For many entrepreneurs, great ideas can come along when least expected. In the case of Dori Roberts, her job as a high school engineering teacher laid the foundation for her million-dollar concept. Over the course of her 11 years in teaching, Roberts noticed that many of her students discovered a love for engineering late in their school careers. She then made it her mission to introduce engineering to kids at a younger age, starting out with an after school bridge-building class for children.
Kids immediately took to Roberts’ fun and informative program. When all her initial classes booked up, parents began to ask about summer sessions and day camp. Roberts responded by creating four distinct engineering camps: mechanical, aerospace, electrical and industrial. Starting out at the height of the recession in 2009, Roberts says she would have been happy to get 15 kids for the camps’ inaugural summer. Instead, 150 children showed up, with each child’s parents paying $159 for the weeklong, half-day program. Seeing a business opportunity, Roberts expanded her offerings to preschool and middle school kids with events like field trips, birthday parties and scouting expeditions.
As Engineering for Kids gathered momentum in Roberts’ hometown, she started receiving requests from out-of-state parents about the program. Roberts knew she couldn’t handle many long-distance clients, though, so she attended a convention held by the International Franchise Association in order to take her expansion to the next level. After learning the details about franchising, Roberts put in $30,000 of her own money to set up a franchise structure for Engineering for Kids. Besides renting out space for storage and offices, most of that money went towards the lawyer who looked over the company’s operations manuals and drafted the franchise disclosure agreement. Roberts’ investment eventually paid off, with more than 117 franchisees operating in 31 states. Along with an initial franchise fee of $19,500, Roberts also receives a monthly royalty of 7 percent of registration fees from each franchisee.
- What product knowledge did Dori Roberts have before starting her business?
- Why is franchising an ideal system for an entrepreneur like Dori Roberts?
Source: Pat Mertz Esswein, “Turning Kids Into Engineers,” Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, February 2015. Photo by: Engineering for Kids.