Engineer to STEM Business Owner with Kayla Opperman | Ep #4
Today’s guest is Kayla Opperman. Kayla is an electrical engineer who transitioned to opening her own small business in Colorado. She was one of a few females in the Engineering Department at University of Colorado at Boulder, and went on to work for six years as an electrical engineer. Kayla then decided that she wanted to be home with her family more and give back to her community. This is when she decided to pivot to a venture as a business owner. She opened a Snapology franchise and has grown to be one of the most successful owners within the franchise. She uses her skills as an engineer to now teach kids how to think like engineers through STEM education. Listen to Kayla Opperman’s Second Act Success story now!
Connect with Kayla Opperman at https://www.instagram.com/kayla.opperman/
Season 1 -Episode #4
Guest: Kayla Opperman
Transcription (*created by Descript and may not be perfectly accurate)
[00:00:00] Shannon: Hello and welcome! As you may know, aside from creating Second Act Success and this podcast. I own a small business in my hometown as well. It's called Snapology, and it's a franchise. And this is how I know today's guest. Her name is Kayla Opperman and she owns her own Snapology franchise in Colorado. She went from a career in electrical engineering to opening this business that teaches kids how to be engineers. Her unique background has made her a superstar in the business and this conversation was so much fun for me. Listen in, as we discuss the world of franchising as yet another possibility to consider when you're searching for your next career move, let's get started.
Are you at a crossroads in your career or in life? Well, don't worry because life's next chapter is waiting. This is the Second Act Success Podcast. I am your host Shannon Russell.
I'm a television producer, turned boy mom, turned business [00:01:00] owner, podcaster, and career coach. If you are looking to start a new career, or begin a fresh chapter in life, then get ready to be inspired with stories of women who have done just that. We will share advice and offer steps you can take to help figure out what your true calling in life really is. It is time to shine. So let's turn the page and get started. Welcome to Second Act Success.
Today we have Kayla Opperman on the show. Kayla comes from a long line of entrepreneurs, but instead of joining the family business, she went to college to study electrical engineering. As one of the only females in her field, Kayla learned just how important it is to have women representation in stem fields. It was then that she opted to open her own stem enrichment program to teach kids how to think like engineers. Let's dive in.
[00:01:59] Kayla: [00:02:00] Hello.
[00:02:00] Shannon: So happy to have you here. Well, tell us about your journey. I know where you are now as a Snapology franchisee owner in Colorado, but tell me where your journey started.
[00:02:10] Kayla: I was an electrical engineer for six years. I worked for three different companies It was a fine job. I liked my coworkers. It was a typical office job. But I was never really passionate about my work, but I, followed the engineering path because I liked math and science and I did always excel more in math and science than like writing and history.
[00:02:31] Shannon: Where did you go to college? What was your major?
[00:02:34] Kayla: I Went to University of Colorado in Boulder. I majored in architectural engineering, it's in the same department as civil engineering, but we focused on vertical structures. From there, when I graduated, I got my first job, , in the more electrical engineering, sector of that. And, , just kinda stuck with that for six years.
[00:02:55] Shannon: Where there a lot of women at college with you in the engineering department? I feel like, you know, [00:03:00] sometimes our stereotypes that it's more of a man's kind of field in the stem engineering.
[00:03:05] Kayla: Yeah, absolutely. There were no other girls, there are like maybe three or four in my major. Yeah. More men for sure. Architectural engineering, , it's not a very common major, so a lot of people think it's an architect, but it's definitely not. It's like civil engineering, but civil engineers focused on horizontal structures. , architectural engineers focused on the vertical structures. It's building design. The last job I was in, we did, stadium designs. So it was really cool. I worked on, Baylor stadium, , in Texas, I've worked on, , the Viking stadium in Minnesota. I worked on the Braves, , baseball stadium. The companyhas done quite a few in the they're really well known in the industry. So yeah, it's pretty fun.
[00:03:55] Shannon: Was there travel involved in the job? Were you able to go in and be hands-on or were you mostly in the [00:04:00] office?
[00:04:00] Kayla: I traveled a little here and there too. , mostly just kind of check in on on the power layouts and stuff.
[00:04:06] Shannon: So now you're, you're in engineering for about six years. You've been at different companies. It sounds like it's kind of exciting and you're fulfilling what your degree is in. Why did you make the decision to change careers?
