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Business Plan

Teaching tech to the next generation

Katie Comtois (left), and Steph Murray with their children. handout

Katie Comtois and Steph Murray met through sports; Comtois is a triathlete, Murray a race director. They are both 37, graduates of Ivy League colleges, New Hampshire residents, entrepreneurs, wives, and mothers of toddlers.

Their new venture, Zaniac Woburn, grew from another connection: A commitment to education.

Zaniac offers afterschool activities, summer programs, and more in science, technology, engineering, and math education for students in kindergarten through grade 8.

We talked with Comtois, of Portsmouth, N.H.

Q. What is Zaniac?

A. It’s a franchise founded by Paul Zane Pilzer in 2012 to provide math and science experiences that engage, motivate, and excite kids. [This is the first center in Massachusetts.]

Q. Importance of STEM?

A. We are living in a technologically driven world. If members of the next generation are going to play a role in innovation, they need to be provided the skills.

Q. Offerings?

A. Computer programming; 3-D printing; electrical engineering; Lego robotics; game-based learning with Minecraft, and more. Zaniac is exposing kids to things they might not find in a traditional environment.


Q. Schedule?

A . Six-week afterschool programs, one 90-minute session a week; Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.; Sundays for birthday parties; summer camps.

Q. Location?

A . A storefront in a shopping center on the Woburn-Winchester line; includes five classrooms and a large common space.

Q. Staff?

A. Nine instructors who are exceptional high school and college students. We believe strongly in the power of the peer-to-peer learning model. The ratio is one instructor to five kids.

Q. Cost?

A. From $199 to $340, depending on the program. The Edison Club is a monthly fee [$199 to $399 depending on the number of hours per week] and the child can come to Zaniac whenever it’s open [generally 3 to 7 p.m.].

Q. Advantage?

A. Some afterschool programs are more fun than educational, and some are more educational than fun. We found a sweet spot.

Q. Future?

A. We are planning to open nine more centers in the next five years in Boston’s suburbs.

An open house at Zanaic Woburn, 358 Cambridge Road, will be held from 5 to 8 p.m., Oct. 20. The center opens for business on Oct. 21.


Wendy Killeen can be reached at