South Charlotte

Building an education and business out of Legos

SouthPark resident Tricia Rana, a 12-year television industry veteran, learned firsthand the challenges of the motherhood-versus-9-to-5-career struggle once daughter Emerie was born in February 2010.

"A TV ads sales career is not very mom-friendly," said Rana, 36, as she described putting that chapter behind her. Rana decided to stay home with her baby, but like many mothers, she began to feel the need to contribute to the community and get back into the workforce.

"I didn't want to have to reinvent the wheel," said Rana, but she did want to start her own business. She and her husband, Michael Finkelstein, 40, began researching franchise opportunities soon after Emerie arrived.

As mothers in the playgroup Rana frequented starting talking about getting on preschool and summer camp waiting lists - and as Rana started to research these programs - the opportunity for a new business presented itself.

"I was always a huge Lego freak when I was a kid," said Rana, and once she discovered the Bricks 4 Kidz franchise, she knew it was the right fit for her family and the community.

Bricks 4 Kidz was started by a mom almost two years ago and quickly has opened nearly 60 locations internationally, with Rana's and Finkelstein's Charlotte business launching online in March 2011.

Bricks 4 Kidz classes consist of boys and girls age 3-12 working in pairs to build motorized Lego models, complete with teacher-planned lessons to correspond with the type of model.

For example, an amusement-park-themed class might focus on learning about different types of natural disasters; hence, cyclone- and hurricane-themed roller coasters.

The other educational aspect would be the engineering, building and technology skills involved in the creation of the models.

"I get a lot of questions from parents wanting to know if ... their children will be building the same things they could at home," said Rana. "Absolutely not." The models are not available from the store, which adds to the uniqueness and creativity associated with the Bricks 4 Kidz activities.

Without a brick-and-mortar location - although her goal is to have a facility - Rana and her team offer after-school programs at schools and churches; birthday parties; and camps at several locations, including E.NOPI Learning Centers at 8832 Blakeney Professional Drive.

"I never thought I would be buying and building Lego sets for my job," said Rana.