Zaniac is like school at its best — an active, inspiring place that is filled with friends and where real math and technology learning is fun. As a K-8 program and camp, Zaniac considers itself the go-to after-school activity for parents who want their children to develop a passion for exploring and innovating.
We recently spoke with Neydy Gomez, owner of Zaniac South Miami, Fla., to find out why she chose Zaniac, what challenges she faced in getting her franchise open and what a typical day looks like for her.
How long have you owned a franchise?
We have owned Zaniac South Miami since December 2014. It opened to the public in May 2015.
What were you doing before becoming a franchise owner?
Prior to owning Zaniac, I co-owned another franchise in Miami. Before that, I worked in the advertising industry in various capacities and opened businesses in the marketing and advertising consulting industry.
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Why did you choose your franchise?
I have spent a good portion of my professional life in the corporate world, but have also had the opportunity to manage my own businesses, so I know how difficult it can be to build a business from scratch. I have realized that a franchise is a great approach to owning a business. There’s not the need to create and build everything yourself, and a lot of support is built in. Additionally, as a mother of two young girls I am always searching for new and innovative ways to teach them new skills. When I first learned about Zaniac I knew that it was something that I wanted for my daughters. Teaching them 21st Century STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) skills that will be an integral part of their future was the main reason behind choosing Zaniac as our next business venture.
What were some of the challenges you faced when starting your franchise?
The biggest challenge for us was securing and negotiating the lease of our current Zaniac location; it was a great learning experience.
Neydy Gomez, left, and her co-owner Claudia Machado (right) with Zaniac’s founder Paul Zane Pilzer.
Where did you research or get advice about starting a franchise?
I was already very familiar with the franchise model, so my research focused on speaking to other franchise owners, even if they were not in the same industry as Zaniac. Understanding the challenges, experiences, advantages and disadvantages of owning a franchise from people who have hands-on experience was the most important information I wanted to get. In addition, we did extensive reading and research on entrepreneurs, legal and accounting information and recommendations.
How much did you spend before your doors were officially opened?
It varies depending on the location, the lease negotiated and the build-out situation of the location. In addition to the start-up investment, having sufficient operating and marketing funds for at least one year is critical. The average initial investment for a Zaniac is $250K – $350K, which is dependent on market and real estate.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I open the campus early in the morning and ensure that the manager has taken care of all the day-to-day operational tasks. I then review emails; answer phone calls; meet with people; network with schools, universities, chambers of commerces and other organizations and individuals; execute our marketing and advertising plan; take care of payroll and other financial responsibilities; train, recruit and interview instructors; and most importantly, provide customer service to parents and students.
What is your secret to success?
As with any other business, networking is crucial. There is nothing more powerful than word of mouth, customer service and understanding your client and competition.
What would you do differently if you had to do it all over?
Allow more time for important and critical negotiations.
Where do you see your business in five years?
In five years we project nine additional Zaniac campuses operating in Florida, with 10 campus managers and about 200 instructors hired.
What is one trend that really excites you?
Getting more girls involved in STEM. It is exciting to think that we can play a critical role in getting girls engaged and passionate about STEM at an early age, to the point where they can see a future and livelihood for themselves within the STEM industry, and imagine solutions that improve communities.
What are your favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
Google Alerts — I am constantly reading about the latest and greatest in STEM, child development and education.
Google Docs — to share information within our core team.
What advice do you have for others looking to own a franchise?
Be passionate about what you will be working on because you will work very long hours. Loving what you do makes it so much easier.
Would you recommend others be franchisees? Why?
Franchises are not for everyone; they are for people who are willing to follow certain rules and operational guidelines and work under specific parameters.
Any final thoughts?
Owning a Zaniac franchise is very rewarding, especially seeing the children learn and flourish. Since we opened to the public and started our summer camp sessions, we’ve had more than 60 very smart and talented students be part of one or more of our Zaniac programs, and there are a few really great stories of students that I feel very proud sharing:
Jake came to us really hesitant; he doesn’t really like a lot of summer camps. His Mom brought him in for a half-day trial of our Robotics class; he loved it and stayed through the week. Since then he has been at Zaniac for five full-day summer camp weeks doing Tinkering, Zane Math, Microcontrollers, Computer Programming and 3D Printing. He has gained a lot of confidence and is almost two grade levels ahead in math. Most likely Jake will soon be our first Junior Instructor, assisting our Senior Instructors teaching math to younger kids.
Luciana joined our Robotics and Minecraft summer camps. She was extremely focused and involved in both programs, and to everyone’s surprise she beat everyone (all boys) that week on every BattleBots competition we had. That was proof that girls can do as well or better than boys in STEM.
Aitana is a very artsy young girl that has never been too interested or involved with science, technology or math (other than in school). She participated in our 3D printing, and reluctantly, in our Zane Math summer camp. She was able to apply her creativity and art skills designing and printing an Avengers chess set: the pawns are Captain America, Hulk is the rook, Iron Man the Knight, Thor the King, etc. She now loves Zane Math and wants to complete the 14 levels of Zane Math so she too can become a Junior Instructor.
Where can people get more information on your franchise?
Visit the website here.
Where can people find your Zaniac franchise on social media?
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