Engineering For Kids Soaring High
It’s one thing to hear about a young franchise with dramatic plans for growth. It’s quite another, in the eyes of this reporter, to hear about a franchise started by a full-time school teacher that’s up to 152 locations and in 22 countries just seven years after its founding. Wow!
Such was my surprise interviewing Dori Roberts, founder and CEO of Engineering For Kids, a Virginia-based franchise providing after-school STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs for tens of thousands of creative kids.
“We’re just scratching the surface,” Roberts said of the company’s rocket-like growth rate, which even surprised her. “We’ve got a lot of room to grow, a lot more countries to grow in and internally we have master development deals in many countries and they haven’t even begun selling sub franchises yet.”
As a mother of two, Roberts started the franchise out of her home to fill a void in her community by starting an after-school club that taught STEM-related topics and applied those skills in a way that was more fun than typical in-school coursework.
Running counter to expectations—and Roberts’ own background—most of Engineering For Kids’ franchisees don’t come directly from education.
“We have a few, but it’s not the majority,” she said. “We have owners who have business backgrounds, marketing backgrounds, human resources, teaching and engineering, but there isn’t one background that dominates—most of our owners are parents, so I think that is the common thread.”
Engineering For Kids is geared to kids ages 4-14. Activities include designing and building rockets, lunar landers, roller coasters, sails, and catapults, as well as working with LEGO kits. In total, there are more than 300 lessons in 19 different focal areas.
“We don’t want the kids to feel like it’s an extension to what they’ve gone through during the school day,” she said. “The education side is important, but they’re applying what they’ve learned.”
The initial franchise fee is $22,500, with a total investment totaling somewhere between $38,000-$58,000. System-wide sales for 2015 doubled the previous year, up to $10 million, with 25 new franchises planned for this year.
Here’s hoping one of the new locations pops up within driving distance of the Twin Cities—I want in!