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From Parent to Business Owner: How Parents Fell in Love with Sylvan and Bought Their Own to Make a Difference in Their Communities

After seeing the difference Sylvan made for their children, these parents invested in the concept to bring even more educational support to their area.

By Morgan Wood1851 Franchise Contributor
SPONSOREDUpdated 8:08AM 03/15/23

Sylvan Learning, the supplemental and enrichment education provider with proven results for more than four decades and over 700 points of presence, has grown to be a favorite of parents seeking business ownership opportunities. After seeing the positive impact that Sylvan Learning has had on their own children, parents feel inspired to expand the resource to even more students and families in the community.

“Parents have already seen what Sylvan can do,” explained CEO John McAuliffe. “They’ve had a child who needed support, and they’ve obviously had a great experience. So, they want to be able to do that exact same thing for other children. Not every Sylvan parent comes back and expresses interest in becoming a Sylvan franchisee, but the ones who have a great experience and feel very passionate about the concept tend to find their way back to the system.”

In many cases, McAuliffe continued, the impetus for parents to make the leap from their previous corporate, service industry or stay-at-home role is simply the timing.

“If a parent is already wondering whether they want to continue pursuing a corporate career path and might prefer to be their own boss and control their destiny to a degree, that is the driving factor,” he added. “The Sylvan model matches up with their desire to start their own business alongside their passion for helping kids.”

Parents Have a Distinct Advantage

Developing as a franchise owner with experience on both sides of the scenario is priceless. Not only does experiencing Sylvan as a parent serve as a sort of due diligence for the new franchisee, but it also empowers them to build some of the strongest relationships with the children and families that enter their center.

“Communication is a very critical aspect of customer service in our business,” McAuliffe said. “These parents know how they want to be communicated with, and they’re able to apply that to customer relations from an ownership perspective. It really helps them to interact with parents in a positive way which then drives repeat business. It all builds on itself.”

Here’s how these five parents brought their love and appreciation for Sylvan to the next level with business ownership.

As Both a Teacher and Parent, Amanda Cockrum Saw the Benefits of Sylvan Firsthand

Amanda Cockrum, who was originally from Arkansas, relocated to Texas with her husband and three sons in 2016. All three boys had attended Sylvan Learning sessions in Arkansas, so naturally, they continued in Texas to ensure they were able to stay up to speed. At the same time, Cockrum began teaching.

After about two and a half years, she decided it was time for a change. Though she was accepted into law school, she ultimately decided to stay put in Texas and open a business that she had been impacted by firsthand.

“As someone who has been a teacher myself, I understand firsthand now that teachers don’t always have the time to go back and fill in the gaps when students need individualized attention,” said Cockrum. “The progress I had seen in my own children was more than enough to convince me that this was a great opportunity to pursue. My boys love to read now, are enrolled in AP classes and actually really enjoy school. If anything, I wish I could have sent them even sooner.”

Russell and Susan Crowe Decided to Think Better

After years in retail management, Russell Crowe decided to take a step back from his role in the midst of COVID-related changes. With a background in education, Susan Crowe had considered applying for an in-center role with Sylvan. As the duo researched, they realized they could think bigger.

The big thing for us is that both of our kids had a lot of success with Sylvan,” Susan said. “Our oldest son has autism, and he’s been going to Sylvan since he was in grade four, and he’s now a first-year at University in the writing program. We had more success with him with some of the Sylvan programs than we did with the therapy we were paying for, so that was huge. Our younger son was a pretty typical boy. He just wasn’t reading, and for whatever reason, he had very little interest and was not going to do it. He’s stubborn. He just put his foot down that he never needed to read, and Sylvan had him turned around and reading at grade level within a year. It was fast.”

The pair did substantial research prior to inquiring, including a fair amount of online reading and even rough budget projections at home. Russell explained that one of the things that stood out about Sylvan was the lack of unhappy franchisees.

“We’ve read some articles about other franchises, not even education-related, just in general, and it seemed like there was almost an adversarial relationship [between the franchisor and franchisee], and that is not what we’re experiencing,” he said.

Frustrated with Covid-Related Challenges, Juliet Duggins Realized Sylvan Could Be a Great Asset to Her Community

Juliet Duggins was a public school teacher and mother to school-aged children at the start of the pandemic. Because New York was one of the hardest-hit cities and first to shut down, teachers, administrators and the school district did not have a solidified plan. During shutdowns, the Duggins family went to visit friends in another state. Though the schools were operating on a remote basis, Sylvan Learning centers in the area were still open, providing support.

“They were packing the kids in the car, putting on the masks and taking them to Sylvan,” she explained. “And I was like, ‘So your kids are not going to decline. There’s not going to be a COVID decline.’”

Duggins’ own children had been enrolled in Sylvan in the past, and the family had a positive experience. After seeing the brand’s continued commitment to its students, even in the midst of such uncertainty, she was ready to invest.

“I want to connect what the kids are doing in school with what’s happening at Sylvan,” she explained. “And, in the conversations and meetings parents are having with me, they’ll be gaining the language and knowledge they need to take back to parent conferences in the school. That’s something that parents don’t currently have that I want to provide through this.”

Ashish Gandhi and Sapna Chordia Wanted to Share the Value of Sylvan with Other Families

Long before investing in the concept, Ashish Gandhi and Sapna Chordia experienced the value of Sylvan. Gandhi’s son had struggled with reading comprehension, and after just a few months enrolled at a Sylvan Learning center, his skills improved remarkably.

“We learned a lot from the process of evaluating tutors for our son with Sylvan and thought that these lessons were valuable and something we could share with other families,” Gandhi said.

In an effort to provide better access to the same programs that were so helpful for their son, Gandhi and Chordia opened their Sylvan Learning in 2017.

“Living in Northern Virginia, a stone's throw from Washington, D.C., we have found a huge demand for supplemental education,” Gandhi explained. “Students and families are striving for greatness, and overall competition in the schools is very high. Sylvan gives students an opportunity to expand on what they are learning in a school setting to reach greater heights of academic success.”

When Terry and Carol Wettig Considered Franchising, They Knew Sylvan Was the Only Option

“There was no second choice,” Terry Wettig said. “It was Sylvan or nothing.”

The Wettigs’ daughter attended Sylvan Learning during her senior year of high school, so the pair knew just how well the concept worked. After some downsizing at their previous company, the two began to consider franchising.

“The discovery process was exciting to us,” Wettig added. “We did a lot of ‘homework’ in learning about Sylvan, and while it was seemingly endless, it was exciting because we were starting a new adventure in our lives. We were motivated by the idea of working in a gold-standard company whose mission is to help children learn and prepare for their futures.”

Sylvan Learning start-up costs range from $85,525–$186,930. Learn more at


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