There aren’t many people in the world who can say they opened their first franchise at age 17. William Silva can.
Originally from Sao Paulo, Brazil, Silva’s entire career has been spent in the field of education. Upon graduating high school, Silva opened a language learning center franchise called Escolas Fisk, where he was an English translator and a teacher specializing in English grammar in addition to performing his duties as a franchisee. Over time, Silva opened more than a dozen Fisk learning centers throughout Brazil and Chile, his passion for education and the English language growing with each.
His path eventually led him to fulfill his dream of immigrating to the United States. Silva arrived in Florida in 2017 in search of an opportunity that engaged his dual passions in the education sector. Not long after he arrived, Sylvan Learning came into the picture.
“I had planned to open a Fisk center here and as I was looking at real estate, I met a Sylvan Learning franchisee selling his center,” Silva said. “As I learned more about the brand and was introduced to the Sylvan corporate team, I realized how similar the franchise systems were.”
As two long-standing education brands leading the segment in their respective countries that offer similar programs and services, Sylvan and Fisk both functioned in very similar capacities, Silva learned. Inspired by the complementing philosophies of the models, Silva elected to move forward with both—in the same building, no less.
“Fisk’s founder is an American, so he created the business model with American standards in mind,” he explained. “I recognized all of the systems in place when I started working with Sylvan, which made me confident in the opening process.”
At his franchise location in Ocoee, Florida, Silva’s Fisk learning center teaches English, Spanish and Portuguese for adults, so parents can conveniently come to Fisk to learn while their children do the same at Sylvan. Less than two years later, he is running two successful Sylvan Learning centers in Ocoee and Winter Park, Florida, and is currently negotiating the real estate to bring two more centers to the Orlando area with one in Hunters Creek this summer and a second in Doctor Phillips not long after.
Silva’s rapid ascent to success with Sylvan is the result of a combination of hard work and relevant experience. Having worked with both children and adults for his entire professional life, he was able to navigate a lot of the challenges that come with starting a new business right off the bat. Even so, it has been Silva’s passion, drive and everyday presence at his centers that has made the real difference in his business.
“I’m at each of my centers, all day, every day,” Silva said. “I talk personally with parents and always try to be as flexible as I can to make myself available to them and accommodate their needs. When you work with so many different students who all learn differently, the most important thing is to follow the steps Sylvan has put in place and make sure your teachers are working hard. When that happens, students excel. The happiness they and their parents feel when they start seeing positive things happen on their report card is amazing.”
As far as his future with Sylvan is concerned, Silva has big plans.
“In less than two years, I’m on my way to having four centers up and running,” he said, noting that his quick success has opened the door for him to pursue becoming the brand’s largest franchisee in Florida.
“The territories I own in Winter Park and Ocoee are each large enough to hold another center,” Silva explained. “There are magical things happening in the Orlando area. After I get my newest locations open and running smoothly, I want to expand concentrically here.”
This particular growth strategy is extremely important to Silva because of the value he places on being physically present at each of his Sylvan Learning franchises as much as possible.
“It’s important for me to have my centers no more than 30 minutes away because I want to be in close proximity to all of them,” he said. “I think the key to my success thus far has been being at the centers because parents want someone they can trust. They’re comfortable when they can look in my office and see I’m there. I go to great lengths to organize my schedule to be at all centers, every day. It’s something that makes a difference to our customers and sets us apart from our competitors.”
When asked about his favorite part of his experience in the U.S. and with Sylvan thus far, Silva pointed to the success he’s created for himself through hard work and a commitment to bringing the best out of his teams. He’s also grateful for the people he’s met along the way, as well.
“Meeting new people in America is exciting because they love our stories and hearing about our experiences,” Silva said. “The students here are having a lot of success, too. It’s why I’m growing fast and why I want to keep growing.”