Former head hunter expands Sylvan Learning in Rochester
Former head hunter expands Sylvan Learning in Rochester

A native of St. Cloud, Minnesota and graduate of North Dakota State University in Fargo, Sylvan’s most recent franchise owner, Dave Blissenbach, started his professional career not in education — but in engineering. Graduating from NDSU with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, he began working at Ca.....

A native of St. Cloud, Minnesota and graduate of North Dakota State University in Fargo, Sylvan’s most recent franchise owner, Dave Blissenbach, started his professional career not in education — but in engineering. Graduating from NDSU with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, he began working at Case Corporation, a manufacturer of construction and agricultural equipment. While employed at Case, Blissenbach continued his education, receiving his Masters of Business Administration (MBA) also from North Dakota State.

After living in North Dakota for 10 years, he was recruited by a headhunter and moved to Kentucky, where he began working for Ensign-Bickford Aerospace & Defense Company, a global leader in explosives manufacturing, developing products for both military and mining applications.

Blissenbach stayed in Kentucky for a couple years under his employment contract, but moved back to Minnesota after getting married and wanting to be closer to home. The entrepreneur and his wife started an interior design and remodeling company, Design Studio B, in Rochester and grew it into a successful company. Eventually, Blissenbach and his wife parted ways and he sold his half of the business. He then came full circle and became a professional headhunter with Express Employment Professionals.

Never losing his entrepreneurial spirit, Blissenbach eventually began exploring franchise opportunities. He was always familiar with the brand name of Sylvan, but began actively pursuing it once he found out the Rochester territory was available for purchase. Blissenbach comes from a family of teachers; both his father and two sisters are in education, as well as several relatives. Additionally, he’s been a tutor and coach in the past and felt the opportunity was a good fit with his pursuit of business and educational passions.

Blissenbach enjoys being involved in the community. In the past he has been an Ambassador for the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce, served as a member of the Rochester Area Builder’s Association, currently sits on the board of the Performance Excellence Network, and is also a licensed realtor in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Blissenbach's new Sylvan center, located at 2215 2nd St SW Suite 130 in Rochester, Minnesota will open on September 2.

How did you learn about the brand?

Sylvan is a well-known brand and there previously was a location in Rochester.  The center had a good reputation but was closed a few years ago by the out-of-state owner when the economy was struggling.  When I started looking into franchise prospects, Sylvan stuck with me.

Why did you choose an opportunity with Sylvan?

The name is very valuable and it’s a proven system. Most importantly, the brand has a steadfast commitment to new technology. Sylvan uses a digital platform of iPads and other integrated software that is a big benefit for today’s students. We’re setting up a place where students are going to be more inclined to engage in education. Our community places a high priority on education and is growing fast. There is currently no Sylvan center within 50-miles of Rochester.

What challenges have you overcome to get to where you are now?

Starting a new business is always a challenge with financing, finding the right location, and most importantly, attaining the right team to work with.  I also have to balance my active personal life as a single dad with two busy kids and their schedules.

Do you have any development/extension plans? Add units? Timeframe?

I plan on opening one brick-and-mortar location followed by 5 – 6 satellite locations in Rochester and the surrounding communities.

Do you have any interesting hobbies or passions?

Besides actively participating in many of my kids’ activities, I have a few other hobbies.  I’m an avid pilot and fly small planes. I belong to the Southeastern Minnesota Flying Club.  I like spending time on the lake at my cabin in northern Wisconsin. Additionally, I’m an active runner and have run many races from 5Ks to full marathons. I hope to qualify for and run in the Boston Marathon in the next year or two. My home is a small hobby farm north of Rochester where I have planted and grow over 10,000 Christmas Trees, many of which will be ready to begin selling over the next few years.

ADVERTISEMENT