Brooke Bauer, owner of CraniaLogix, is proof that those who can, not only do, but also teach. After many years teaching public school, Bauer wanted to focus on helping children develop their critical and creative thinking skills. She decide to leave her job and start her own after-school enrichment program. While quitting her job felt risky, she believed in her mission: “To support parents and educators by building a foundation of thinking that will enhance every area of learning for all children.”
The Path to Success
The CraniaLogix curriculum is based on six key areas: creativity, critical thinking, strategic games, improvisation, STEAM and literature. CraniaLogix does not have a set physical location. Instead, Bauer’s teachers run the program out of several locations, mainly elementary schools. Bauer also runs a summer camp.
According to Bauer, the program is unique because “unlike other after-school enrichment programs, CraniaLogix weaves cognitive skills with social/emotional skills.” Bauer says that for the students, “This means developing their ‘Nacho Average Brains’ by exploring, wondering, experimenting, questioning, doing something a different way, listening to another’s perspective, not being afraid to fail, and having fun while doing something difficult.”
The program has a mascot — Nacho Average Brain — who was fittingly named by a student in a brainstorming session. Bauer made him on her back porch “out of cardboard, newspaper, yarn and a little paint.” Nacho is part of the company’s developing brand.
At the end of every class the kids are asked how they used their “Nacho Average Brains” today. How did they think or do something differently? How did they grow or mess up? What would they do differently next time? What worked well? How did they work together more efficiently as a team? How did they feel when they messed up — or succeeded? (Truthfully, this is a useful exercise for business owners as well.)
“All these skills are imperative in readying today’s students for an ever-changing future,” says Bauer.
How SCORE Helped
“As a school teacher,” Bauer admits, “I had no idea how to run a business. My dad said I should look online and see if I could find someone to mentor me. SCORE was one of the first things to pop up on Google when I searched. When I called SCORE, I had a business bank account and had set up an LLC with my CPA. That’s it. I didn’t really have a business until I started working with SCORE!”
Initially Bauer was matched with SCORE mentor Tim Carnell, who, with a team of diverse mentors, led her through marketing, financial planning, and bookkeeping questions. Bauer attended QuickBooks, business planning, and marketing workshops. SCORE mentor Terry Toomey offered Bauer marketing expertise.
Bauer says, “I pretty much learned everything from Tim and SCORE. Tim has been the most influential person to me. He is not only a mentor; he’s become a trusted friend. I respect his opinions and seek his wise counsel on most business decisions. He always has a listening ear, options for getting something done, and a specific plan to help me get there. If he doesn’t know an answer, he finds the right person for me to talk to. He helps me make connections and guides me to the resources I need to continue steady growth.”
Carnell credits Bauer as being “a very quick learner,” noting that he often corresponds with Bauer three to four times a week.
Although CraniaLogix is not yet a franchise, the program was developed with this (or licensing) as the long-term goal. Bauer says, “I have talked with several franchise companies [that] agree I am well on my way to making this a reality. I am in the process of documenting and standardizing my practices which makes this company a perfect example of a business that current and retired teachers would love to own.”
Carnell says the program is successful, stating that when Bauer went “back to see how many kids had re-enrolled, it was about 90%.”
CraniaLogix is the 2018 SCORE Award winner for Outstanding Self-Employed Entrepreneur, presented by FranNet.
Paying it Forward
Bauer admits, “Owning a business is just hard. What has made it extra difficult for me is that I had no business experience at all when I decided this was the direction I was going to take. [And] I am very hard on myself. It has been a serious adjustment over the past several years, trying to balance work and home life. I am just starting to understand how to make it all work and save a little time for myself.”