Brick City Bricks 4 Kidz
Can you give us a brief description of your business?
At Bricks 4 Kidz we learn, we build, and we play with lego bricks. We are a franchise business that provides STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) enrichment for children ages 3-13. We work primarily in Essex County, and offer services for afterschool programming, summer camps, birthday parties, in-school workshops, and other special events like an educational/fun Kids Night Out.
What were you doing before you started this business?
Before I started this business, I worked in employee benefits for about 18 years. I was a senior manager where I did request for proposals for healthcare benefits for large employers, wrote employee handbooks, and fought with the insurance companies on what to pay and what not to pay on behalf of patients. Basically, I did a lot to serve employees at large employers. The last large employer I worked at was Hoffman La Roche which moved their headquarters from New Jersey to southern California. It wasn’t conducive for me to move so I stayed in New Jersey and went to business school at Rutgers University. There I took my first entrepreneurship course on social entrepreneurship with Jeff Robinson and I wrote my business plan for Bricks 4 Kidz.
What motivates you to do what you do?
What motivates me in this business is doing what’s right for my city – Newark. So much of what impacts students the most is what goes on outside of school. I like speaking with parents about how they can invest in after-school experiences to improve their children’s education and help them think about the degree to which they can further invest in their child’s education. For instance, our summer programs help address the summer brain drain.
When was your first encounter with GNEC?
I first encountered GNEC when I went to a Social Entrepreneurship Summit held at New Jersey Performing Arts Center in 2011. There were fantastic speakers and organizations like GNEC in attendance. I started taking notes about where to get money and at that point two places were mentioned – GNEC and Brick City Development Corporation (BCDC) at the time. My initial conversation about my business was with BCDC and they linked me to GNEC.
Were there any challenges that brought you to GNEC?
I came to GNEC because I needed capital. I had put in a little more than $50,000 of my own money to purchase the actual franchise itself, the initial materials, and for myself and a team member to go to Florida for a week of training.
How did GNEC work with you to resolve those challenges?
Steve was great in helping point me in the right direction as I went through the loan process.
What would be your advice for someone just starting a business today?
My advice for someone just starting a business today is: Understand your limitations but never let them limit you. People say you’ll always be a student and that is very true. I can’t even count how many classes I’ve been in since I started this business. Hearing what other people are doing, hearing some of their experiences, and then being able to pull from everything you’ve learned for your own business is so valuable. Each of those things re-energizes me and pushes me to the next level. You can get so bogged down running business, and start feeling like a failure, so when I go to these classes or events I start to think that I am doing something amazing. Having a business is really having the tenacity to bring yourself back out of what could be considered disappointment and move yourself out and plow through. Then you can really be successful.
Last, would you recommend GNEC services to friends and family?
I would definitely recommend GNEC services to my friends and family. In fact, when I was recognized at the GNEC Awards Breakfast, I invited many people in my personal network to come because I felt there were a lot of people and organizations there to network with. One person did come and now she’s connected to the Paterson Housing Authority where GNEC is also running courses.