How Sylvan Learning’s Path to Ownership Positions Franchisees for Success
How Sylvan Learning’s Path to Ownership Positions Franchisees for Success

The 40-year-old supplemental and enrichment education brand has perfected its discovery process to empower qualified franchise candidates to make informed decisions and provide unparalleled support.

No other supplemental and enrichment education brand can boast the kind of proven model, 40-year-rich brand awareness, nor 750-plus international points of presence as Sylvan Learning. Furthermore, competitors in the space don’t come close to approaching Sylvan’s level of ongoing investment in industry-leading technology like the personalized learning platform SylvanSync. These differentiators, among others, make many franchise candidates interested in the education space find themselves looking to Sylvan Learning as their next business opportunity. 

So just what does the path to Sylvan Learning ownership look like?

“The starting point for almost all our franchisees is our franchise development website,” said Georgia Chasen, Sylvan’s Vice President of Franchise Development. “Our site showcases a lot of great information including testimonials from real-life franchisees. Sometimes candidates are looking at a big career change in order to pursue their dream of becoming their own boss as a franchisee. It’s important to have enough information online that a candidate can start getting excited about their next big life journey: the exciting process of becoming a Sylvan franchisee.”

Next, candidates engage in a one-on-one call with a member of the franchise development sales team, who outlines next steps and answers any questions the candidate may have. At this stage, Chasen explained, a prospective owner will submit a request for consideration form to provide executive leadership with a sense of their personal and professional background. In exchange, Sylvan’s corporate team furnishes the Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD) to the candidate. 

“We are all about transparency at Sylvan. We want our Item 19 into candidates’ hands early,” said Chasen. “Our goal as a sales team is to help a given candidate make an informed decision and to be empowered with all the information they need to know to change their life by becoming a Sylvan franchisee.”

This commitment to brand transparency not only equips candidates to make informed decisions, but also helps ensure that Sylvan partners with professionals who are as mission-driven and committed to students’ success as the company itself. 

The third step to ownership involves the candidate’s completion of their due diligence process and a visit to Sylvan’s corporate office in Hunt Valley, Maryland for Discovery Day.

“Our Discovery Day is an amazing experience,” said Chasen. “Candidates meet with subject matter experts from every department and hear the strategic vision from the executive team. 

Asked about her intention for Sylvan’s Discovery Day, Chasen replied emphatically: “My goal for Discovery Day is that the candidates will get a taste of the energy and passion the corporate team brings to work with them every day.”

Following Discovery Day, candidates next submit an application and complete a Skype interview with the approval committee. Should their proposal for ownership be approved, the franchise candidate then receives electronic approval and Sylvan’s franchise development sales team will advise on closing paperwork and schedule a transition call for a warm hand-off to the operations team.

“It’s critical that our franchisees know who their main support contact is on day one, and throughout the ownership process,” said Chasen. “To aid in this, the franchise business consultant kicks off support in that transitional call, and the franchise development sales team remains in contact with the new franchisee until their Grand Opening.” 

Within the first 30 days of becoming a franchisee, most Sylvan Learning owners will complete Sylvan 101, a four-day training covering everything from curricula planning to operations to marketing. 

This expertly-developed step-by-step process and exceptional franchisor support combined to make Sylvan Learning the perfect fit for Oviedo, Florida-based husband-and-wife franchisees Ana and Jason McCoskey.

Ana had originally come to the U.S. from Guatemala on an academic scholarship during her undergraduate years, and the experience left a lasting impact. After earning her degree in International Business and Marketing with a minor in cross-cultural communication at John Brown University in Arkansas, McCoskey returned to Guatemala to work as a marketing executive for Purina. After returning to the U.S. for a position with Purina HQ in St. Louis in 2012, she married her husband Jason in 2015. McCoskey earned her MBA online from John Brown in 2018. Also in 2018, she and Jason moved to Oviedo, just outside of Orlando, Florida. The duo had been researching franchise opportunities for about a year and a half before finding Sylvan and realizing it was a perfect fit. 

Sylvan really got us. The brand is very forward-looking; always using technology and making things flexible for parents,” said Ana McCoskey. “Sylvan also has the strength of a well-known brand and a leading curriculum thanks to offerings like STEM and Test Prep. So it was the perfect fit for us.”

The owner of a naturally entrepreneurial spirit—Ana’s father had himself been a distributor in Guatemala of “Entrepreneur” magazine—Ana was familiar with franchising and had educated herself on the different brands in the supplemental education space. She said that previous research played an interesting part when she attended Sylvan’s Discovery Day.

“Sylvan was not the first franchise we’d looked into—when we got there, we knew some about the industry because we had learned from other brands over the previous six months, so we felt more comfortable,” explained McCoskey. “But that really helped us because when we met the corporate team, we could tell right away that they knew what they were talking about; that they have a lot of respect for curricula and what has worked in the past, but that they are also looking to innovate for the future. That’s the kind of brand we want to be part of.”

Another element that helped assure the McCoskeys on their path to ownership? The ability to connect with other Sylvan franchisees, both during the Discovery process, and after.

“Something really important to us was getting to know other franchisees,” said Ana McCoskey. “When you get to connect with owners that operate three or four centers, you quickly realize that if they weren’t passionate about Sylvan or profitable with the brand, they wouldn’t invest the time and money it takes to grow.”

The McCoskeys signed on with Sylvan in February 2019. Their Oviedo territory borders populous Orlando and has been experiencing consistent growth due to a steady influx of families of varied demographics. Ana shared that the duo just recently signed their lease and are preparing to open in the Fall of 2019.

And according to Chasen, there’s never been a better time to sign on with Sylvan.

“I’ve been with Sylvan for over 12 years and I can truly say that this is the best time to become a franchisee,” Chasen said. “We have strengthened our infrastructure from a technological standpoint; we’ve invested in our programs; we’ve developed our long-term executive vision; and we’re attracting the best and brightest entrepreneurs to the brand.”

Startup costs for a Sylvan Learning Center range from $68,680 to $159,085, including a franchise fee of $24,000. For more information about franchising with Sylvan Learning, please click here.

Key Takeaways

  • Sylvan Learning provides prospective franchisees with a franchise development sales liaison, who guides the candidate through each step of the Discovery process.
  • Sylvan Learning is committed to transparency and provides qualified candidates access to updated Item 19 information and existing Sylvan franchisees who can share their experiences, plus lessons learned and best practices.
  • Sylvan’s commitment to innovative learning technology and proven curricula position both franchisees and students for success.