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She Was Unhappy at Her Engineering Job and Wanted to Help Children.
Kayla O

Reposted from Entrepreneur: 

Kayla Opperman worked as a civil and architectural engineer for more than six years, but she felt disillusioned with the tedium and stress of the work, staying in the field primarily because of her love of her coworkers. But when a personal situation caused a change at work, suddenly, the incentive to stay diminished. Still, she couldn't completely walk away from a field she had studied and worked in for years. "I didn't want to fully let go of my STEM and engineering background because it was a hard engineering degree to earn," Opperman says.

Enter Snapology, a children's STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) franchise. Opperman opened a location in 2018, and within two years, her Snapology income surpassed what she made as an engineer. This year, she is expecting about $700,000 in total revenue from her five Snapology franchises — with about a 50% profit margin — nearly triple what she and her husband, who recently left his own career to be her operations manager, earned as engineers.

Losing the passion

Opperman always liked her engineering colleagues but found that something was increasingly missing. "I just didn't want to work for someone anymore," she says. "I wasn't passionate about the engineering work. I was kind of doing it because I studied it, and that's what my job was, but I wanted to own my own business." She wanted more flexibility, especially because she planned to start a family.

In 2018, her pregnancy required her to switch teams at work. Suddenly, the thing that was keeping her in engineering was gone. "I wasn't connected to the new team," she says. "I knew it was time to leave the company."

Finding Snapology

During this time, when Opperman was at a professional crossroads, she came across Unleashed Brands and Snapology, founded in 2010 by sisters Laura and Lisa Coe. She was initially looking at tutoring franchises. "I looked into probably five or six franchises, and what I loved about Snapology is that it is women-owned and family-owned, too," she says.

Snapology offers interactive programs for children aged 1 to 14, blending play with education utilizing familiar toys, such as LEGO bricks and K'Nex, with modern technology. Available in schools, homes and specialized Discovery Centers, Snapology's programs include STEAM, robotics and video game design. Opperman purchased her first Snapology franchise in the Denver area in 2018.


STEAM is a hybrid of STEM but with art included. However, even the art that students produce has a tech component — students don't learn about technology and then pull out pads and start drawing. "The art component consists of things such as computer animation, so it's definitely art through technology," Opperman says.

Additionally, STEAM aims to strengthen soft skills needed in business environments that cannot be completed or replicated by AI — teamwork, cooperation, creativity and adaptation to change. The National Bureau of Economic Research has found that the prevalence of automation has created a growing demand for workers with soft skills.

Going multi-unit and Covid

After purchasing her first franchise unit in 2018, Opperman started considering the next step in her franchise journey — multi-unit ownership. She bought a second Snapology franchise in January 2019. The two franchises were performing well when, in early 2020, Covid struck. "It was a struggle," Opperman says, "I was doing well; my business was going somewhere, so I was very concerned in the beginning."

Opperman says the franchises pivoted to do some virtual learning during the pandemic, but it wasn't the same. "We're much more of a hands-on learning experience. Kids need to be together, and we try to avoid screens. It wasn't great, but we did what we could."

Expanding to more locations

The business survived the pandemic, and in February 2021, Opperman opened three more Snapology units. Each has been successful, but Opperman doesn't plan to add to her five locations in the near future, instead consolidating — and branching out. "We bring in almost triple what our household income used to be, and it feels great," she says. "My life is so much better because of the flexibility. We do what we want when we want."

Opperman credits the systems and support that Unleashed Brands provides, something that the company prioritizes. "We cultivate these operating systems over years of seeing data points over and over and refining them," says Josh Wall, chief growth officer at Unleashed Brands. "When we train a new franchisee, it is with our best system, our best foot forward, and that's the formula of franchising and being successful."

Opperman says another reason for the pause in new locations is that she's conscious of expanding too fast and doesn't see franchising as a cash machine. "You can't feel entitled to make money just because you bought a franchise," she says. "That's not how it works. You have to put in a lot of time and effort and may have a lot of dark times at the beginning."

Wall agrees. "Kayla is absolutely right — it still takes someone who has drive, ambition and the ability to work hard to execute that system properly in order to be successful."

Branching out — again

Opperman has worked hard to build a solid customer base in the Denver area via her five Snapology franchises, so she decided to launch another business that would continue to serve those same customers. "I recently invested in a Class 101 college planning franchise — another Unleashed brand — and my goal is to scale that so when customers age out of Snapology at 15, they are ready for Class 101," she says.

Opperman said she would eventually like to expand into kids' gyms or recreational franchises but added that that's far in the future. "That would be my dream," she says.

Today, she's already living the dream of the millions of people who fantasize every day about quitting their jobs and being their own boss. "I feel like a lot of people say they want to quit their jobs and start a business," she says. "You just have to stop talking and do it."