Sylvan Learning has been leading the supplemental education industry since its founding over 30 years ago, and franchisee Jan Schneider has been with the brand since almost the beginning. Today, Sylvan franchisees have worked with over 4 million students on study skills, homework support and test prep in over 750 locations nationwide and ranking on the 2018 Franchise 500 List put out annually by Entrepreneur magazine. Since joining the Sylvan franchise family in 1988, Schneider has taken the helm at two Sylvan Learning Centers and a satellite location: the first in Algonquin, Illinois; the second in St. Charles, Illinois; and the satellite location in Geneva, Illinois.
Schneider’s Algonquin location is particularly noteworthy due to its size.
“When we were looking at drawing the territory [in 1988], we used county lines,” Schneider explained. “Originally, we located our center in Carpentersville, then in 2007 we moved to Algonquin. The territory is large in term of number of children and number of districts as well as the actual square miles it encompasses. The Algonquin territory goes up to Route 176 in Crystal Lake, and then the eastern border is the Cook County line and the western border is Route 47 in Huntley, with Route 20 as the southern border.”
Schneider’s St. Charles location services the majority of Elgin, St. Charles, Geneva and portions of Batavia, Illinois, and her Geneva Satellite is in the Fox Valley Ice Arena and provides supplemental learning two days a week to many students, including some of the players of the traveling Chicago Steel hockey team.
That means that, not only has Sylvan Learning been in the market in and around Chicago since the late ‘80s, but also, “there’s a ton of opportunity here,” as Schneider put it. “And a lot of potential to expand.”
Schneider’s Sylvan locations, while extensive in terms of the areas and number of students they service, are only the tip of the iceberg for Sylvan in terms of the brand’s presence in the Chicagoland area and in Illinois.
“There are 31 units in Illinois, over 12 of which are in the Chicagoland area,” said Georgia Chasen, Vice President of Franchise Development for Sylvan Learning. “Another ten are starting to spread out from Chicagoland into locations like Springfield, Champaign and so on.”
Several factors indicate that Sylvan is a strong match for the Chicago and Illinois markets: franchisee longevity (of which Schneider is an impressive example), an education-focused population that drives a demand for supplemental services thanks to nearly 4,000 schools, and a burgeoning call for STEM-focused learning—an area that Sylvan expanded into before many other brands in the space.
“If we work together with local schools seeking contract services and take advantage of Sylvan's expansion into the STEM world, we drive more passion for education,” Chasen said. “Our franchisees have seen a lot of success and developed productive, exciting relationships with schools through contract service work such as ACT and SAT test prep.
Schneider echoed this: “We’ve done after-school programs for many years. We’ve loved contract services in addition to providing exceptional tutoring.”
This means that both current and prospective Sylvan franchisees can look forward to meeting a strong demand for contract services via partnerships with local schools in 2019 and beyond. Furthermore, this demand positions Sylvan for growth and development in the Chicago and Illinois markets. When it comes to Chicagoland in particular, Chasen said that the brand is ready to hit the ground running. “We have the capacity to support another 15 centers in Chicagoland,” said Chasen. “Currently, we’re looking closely at Evanston, Des Plaines, Arlington Heights, Wheaton, Elmhurst, Oak Brook, Countryside and Bridgeview.”
Chasen pointed to the recent purchase of existing locations by new franchisees Chia Dave and Sandra Chatterji as well as an influx of new franchisees over the course of 2017 and 2018 as strong indicators of the brand’s growth. The next generation of Sylvan franchisees, Chasen said, are eager to tap as-yet undeveloped territories or to take on legacies that have been in the market for years and that demonstrate a deep connection to the local community, like Schneider’s Algonquin, St. Charles and Geneva triad.
“I would hope someone coming in would have ideas to take it to the next level,” Schneider said when asked what the ideal inheritor of her territories might look like. “It would have to be somebody who loves the idea of being an entrepreneur, loves kids and families, and strongly believes in education and the role it plays. It should be somebody who wants to service the families of the area and make an impact on students’ lives for the next 30 years to come—because Sylvan will certainly be around!”
Schneider also notes the opportunity for additional growth development within her Algonquin, St. Charles and Geneva territories.
Ultimately, “there are many ways to run it,” Schneider explained, “and lots of ways to make it your own.”
For those looking for a data-driven, proven model with a high-demand offering in Chicagoland and beyond, it looks like now is the time to join Sylvan Learning.
Startup costs for opening a Sylvan Learning Franchise range from $70,980 to $159,885. For more information on owning your of Sylvan Learning Franchise, visit https://sylvanfranchise.com/.