[00:04:19] Kayla: To grow in my engineering career, I needed to take this exam called the PE exam professional engineering. I had just had my daughter, she was. Five months old when I went back to work. And then at this point she's 10 months old. I really wasn't happy there at all because you know, once you have kids, you're just, you really want to work in something you're passionate about. or at least I wanted to feel like I was doing more for the community and everything. So I just wanted to quit and maybe find a different path and then I could take some time off to study, but by the time three months was up after I quit my job, I didn't study at all. And I had a Snapology franchise.
[00:04:57] Shannon: If you weren't studying for the test that you had planned on [00:05:00] studying for that was not your path at the time.
[00:05:02] Kayla: You know, I always wanted to own my own business. My mom was a business owner. So I always wanted to do that at some point. I didn't know what it would be in. Thankfully it all works out.
[00:05:12] Shannon: So you're, researching online. You find snap apology, and you just decide to go for it. What was the process? How long did it take you? Was your husband on board?
[00:05:21] Kayla: My husband was so supportive. I mean, he's always been, he kind of always trusts that. I, I know when I'm doing, even though I really didn't know what I was doing. I can't even tell you why I started looking at franchises, but one day I was, and I came across another STEM kids franchise, and then I started looking into more of them and I instantly fell in love with Snapology.
[00:05:46] Shannon: What kind of franchise is Snapology?
[00:05:47] Kayla: We teach kids stem concepts, , through hands-on interactive play, we use mostly Lego bricks and everything. We do engineering programs. , robotics.. We do fun [00:06:00] themes, like, um, inspired by Star Wars,harry Potter, Pokemon, you know, all the popular stuff. and and it's kind of the idea is to mask how educational It is. And we just kind of want kids to come in. They just think they're having a fun Lego camp, but really they learn quite a bit. I think that is so important. I want to hone in on their natural engineer and scientist brains, because I think we are all born like that, but then we eventually shy away from it because we're scared of it because it's kind of foreign, we're more used to reading books and seeing words and math is kind of scary. But if you understand everything behind the math, like even playing with Lego gears, it changes everything there was a part of me. I worked so hard in school. I didn't want to let go of the engineering pass, but I feel like I haven't because, we're teaching kids STEM concepts. A lot of what I do is based on my history and, [00:07:00] um, engineering and, it kind of all fits and I feel like I haven't let go of that. And let's be honest. It's a good selling point to say. I come from an engineering background when I'm here selling these kids programs.
[00:07:13] Shannon: Very true. And just being in the same Snapology franchise with you, I feel like a lot of times parents ask, where you would teach her before? So for you to be able to say, I wasn't a teacher, but I was an actual hands-on engineer that has to be really impressive to parents to know that you're leading these programs. You will be teaching kids about STEM from someone who knows it more than a teacher.
[00:07:37] Kayla: Right. It comes in handy a lot. You know, if, if I get complaints about, Well, my kid wants to work by themselves. I'll be like, you know, I have real life experience with engineers have to work together and, you know, everyone wants to come to. An engineer or something in the STEM field, I feel like. So, um, yeah, you're totally right.
[00:07:55] Shannon: So It's just nice to be a working mom business owner, and still be [00:08:00] able to bring the kids with you and not have to worry about babysitting.
[00:08:03] Kayla: Yeah. My daughter is five now, Every week, this summer she's in a camp. I'm trying not to overwhelm her, but she loves Snapology. So I think we're safe.
[00:08:13] Shannon: Can you talk about when you had the little one, because you had him like shortly into starting the business
[00:08:20] Kayla: Yeah. So I had my son in November of 2019. So, , still a new business owner, I was so grateful because I missed not having a maternity leave, but at the end of the day it was so worth it. I haven't missed a single milestone with him. He hasn't even been in daycare yet, which sometimes I think I need to find something because my house is absolutely destroyed, but you know what, at the end of the day and 10, 20 years from now, I'm not going to care what my house looks like. I'm going to care that I got all this time with with both kids, but especially with him, because it was starting from the very beginning. [00:09:00] I missed out on a little with Sophie when she was an infant, because I was still in the office. That I am truly so grateful for.
[00:09:06] Shannon: How long have you been with Snapology now?
[00:09:08] Kayla: It's been a little over four years. I'm very grateful for it. I bought my first franchise in March of 2018 , and I did start profiting before that first year was up. So I went ahead and reinvested that into buying another territory, , in January of 2019. And then I bought three more territories at the beginning of 2021. So yeah, it's going really well. And then my husband quit his job in December to just focus on it. Full-time with me. So I'm very, very grateful.
