Snapology Co-Founder Laura Coe Reflects on Nearly a Decade of Franchising Success
Since 2010, Snapology has helped young learners build STEAM skills. Today, it’s a thriving franchise system – and part of something bigger.
When Laura Coe and her sister Lisa co-founded Snapology in 2010, they had no idea they were launching a brand that would eventually outgrow them.
“When I started (Snapology), I thought I was going to pass it on to my kids. I actually didn't think (private equity) was going to be my exit strategy – I thought my exit would come much later in life. But it's funny the way things work out, and I'm super pleased with how everything went and what we were able to experience,” says Snapology Founder Advisor Laura Coe.
After franchising the successful education-based brand, which offers enrichment classes, parties and camps to help children from all backgrounds develop STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) skills in 2015, the Coe sisters knew they had built something special – and valuable – when they began getting requests for meetings with investors.
“Maybe four or five years into franchising, we had about 100 units and I honestly started getting a lot of phone calls from folks for a meeting. When you go to (the International Franchise Association annual convention), people would want to have meetings with you,” Coe recalls.
Despite her initial hesitation, Coe began accepting those meeting requests – a decision that would change the trajectory of her career as a franchisor and put the Coe sisters on the path to a successful private equity exit neither had anticipated.
An anticipated, but successful, exit
Since franchising Snapology in 2015, the Coe sisters had grown the brand to include nearly 180 territories (equivalent to around 125 unique franchisees, including several international master franchise agreements) – numbers that were attractive to investors looking for strong return-on-investment potential.
Coe credits much of Snapology’s impressive growth to organic sales. According to Coe, around 30% of the brand’s new franchise sales came from broker leads, with another 30% from referrals – either customers, franchisee expansions or satisfied franchisees referring the brand to their friends. The remaining 40% came from organic leads, including the brand’s website.
“Honestly, initially I had no interest in (selling Snapology). I didn't want to. I wanted to pass it on to my kids,” Coe says. “I wanted to keep it. I loved it – I love the business, I love working in it. I have a fantastic team.”
Still, Coe says she wanted to remain open to possibilities she hadn’t considered before as a franchisor, reminding herself that conversations “never hurt” and often lead to education, new business contacts and industry friendships.
“I just kind of started having a lot of conversations, and the conversations are what turned me – talking to a lot of these private equity folks and really trying to figure out, really kind of searching inside myself and figuring out, what is the next level for Snapology?” Coe recalls.
For Coe, as a mathematician with little experience or knowledge in the franchise industry, the brand’s success and growth was also a source of concern – a fact that led her to take a private equity exit more seriously as she continued to talk with investors.
“The business kind of got to a point where it was almost growing bigger than me. And so I kind of came to an inflection point where I realized I either needed to hire somebody to come into Snapology and work with me … that knew the franchise industry and that could help take us to the next level and really scale, or I did need to partner with private equity or partner with somebody who had that expertise,” Coe says.
Connecting with others on the path to success
In 2021, the Coe sisters sold Snapology to Unleashed Brands, whose portfolio is focused on youth enrichment brands. Since then, the brand has expanded to include over 150 locations. But even before that successful exit, the brand thrived under the Coes’ leadership as a franchisor – a fact that would later become a key selling point for the franchise.
“The success of the Snapology experience isn't just mine and my sister’s. I mean, you have to meet the right people along the way. … Getting involved with (The Internicola Law Firm) was a critical pivot in moving from licensing to franchising. Everyone you meet along the way makes that difference,” Coe says.
For emerging franchisors hoping to eventually exit their systems in a fashion similar to Snapology’s, Coe says the key to success lies in constant self-improvement, education and community-building.
“I think there are a couple things that separate people who ultimately achieve the success they want. I think one is a sort of cliche, but they never give up. I don't even know that it's ‘never give up,’ so much as keeping your mind open,” Coe says, noting that franchisors should remember to always consider their options and never take anything off the table.
“Don't shut any doors, even if you think something's a bad idea. … As your business grows, sometimes you need to move in different directions,” Coe says.
In addition to keeping a growth-oriented mindset, Coe says franchisors can also benefit from living and breathing their brand during the first phase of launching their franchise system – and staying committed to its continued growth over the long term.
“Along with that is the constant drive and the constant push. It's constantly (asking) how are you going to get 10% better? It's (asking) what's the next thing – it's always looking three, six, 12 months in advance,” Coe says.
Coe credits maintaining that drive to surrounding herself with the right people and ideas to continue moving forward as a business owner and franchisor. Coe outsourced important tasks early on, including curriculum development and marketing efforts, to focus on franchise sales and running the business. In addition to partnering with the right people, Coe says reading books and joining franchisor roundtable discussions to learn from, and connect with, others in the industry also helped Snapology succeed.
“The franchise community is so amazing because it doesn't matter what your concept is – whether it's food or animals, kids or education, franchisors all go through the same process, the same struggles. It's the same. And so it's amazing how we can help each other,” Coe says.
Establishing an identify - and owning it
For Coe, franchising Snapology correctly by establishing a strong legal and operational foundation was the key to scaling the brand while avoiding common pitfalls.
“If you want to build a solid foundation – and you want to build it right – you've got to figure out what are the keys to doing that for your business,” Coe says.
For Snapology, that foundation included developing a strong curriculum for students centered around building STEAM skills, as well as developing replicable operations systems and creating a great marketing strategy that communicated what the brand was about – and what set it apart from other similar programs.
“I think one of the biggest mistakes that people make is they experience success and they're doing well and then they try to be all things to all people. They try to make the brand bigger and better, and they maybe try to go in too many directions,” Coe says.
Instead, Coe advises emerging franchisors to know their brand and to forge an identity that sets it apart from the competition – something that can also contribute to developing strong systems and processes that can move the brand forward as it grows over time. By finding ways to set Snapology’s identity apart from its competitors, Coe says she was able to leverage those differences to sell the franchise on the value it added for its clientele.
“Knowing who you are, knowing your space, knowing what you're good at, knowing what differentiates you from the other folks – and not trying to be the other folks, because you want to be who you are and be comfortable with that in your space. … Those are the foundation of what will drive success,” Coe says.
To learn more about franchising opportunities with Snapology, visit https://www.snapologyfranchising.com.