Brooklyn Robot Foundry Awards Free Franchise for One Year to

todayJune 20, 2024 15

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IMG 3450 Janine Harper by Nancy E Williams

June 20, 2024

In 2022, the Foundry launched a Frandowment Competition, awarding one franchise free of fees for the first year, to one deserving owner. 

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Janine Harper never expected to become a franchisee while she was working abroad as a TV News Producer in Japan. Following her return to the U.S., she found herself looking for her next big move.

In 2015, Harper enrolled her six-year-old daughter in the Brooklyn Robot Foundry programs and was immediately impressed with the brand’s hands-on approach to teaching children about STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) and their commitment to ensuring that classes were taught by a diverse staff, so that every student can see someone who looks like them working in the field.

Having a background in tech herself, Harper loved the fact that Brooklyn Robot Foundry was founded and run by a woman who had worked as an engineer. Harper’s background in tech includes software development, a role as a Support Engineer, and a Scrum Master at Kaplan, leading technical teams.

According to their website, the goal of the Brooklyn Robot Foundry is to share the fun of STEAM learning with children ages 2-12 everywhere and inspire them to continue a life full of exploration, problem-solving, and imagination. In 2022, the Foundry launched a Frandowment Competition, awarding one franchise free of fees for the first year to one deserving owner. 

At the time, Harper was working at IBM as an Associate Data Scientist. After learning about the Frandowment Competition, she knew it was an opportunity she would always regret not taking advantage of. After doing her due diligence and reaching out to friends with experience in the franchising space, she decided to take the leap and apply.

The entire Foundry team was impressed with Harper’s experience and her thoughtful application in which she spoke on the importance of making programs like these equitable for all children and the need for parent leaders, and knew she was the perfect franchise candidate to join them on their mission. In July 2023, Harper was announced as the winner and opened her first location in September 2023.

The Frandowment opportunity is unique in the franchise industry. Franchisor incentives for franchise ownership come in various forms but rarely include free or significant discounts for the initial investment, royalty fees, inventory, and marketing fees. And while discounts can be a motivator in considering franchise ownership, they are just one factor. 

Harper shared with BLACK ENTERPRISE, “I truly believed that I was CEO of my own career, so to that end, I would keep learning and earning certificates that would put me into my next best position. I just hadn’t really thought of myself as an actual entrepreneur. I realized that it was more my mindset than the money that was standing in my way. I feel like the contest to win a franchise was a kick in the pants for me. I don’t think it would have been impossible to own a franchise without the competition, but the thought of getting a break on the fees for the first year, for some reason, really incentivized me. I felt I could always come back to data science, but this felt like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so why not give it a chance.”

Harper’s realization that it wasn’t simply about the discounts the Frandowment opportunity provided is a testament to the importance of these types of programs within the franchise sector to encourage other BIPOC entrepreneurs and potential entrepreneurs to take the leap into franchise ownership.

“The Frandowment competition allowed me to imagine a different future for myself and my family. I think that it could do the same for other people. Historically, our communities have been blocked access to capital and it shapes how we move today and what we can envision. Competitions like the Frandowment are a great way to counteract that. I hope other franchisors consider this as a way to achieve greater diversity amongst their franchisees,” explained Harper.

As a native-born Jamaican, Harper believes that running her own business, specifically a Brooklyn Robot Foundry, provides her with an amazing sense of freedom, fitting perfectly in line with the celebration of Juneteenth this month.

“I am free to win, but then also free to lose. I hope that by creating classrooms of budding engineers that are truly inclusive we can help to address the lack of diversity in technology. The curriculum that we are using exposes young people to creative problem-solving and builds their confidence. These skills will help them to thrive in any field in the future,” she said.

She added, “To champion equity, we maintain a scholarship list so that we can provide financial assistance to families that need help. We are actively seeking grants and partners, like the New York Public Library so that we can put on classes for the public for free.”

“When I was working in tech, I couldn’t help but notice the lack of diversity and the tokenism and think about the ways that that negatively impacts us. There are no adequate solutions when we only hear the same voices. I am hoping that my franchise will make a difference in the lives of the children that are in my classes and their families. The biggest motivator in everything I do is knowing my daughter is watching. I hope to inspire her to use her own talents and ideas to, one day, create a business that solves a problem that she cares about after learning from all my mistakes firsthand.”

Janine Harper Brooklyn Robot Foundry Franchise Winner 1

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