[00:09:41] Shannon: And you're so humble too, because as someone who's on the inside, I know that you are probably the most successful mobile Snapology owner, right? You are mobile. You take your programs to schools, to rec centers, to different locations, and you are at the top. Kayla. You're amazing in the [00:10:00] business. How were you able to grow so quickly? So fast?
[00:10:03] Kayla: I should've been more afraid of taking these risks, but, I think part of it is just doing this young because I can afford the risk. You know, I have time to recover if this were to go sour and it would be a lesson learned. Like I kind of looked at it like, you know, instead of going back to school or something, I'm putting money into learning more about running a business in a way. So yeah, I think it's just not being afraid of the risk.
[00:10:30] Shannon: Oh, yeah, that's very true. I think it's really impressive. Everything that you've done up till now. I think age does play a factor into it. Can you tell me if you don't mind, uh, how old you are and kind of how old you were when you started this process into this second act?
[00:10:45] Kayla: I just turned 35 last week. I started this when I was 30, like I said, I do feel that. It's good to do this young because it's a risk starting a business, switching careers completely when [00:11:00] you're, you know, gonna go all in. You're not going to be part-time time or you're just going to give it your all, but I mean, I know plenty of people who've done it later. Actually, my grandma was retired when she started her business. And it was a multimillion dollar, but like she, she was awesome , and I'm so lucky for that too, by the way, because I have a great role model. So, it goes both ways, but for me, I felt like I could take the risk because I was on the younger side.
[00:11:26] Shannon: Starting a business is all about risks. Anyway, you don't know if it's going to come, to fruition , but signing onto a franchise is different too, because you have, , help you have support. Talk to me a little bit about the franchise model compared to just opening a business from scratch.
[00:11:43] Kayla: The franchise model. I totally believe in it. I think that really, as long as there are franchisees that are successful, like you, Shannon, I definitely look up to you all the time. I was like, if she could do it, I have all the resources. I could do it [00:12:00] too, I love their franchise system because if you think back on everything you've gotten from headquarters and what you would have had to pay someone else to come up with curriculum or. Get some help marketing or do this or that. I mean, I think I would spend a lot more than I do on my royalties. Plus more than anything, I have an awesome Snapology, family, like you and all the other owners and everything. And it is less risky, you know, going back to that stuff. It's all there for you.
[00:12:31] Shannon: I agree. When I was starting out trying to make my second act switch, I was looking into opening a STEM company. I knew I wanted to run a STEM business for children, but I was going to start it just completely on my own. , I did not know what I was doing because starting a business is so hard. There's so many layers. And I remember Googling as well and finding snip ology. Thinking the same thing as you, like, I'm going to buy into this and have support, have an instant family and just [00:13:00] have guidance, going into this really scary part in life when you're starting something new, having that guidance just makes all the difference in the world. I love a franchise system for that reason is.
[00:13:10] Kayla: I absolutely agree with you.
[00:13:12] Shannon: You and I talk every single day, we're in different states, I'm in New Jersey you're in Colorado, but we can still talk and share advice and, vent when we need to and share successes when we need to. So I think without that, we'd be in a very different place and it would be hard to grow our business if we were in a silo completely alone.
[00:13:32] Kayla: Oh, absolutely. I don't, I don't know if I could do it. I mean, mentally it would be so hard.
[00:13:38] Shannon: Would you recommend the franchise system as a business to a friend?
[00:13:44] Kayla: Absolutely. Yeah, I do all the time. I have so many friends who are unhappy in their jobs or they kind of want to make a switch and I'm always recommending, they look into franchises.
[00:13:55] Shannon: Exactly. You can research that, find what your passion is and, and move [00:14:00] towards that quickly, you know, quicker than you could, if you did it completely on your own.
You are obviously successful enough that your husband could leave his job and join you in the business. So now it really truly is a family business that you're running. Can you kind of talk about that decision for Greg to leave his company and dive in full force with you?
[00:14:21] Kayla: You know, we have two small kids, they're five and two. , With the pandemic, Greg started working from home, which was wonderful. And then of course with me working from home and being a mobile business, so running everything out of my house, , he kind of was forced to help me here and there. It caused him to work some really late hours to catch up because he was helping with the apology. So we just kind of hit a point where we're like, okay, you bring in this much, which is great. He was just so drained cause he's spreading this business with me, he's working all the time. , , it was kind of a choice we made based on, a better life, but we also knew that it would end up being worth the [00:15:00] money because as you know, it's really hard to find great employees. I am fortunate. I actually do have amazing teachers, but they're teachers. So that's kind of what led me to just say, you know, what, it's worth it to just have Greg quit and do this with me. First he was more of a stay at home dad, but, , he's definitely doing as much work as me now. It's better though. You know, the flexibility when you have young kids or well, anyone wants flexibility, you know, um, we could go on vacation right now and work from anywhere we want. And that's amazing.
