New Jersey Mompreneur Shannon Russell Found a Rewarding Second Career with Snapology
Shannon Russell’s job as a television producer didn’t allow for adequate quality time with her two young sons. Something had to give. “I wanted to be a more present mom without the travel, commute and long hours of TV,” Russell says. “I did a lot of soul-searching” that ultimately led to the ownership of her Snapology of Monmouth County franchise in Tinton Falls, N.J.
Before that, she worked toward a master’s degree in education, ultimately concluding, “I didn’t want to be in a classroom. Instead, I had an aha moment where I realized I wanted to ‘produce’ my own life, and the idea of opening a business came to mind. I still wanted to work with children, and noticed that my boys loved building with LEGO® bricks and anything they could get their hands on.”
Snapology Franchise Has “Built-in Support”
Enter Snapology, which teaches STEAM (an acronym for science, technology, engineering, art and math) concepts through hands-on, interactive play that nurtures teamwork and creativity through its year-round programs. Founded in 2010, the Snapology franchise has more than 150 locations on five continents and part of the world’s first youth enrichment franchise platform company Unleashed Brands. Entrepreneur magazine gives it top marks as a children’s enrichment franchise.
“Since I had never run my own business before, I looked into a franchise and instantly fell in love with Snapology,” Russell says. “Its mission aligned perfectly with what I wanted to do,” and as a franchise, came with built-in support. “It has been such a blessing for my family and me.”
Applying Old Skills in New Ways
She admits to some initial anxiety, though. “I feared I didn’t have the skills to transfer into running a business, but I learned that wasn’t true,” says Russell, 44. “As a TV producer, I took an idea and brought it to life. I ran teams, managed budgets, wrote scripts and promotional copy, and I worked with clients and partners very closely. I use all of these skills every day with Snapology.
“I used my people skills to promote the business, wrote marketing copy and social media posts, built an amazing team, and grew my Snapology franchise to be an extremely successful location. It really was the perfect leap into entrepreneurship that I needed at the time, and here I am over six years later still loving it.”
Community Outreach Yields Big Results
Early on, Russell worked to raise the local profile of Snapology. “When I launched, I was one of only two Snapology locations in New Jersey. No one in my area had heard of Snapology, so it took a lot of marketing to grow our presence. My outreach really paid off. I set up tables at community events, offered free classes at schools and libraries, and I taught most of the classes myself for the first few months. I learned the curriculum from the inside, so I could teach my team of teachers.”
In those days, Russell took her sons with her to classes. And even though Snapology kept her hopping, she still had more time at home with them than when she was working on shows for E!, MTV, PopSugar and Yahoo.
Word-of-Mouth Is Crucial
“I learned to do email marketing, social media, and how to deal with families, rather than celebrities and executives. It was a transition for my family as well, since we were used to two full-time salaries. But I hustled and before I knew it, I was in schools and other locations in my community. The business was growing fast. Word-of-mouth from one happy customer to another really helped.”
Russell emphasizes that “word-of-mouth is key for a service-based business… We get customers from going to schools to teach after-school classes, and then these kids end up coming to Snapology for classes or camps as well. Snapology is a huge birthday party location in my area, so at very party we host, we end up getting new customers for classes or for more parties.
“I also partner with nonprofits, libraries and recreation centers in the area, which gets our name out there. I set up tables at family events in the area to get in front of people who may not have heard of us before as well.”
A Typical Day as a Snapology Franchisee
Russell begins a typical day by answering emails and posting on social media. Next, she checks in with her team to confirm the day and week ahead. (She has 20 to 35 employees, depending on the time of year.)
“We are always prepping the weekend’s birthday parties, confirming next week’s classes and events, and preparing for school day-off camps and summer camps throughout the year. For me, it’s a lot of checking logistics, confirming events and then following up after to make sure everything ran smoothly. Staying in communication with my team is my main focus every day.”
Life as a Mompreneur
With her Snapology franchise running smoothly, Russell has spread her entrepreneurial wings to launch a career-coaching business and podcast, Second Act Success. She helps others find new, fulfilling work that meshes with their lifestyles.
“My inspiration for this second venture came when my Snapology customers would tell me what a wonderful teacher I was and ask me what grade I taught before opening Snapology. I would tell them that I was not a teacher, but actually a television producer. This would lead to questions asking how I did this and could I help them find a new role so they didn’t have to commute into the city every day. It made me realize that others want the same thing I did, to feel creative and passionate about what we do every day. I am proof that it is possible.
A Rewarding Second Career
Russell has found a rewarding second career with Snapology. “I do not regret this transition for one minute! I had a dream of working in television since I was 6 years old, and I was lucky enough to accomplish this dream and work in TV for 16 years. Now I am even luckier to have ‘produced’ my own life and built myself another dream career as a business owner. I built my Snapology business up to be one of the top in the franchise, all while providing for my family, offering jobs to my amazing team, and bringing joy to families in my community.”
Russell owns two Snapology territories comprising Monmouth County and operates one brick-and-mortar Discovery Center. Franchisees also can opt to do a home-based, mobile Snapology model, which costs about $73,650-$103,600 to set up. Discovery Centers are more expensive to establish, with real estate costs varying widely by location. For more information about a Snapology franchise, visit www.snapology.com.