Ohio Woman Leaves a Career on Campus to Make Learning Fun With Legos at Snapology Gina Cuffari uses building blocks to provide local kids with a holistic and entertaining after-school educational experience.
In August of 2014, Gina Cuffari, an Ohio-based mother of two who had spent years working as a campus director, said she was sold on the mission of Snapology, a company that uses building blocks like Legos and technology to combine play with education for children in preschool all the way up to 14 years of age.
The curriculum includes math, science, engineering, architecture, animation and more to create a holistic learning experience no matter what the skill-level or particular interest of the student. Cuffari opened her own Snapology as a franchisee in October of 2014.
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"I love seeing boys and girls in our classes building machines and talking about becoming engineers," she says. "I love observing children with special needs thrive in our classes and present their creations to the group. We build a foundation for lifelong learning -- and make learning fun."
Sisters Lisa and Laura Coe founded Snapology in 2011 with the idea that kids will indeed learn more if they are having so fun that they don't even realize they are learning. Today, Snapology has several locations in the U.S. and one in Canada with passionate educators like Cuffari at the helm.
Name: Gina Cuffari
Franchise owned: Snapology of Cleveland
Q: How long have you owned a franchise?
We have owned Snapology officially since August of 2014, and our grand opening was Oct. 1, 2014.
Q: Why franchising?
I knew that I wanted to unleash my inner entrepreneur and take the plunge to become a business owner, but I also knew I was limited with time. I wanted a semi-established brand in which I could grow with over time.
I knew I didn't have time to start from scratch because I was also working full-time. I didn't want to create every form, every process, etc. This gave me the best of both worlds -- the autonomy to run my business but a structure to get me started.
Q: What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
I've been a campus director in the field of higher education administration for more than 15 years. As an employee, I've gained a lot of experience with planning, strategizing and management. I've also had the opportunity to work with extremely talented people in the business and education sectors.
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Q: Why did you choose this particular franchise?
My background blends both business and education -- which has always been my passion. I am passionate about educational attainment and lifelong learning beginning with young children. Snapology's mission and curriculum sold me. The curriculum makes STEAM (science and technology interpreted through engineering and the arts, all based in mathematical elements) learning fun for preschoolers and up through teen years.
Also, my children were 2- and 6-years-old at the time, and I wanted them to be involved and interested in the business. My previous work had required travel which has taken me away from my children -- so the business had to be family-friendly.
Surprisingly, I wasn't a huge Lego fan prior to starting Snapology of Cleveland. My oldest son was just becoming interested in building with Lego bricks. We are definitely a family of builders and creators now. And our home is quite popular for play dates!
Q: How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
I invested roughly $25,000 on licensing fees, training and legal fees initially. I invested another $10,000 or so on materials, kits, insurance and equipment to get started. I've chosen to partner with schools, community centers and other businesses for hosting classes and camps. Not having overhead for real estate was a huge plus for me.
Q: Where did you get most of your advice / do most of your research?
I have experienced and notable friends in the industry who were very helpful. I also spoke to parents in our local community to help determine a niche. I knew I wanted my business to be oriented toward families with school-aged children.
Through market research and advice from friends and family, I uncovered the potential for Lego and robotics programming in my area. Shaker Heights, Ohio has been a wonderful city as a business owner! My community is supportive, and there are many resources for startups.
Q: What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
The sheer number of Lego bricks required was definitely a surprise to me! Seriously though, some challenges were unexpected but not altogether surprising. Hiring the right people to be the face of your business is always time-consuming. Teachers make excellent employees, but they aren't always available due to their own schedules.
I've built a strong teaching staff over time with experienced and passionate educators. It took longer than I anticipated building a team of qualified instructors with afternoon, evening and weekend availability.
Q: What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
First and foremost, you have to choose something you are passionate about! I can't imagine owning or operating a business that didn't resonate with me personally.
I love seeing boys and girls in our classes building machines and talking about becoming engineers. I love observing children with special needs thrive in our classes and present their creations to the group. Our program reinforces teamwork and introduces presentation skills. We build a foundation for lifelong learning and make STEAM learning fun.
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Q: What's next for you and your business?
I will expand to serve a broader territory within the next year or two. I plan to continue to offer innovative and relevant programming for today's technology-savvy kids. You have to stay on your toes today! Kids are learning differently, and many of our programs incorporate the use of technology. It is important to stay on top of the trends to stay relevant.