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A small Stafford County company that offers hands-on engineering classes for children will soon have an outpost in India.
A group of boys attending a recent birthday party at Engineering for Kids cheers as they watch the Lego robots they built battle each other.
DAVE ELLIS/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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The Engineering for Kids concept appeals both because the classes are fun--kids get to build robotic alligators and use a laptop to operate them, for example--and because they provide the kind of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM, education that is in demand today.
"Everyone sees STEM as something that's needed," Roberts said. "The problem is that a lot of schools get their funding cut and they can't keep up. What we are doing is reinforcing what the schools are teaching as an after-school program in a hands-on, very applied way."
To buy an Engineering for Kids franchise, people pay an initial fee of $14,500, do the paperwork for starting a business, and then come to the corporate office for four days of training.
"Most of the children's concepts go for $19,000 to $30,000," Roberts said. "We strategically priced it at $14,500 to really kind of open the doors for us in the beginning. Getting the first 10 franchises is the toughest because you don't have a track record yet."
Many of the people who have bought them so far were looking for this type of program in their own communities, and discovered Engineering for Kids while searching online, she said. Others, like the Todis, wanted to go into business and were looking at children's concepts.
Franchisees in the United States--and eventually Canada and Puerto Rico--get territories that cover 100 elementary schools. International franchisees buy a master franchise and can then sell sub-franchises.
The Todis, for example, bought the master franchise for the National Capital Territory of Delhi. They plan to open their first center in New Delhi in mid-December, then begin expanding into its satellite cities.
"We would like to sub-franchise, but it depends on the business model," Siddarth Todi said. "It may be more beneficial to me if I open more of my centers."
Selling franchises has enabled Roberts to open her corporate office, hire a staff of four to help franchisees with marketing and human resources, and develop new classes. These include creating Lego robots that could fix pipelines buried under the ocean and those that could perform tasks on Mars.
"We've been very fortunate that we've been able to sell the first 10 franchises very quickly," she said. "I would say that by the end of 2013 we will have 50 franchises and will continue to grow internationally as well."
Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407