[00:15:36] Shannon: It's quality of life it is being with your kids while they're young and it'll be interesting in a year from now to chat and see how much more profitable you are knowing that you now have two managing partners working on the business. Full-time I think it's gotta prove to be more profitable and just kind of expand the business.
[00:15:56] Kayla: I hope so. Hopefully you're right.
[00:15:58] Shannon: I do love how much you [00:16:00] travel. Like I'm always seeing you go on vacations. So you're really business owners, but you're. Using it to your advantage and being able to take this family time and go see family in other states and go on these wild trips that you go on.
[00:16:13] Kayla: Traveling is a huge part of us. I mean, we are all about traveling. So that played a huge part. And. Me wanting to be a business owner. So I could have that flexibility and it played a huge part in Greg quitting his job. So as a family, we have that flexibility. , We'd still work all this time. We took our kids to French Polynesia fall and I was working in the bungalow, you know, but I was also. Having some cocktails and having fun with my family, , . I was interviewing someone and I was trying to make it not look like I was on vacation. And it's just funny how that, how that goes. I'm also from the Chicago area. So it's nice to be able to go home whenever and to, , not worry about having to do I have [00:17:00] PTO or whatever.
[00:17:01] Shannon: Do you think there'd be another chapter of you buying into a different business down the road since you are only 35?
[00:17:09] Kayla: That's a good question. I have thought because Greg and I, we have all of our eggs in one basket. It's all about Snapology. So we've decided to start investing in real estate. We're under contract for a place in, the mountains in Colorado. So my hope there is we can, , make some money, then use that money to buy some more places down the road.
[00:17:30] Shannon: Would you ever go back to a nine to five job?
[00:17:33] Kayla: Never, never, I would absolutely never go back to a nine to five.
[00:17:39] Shannon: It really is something that is life-changing in so many ways. , I do want to go back real quick to you just talking about your grandmother and how she changed careers into a second act when she was older.
[00:17:52] Kayla: Yeah. Yeah. So, um, so My grandpa was a physician. , he had his own family practice and my grandma [00:18:00] was a nurse. And so they kind of worked in that together. She retired in her fifties and then she was just helping people. Cause she's just a nice person. Some of my grandpa's patients, she would tell them what they need to eat. You need to eat healthier. And at this time this was in the eighties and I feel like my generation, you know, as a millennial, we know how to eat healthy. A leafy salad that's bright with colors looks good to us, you know, but at that time, people were kind of just not really sure what they have to eat or what they should eat, you know, or that they could control these health issues. After telling all these patients what they should eat and what they should cook and buy. they were like, well, this would be great if someone had like a business for this and that I could buy this because I don't know what I'm doing. So then my grandma's started doing this just to be nice. And then she realized she could start a business with this. So she started it, she came up with the idea and then she sold it. So someone else could do it. It didn't [00:19:00] work out with the person who bought it. So she took it back and then my mom felt bad for her. So she, she, started helping my grandma out. And then, um, before you know what my mom quit her nursing job and, took that on full-time as the CEO of, Seattle Sutton's Healthy Eating is what it was called.
[00:19:18] Shannon: That's so great. And, and you don't want to go into the family business.
[00:19:22] Kayla: you know, I always thought maybe I would. I felt really fortunate that they have this business. I gained a lot from it. They are really good business people. So obviously I gained from that and then of course, but I kind of wanted to do my own thing just to like more prove to myself that I can, that it's not just like what is handed to me. Like I can do my own thing. And so that's a big part of why I worked hard in engineering was just to kind of form my own identity, I guess,
[00:19:50] Shannon: What you gained from them was the example of being entrepreneurs, of trying second acts, you know, throughout your family and knowing that you could do that too. So [00:20:00] that's invaluable.
[00:20:01] Kayla: Absolutely. You're never done, you know, your career can always change. You can always find something else that ultimately is better for your lifestyle and everything.
[00:20:12] Shannon: Do you think there's a common thread between being an electrical engineer and being a business owner for Snapology in particular?
[00:20:21] Kayla: Yes. I I do think that it's a good selling point to tell people, you know, I wasn't an engineer before this and I am selling all the time.
