholders together through meaningful networking whilst continuing to be a source of information through discussions, committees webinars. Edmarkets advisory role to the industry can certainly serve as a champion for innovation and ethics and serve as a supportive partner to both schools and suppliers within the industry.  

Most importantly understand the purpose and the people that you are designing for and recognize that this is different and unique for everyone.

What program would you like to see EDmarket champion? As a passionate advocate of innovation and design I would like to see EDmarket champion and celebrate those that are contributing toward this. Creating an ethical design code that supports and recognizes the creative design of original products for manufacturers that positively affect student outcomes will help support those companies that invest in innovation and transformation. In this role EDmarket could such serve as a driver of creativity and a key partner in encouraging innovation that supports meaningful impact.

What advice would you give others in our industry? Always seek to understand the needs of all learners. Create product that consider both the pedagogy and the people and always be curious as this will breed creativity and innovation. Don’t be afraid to fail as it will be in these moments that you will in fact find the greatest success. Most importantly understand the purpose and the people that you are designing for and recognize that this is different and unique for everyone.

Jolene Levin

Jolene is an entrepreneurial business leader and co-founder of NorvaNivel, an educational furnishings company. She is dedicated to crafting products and spaces tailored to support schools transitioning to more progressive learning models that foster active engagement, collaboration, and creativity, reflecting Jolene's deep-seated belief in the power of thoughtful design to transform learning environments. Jolene is the 2024 EDmarket Chair of the Board, an EDmarket Certified Learning Place Specialist (ECLPS) Core Instructor, and leader of the EDmarket Bold Women Collective.