In February of 2020, Snapology Los Gatos co-owners Amita Dhingra and Vaishali Dubal were launching their company full-scale with expectations to implement hands-on STEM learning programs through in-person classes, birthday parties, field trips, themed camps, and more. These activities, catered for children ages 4-14, primarily utilized LEGO bricks and technology. The services are all teaching-based and hands-on learning. Kids participate in the activities using LEGO bricks and technology to engineer, code, design, and build. Snapology's three prong approach of educational enrichment, social development and fun are the perfect fit for all families.
In March of 2020, Snapology began its first contract process to partner with Los Gatos Recreation Center to initiate classes and programs for the students, allowing them to work through more bonding hands on activities and projects with their own classmates. They were all set to start their after school program with Williams Elementary March 30th. However, when the county declared an official city-wide shut down on March 13th, Vaishali and Amita had to quickly adapt to the circumstances and redirect their resources–as any small business had to.
“It was new to all of us. We just started to learn about the business, finance, and marketing, while quickly adapting to the online curriculum and ironing out all the technology issues at the same time,” said Amita.
One of the first options they initially made available was an independent LEGO building challenge, which received tremendous positive feedback from the community. The challenges allowed anyone to participate at no cost. Kids just had to make their own LEGO creations and upload them to Snapology of Los Gatos Facebook, where they would then be judged, and a weekly winner was awarded with a small build kit.
“Snapology has been a great outlet to engage my kids on and off the screen, such as with the weekly building challenges that took place during quarantine,” Elise Katz Marks said.
Amita and Vaishali coped by hiring new employees for the teaching team and establishing their online classes and camps for the remainder of the Spring, and into Summer. Camps were typically week-long and had themes, such as Minecraft, Harry Potter, or STEM-related lessons. Additionally, the company also helped families organize Virtual Birthday Parties during the lockdown, where one instructor would host a themed birthday party with an itinerary equipped with different building projects for the kids to complete with family and friends.
“Thanks for helping with hosting and organizing a virtual birthday bash. The instructor was great with kids aged 3-8 and very patient with them. My child had a lovely time building lego creations with Snapology.” said Prutha Parikh.
As the Fall approached, they looked to bring things back to a state of normalcy by opening up in-person, COVID safe, camps through their local partnership with “Pump it Up” kids indoor bounce house. However with schools shut down, it was hard to implement any after school programs, and working with schools was troublesome because they had their own set of challenges to work on.
Moreover, with the start of a new school year and kids spending their days entirely online, there was a huge drop in online classes, because parents did not want to put their kids in anymore online instruction. Snapology of Los Gatos decided to alleviate some of the parental stress associated with homeschooling by partnering with CD Art Studio in San Jose to run homework assistance and STEM classes after school. Along with that, they were able to run a few in-person classes at Los Gatos recreation center, Cupertino Parks and recreation, and a couple of Home School communities. Low enrollment was always a struggle, but their focus was to support the parents and kids prevailed throughout.
“The smile and joy we saw on the kids faces after they completed their project kept us motivated. We had to make sure we were following all the COVID guidelines and had to keep ourselves updated with any changes the county would announce.” said Vaishali.
“My son participated in a lego camp and he absolutely loved it . The instructor was amazing and kept him engaged! All the classes are educational and very fun. Totally recommend it.” said Norma Yost.
For Dhingra and Dubal transitioning to a fully online environment did not mean that their company was going to limit their amenities available for kids. If anything, it was an opportunity to collaborate with different schools in the county and make their platform available for young kids to become comfortably immersed in the throes of online instruction, during this pandemic. They began to partner with PTA’s and teachers of local schools like Williams Elementary, Simonds Elementary, Castillero Middle School, Graystone Middle School, and Bret Harte Middle School. Their PTA organizations have kindly lent their support to the small business by bringing attention to the company through exposure to students and families at school, while Snapology has offered their services, such as hosting virtual field trips and helping the school's PTA systems raise funds to organize family game nights.
“We had a delightful experience with everyone at Snapology of Los Gatos for our two escape rooms over the holiday break. Communication was great and everything was professionally run in advance,” said a Castillero PTA member.
They have also made a partnership with the Jewish Community Center in Los Gatos, where they intend to bring their in person classes using the resources and space the center has to offer. Furthermore, the company is now preparing for Summer Camps 2021, which are expected to be held primarily in person, and are really looking forward to providing kids with a fun-filled summer.
“We are grateful to all our instructors and partners who have been super helpful and flexible. We want to thank all the parents who believed in us and brought us this far. So blessed to be part of the community who always supported us,” Amita and Vaishali said.
While the pandemic did present unforeseeable circumstances for businesses, Amita and Vaishali were quickly able to realign their company to fit the new technological standards. By enabling a plethora of activities and programs for students to engage in, they granted kids an educational yet entertaining avenue to be a part of during this pandemic.
“We are so proud to be part of the Snapology team who was recently ranked in Entrepreneur magazine’s Franchise 500®, the world’s first, best and most comprehensive franchise ranking,” said Amita and Vaishali.