[00:20:28] Shannon: I don't know if you do them, but I do GIrls STEM Club, and I feel like that's really important to me to show girls that they can be leaders that they can build. It is about building and thinking constructive imaginations.
[00:20:43] Kayla: Yeah, absolutely. That is something I'm very passionate about. I serve on the board of directors for STEMblazers. It's a local non-profit here in Denver. The founder is a former mechanical engineer and,, there's all these women who are in [00:21:00] STEM careers. The focus more, there is middle schoolers and high schoolers and, , it's just encouraging girls to pursue stem paths.
[00:21:09] Shannon: You said it was important for you to be involved in the community and kind of give back. So being a part of STEMblazers has to really help you fulfill that.
[00:21:17] Kayla: Absolutely. It's fun to be on the other side, you know, to be on that nonprofit side and I'm helping the community, I'm reaching out to like all these other businesses, like snap apology to help out too. And, and everyone wants to, and it's so nice to see. They have a wonderful mission, obviously, you know, getting girls to pursue stem careers. It's great.
[00:21:38] Shannon: You're inspiring so many girls in your community. What about your daughter?
[00:21:42] Kayla: Everything I do is for my daughter, she's, the reason I started the business. She's the reason I switched career paths. And I'm really proud because I can now show her that she can follow a stem path. She can start up a business, she can do what makes her happy. , I do feel [00:22:00] like I'm fulfilling all of that, which is what I want to do as a mom, so yeah, I'm very, I'm very happy about.
[00:22:07] Shannon: She is one lucky little girl.
[00:22:10] Kayla: Thank you. She's funny.
[00:22:14] Shannon: All right. It's time for our Five Fast Qs of the week. Here we go.
First up, name, one thing that these different chapters in your life have taught you.
[00:22:24] Kayla: The confidence to do whatever I set my mind to. That would be number one, I feel like I've built a lot of confidence knowing that I could just jump into something like this and make it work.
[00:22:37] Shannon: Would you recommend taking a big leap of faith and changing careers to a friend?
[00:22:43] Kayla: I would love for my friends to feel the happiness that I do doing everyday something I love and. Yeah, I absolutely.
[00:22:52] Shannon: What advice would you give to a friend who was thinking about switching careers?
[00:22:57] Kayla: I would say. If you at all have an [00:23:00] opportunity that comes up, take it. it's easy to make excuses like saying my kids are too young. It's not a good time. I'm too busy right now. I mean, I think all of us have said it's busy Right. now. Like no one has ever been like, I'm not very busy. You know, it's easy to make excuses like that. That's what really holds people back is it's never a good time. Just do it.
[00:23:23] Shannon: Right. There's never a perfect time for anything. I always say research a little bit before. Know what you're doing before you leap, but just leap.
[00:23:31] Kayla: Don't be like in the fall, it will be better maybe in the spring, you know? Yeah.
[00:23:35] Shannon: What's next for you and your family business?
[00:23:38] Kayla: We're just going to continue doing what we're doing. I'm from the Chicago area. My parents are in Northwest Indiana, um, Crown Point and we definitely talk about what it'd be like if maybe we bought a franchise out there. That'd be far in the future, we feel very fortunate for what we have and what we've built. And yeah, we're just going to keep focusing on [00:24:00] that.
[00:24:00] Shannon: Kayla, can you tell our listeners where they can connect with.
[00:24:04] Kayla: I love Instagram. @Kayla.Opperman, and also my business Instagram page is @SnapologyofGoldenLittleton. So yes, please connect with me.
[00:24:15] Shannon: Your journey is so inspiring. Kayla, I am so honored to get to work alongside you with our Snapology franchises, and I'm lucky to learn from your leadership. So thank you very much.
[00:24:25] Kayla: Oh, of course. Thank you. This was so fun. And I'm so honored you had me.
[00:24:29] Shannon: To connect more with Kayla, she is on Instagram and you can follow her at @Kayla.Opperman. And if you're in the Colorado area, be sure to learn more about all the good she's doing with Snapology of Golden-Littleton.
Thank you for joining us. I hope you found some gems of inspiration and some takeaways to help you on your path to Second Act Success. To view, show notes from this episode, recommend to guests with a great story and learn more about us. Visit secondactsuccess.co. Before you go, don't [00:25:00] forget to subscribe to the podcast. So you don't miss a single episode. And if you are enjoying our time together, please leave a review in apple podcast, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. Reviews only take a few moments and they really do mean so much. Thank you again for listening. I am Shannon Russell, and this is Second Act Success.
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