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Mother-Son Franchisee Duo Thrilled to Serve Variety of San Francisco Students

Lori and Donald Livingston took over Sylvan Learning’s San Francisco location in March of 2018 and are committed to providing excellent service to both new and longterm customers.

For Sylvan Learning franchisees Lori and Donald Livingston, the opportunity to service a wide variety of students was a major draw when they decided to take over the brand’s San Francisco center. The Livingston family has always placed a high priority on education. All six Livingston family members are Stanford alumni and Lori's husband Randy, is the VP of Business Affairs, and Chief Financial Officer for the University. 

The San Francisco Sylvan Learning location was established about 30 years ago and has changed ownership a few times.

Lori and Donald, who took over the San Francisco center in March of 2018, love how the Sylvan brand caters to students who are at different points in their academic development.

“The brand really focuses on high-quality instruction with experienced instructors,” Donald said. “Sylvan services a wide variety of students. Some are very behind grade level and others just need a little push to get ahead. It’s a great opportunity to serve the community.”

Lori echoed the sentiment.

“It resonated with me that the brand encompasses both remediation and enrichment,” Lori said. “I appreciate that we can help students of all different backgrounds. We service a vibrant, interesting learning community.”

Lori raised four sons, including Donald, and Sylvan Learning stood out to her as a place that understands the value of personalized instruction.

“I raised four boys with different learning styles,” she said. “They were all strong students, but each had unique learning profiles. I saw in my own family how personalized instruction can stimulate academic growth and help students reach their full potential.”

Lori also saw in Sylvan the opportunity to support young families in which both parents work and need to juggle activities. To be able to be “part of the team and working to help the child succeed,” was another big draw for her.

The mother and son team also enjoy working together. While Donald takes care of the day-to-day operations, Lori focuses more on the bigger picture and setting the center’s tone and culture.

“It’s fun to work with another family member and I think it increases both of our commitment to the success of our Sylvan,” she said. 

They each also have a complementary skill set.

“My background is in communications, public relations and brand development,” Donald said. “I think those are definitely valuable skills. Knowing how to tell a story is absolutely one of my strengths.”

Lori brings years of management experience. She also served two terms on her local school board, which gave her a great perspective about the state of education in California. As a mom of four sons, Lori also cites empathy as another tool that’s helped her in her role today.

“My goal is always to try to reduce the stress level of staff and have everybody enjoy their position and focus on what we’re doing to help our students,” she said.

Lori and Donald also had a particularly positive experience when they purchased their franchise. The existing Sylvan franchisee was there to help them transition into becoming the new Sylvan owners. Many franchisees consider their Sylvan Learning center as part of their family, and they care about who purchases the business and will carry the torch as that community’s Sylvan resource.

”One of the prior owners was willing to stay on and work with us,” Lori said. “She has been fantastic. She has been an important mentor for  Donald and has helped train new staff while continuing the high level of customer service to those customers she’s worked with for a very long time. That’s been a very big part of our experience at Sylvan. That’s been really terrific.”

It’s very important to the Livingstons to reach out to the community and make sure their center serves children who otherwise may not have had access to tutoring services.

“We already have in place partnerships with several nonprofit organizations who sponsor students to receive tutoring,” Lori said. “That’s something I would really like to grow.”

For the Livingstons, being Sylvan franchisees is about building a community of learners that reflects the diversity of the city.

“That’s not something you can do remotely via Skype or online tutoring,” Lori said. “What we have here is really special. The students are coming onsite and they’re all interacting together and I think that’s just really unique.”

The startup costs for a Sylvan Learning franchise range from $70,980 to $159,885. The initial franchisee fee is $24,000. For more information about owning a Sylvan Learning franchise, visit

*This brand is a paid partner of 1851 Franchise. For more information on paid partnerships please click here.