Sylvan Learning may be an educational brand, but previous experience in the education field is not required of franchisees.
The result: a diverse franchisee network that brings a variety of work experiences and perspectives to the table.
Three franchisees shared their journey to Sylvan Learning, how they learned about the brand, and the steps that led to their decision to become franchisees.
Terry and Carol Wettig
Terry and Carol Wettig already knew about Sylvan Learning when they decided to become franchisees. Their daughter used Sylvan Learning when she was a senior in high school, so they were familiar with the brand’s standards and the way it worked with children. Their love for the brand never waned.
They previously worked for a security company, and when it went through some downsizing, the Wettigs decided to take a step back and evaluate their positions and decide on what their next step should be. When they decided to franchise, they pretty much knew where to go.
“There was no second choice,” he said. “It was Sylvan or nothing.”
Still, there was a lot of research to be done.
He and Carol started off by researching the brand’s corporate website and by looking at the websites and Facebook pages for individual Sylvan Learning locations across the country.
“We spent hours researching the process of franchising and dug deeper into how Sylvan operated and what their programs were,” Wettig said. “Once we made the decision to open a franchise with Sylvan, we also looked at the marketplace to determine the best location for us in combination with what our current and future goals were.”
The Wettigs are in the process of moving from the Richmond, Virginia area to Alabama, where they will open their Sylvan Learning center. Their center will be located in Prattville, which is just north of Montgomery, and they are aiming for an opening date in February 2019.
The Wettigs were enthusiastic about the prospect of starting a new chapter in their lives, which made the learning process fun for them.
“The discovery process was exciting to us,” Wettig said. “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.”
Although it’s a done deal, the Wettigs are still doing research by speaking with fellow franchisees to gain as much insight as possible before their grand opening, as well as receiving training and support from their Sylvan business consultant.
“We talked to several people in the organization and since we are still a few months from opening our center, we are still talking to other center owners and visiting as many as we can to learn what good ideas we can take away and use in our own centers,” he said.
The Wettigs enjoyed working with the Sylvan Learning corporate team, whom Terry described as very responsive.
“We had our minds made up, and Discovery Day couldn’t have come fast enough,” Wettig said. “We felt we had all the information we needed to make a good decision.”
Rodney Barnes was doing extremely well in corporate America, but he just didn’t find it fulfilling. He was working as a business strategist for major companies such as GE and Walmart, but he wanted a role that would allow him to give back to the community.
He and his late wife had decided to start a charity they named Student Empowerment Centers LLC. She passed away before the charity could come to fruition, and Barnes decided to research education franchise opportunities. His son attended an education center when he was growing up and so Barnes had firsthand knowledge of how such establishments could make a difference in the lives of students.
“I became more impressed the more I learned about Sylvan,” he said. “It fit the vision I was looking for by offering personalized tutoring, academic coaching and test prep. He did extensive research and ultimately decided to purchase an existing Sylvan Learning franchise in the Houston area and officially took over it in March of 2018.
“Sylvan had the business model I needed to guarantee success, and it quickly became clear that the best approach for me would be to buy an existing Sylvan center,” Barnes said. “I wanted to take over ownership of a location that was well run and in a strong financial state. The Sylvan team made my decision seamless and I thank them for making my and my late wife’s vision become a reality.”
Franchisee Amanda Cochran came into her role with a very unique perspective of the Sylvan Learning brand.
Cochran, whose franchise is located in Jacksonville, North Carolina, initially started working for Sylvan Learning as a tutor in 2009. She had just graduated from college with her teaching degree, but her county had a teacher hiring freeze. A family friend was managing Sylvan Learning’s Ace it! Program and suggested Cochran come on board to gain some teaching experience.
She left Sylvan Learning for a couple of years when she finally got the opportunity to have her own classroom but eventually came back.
She ended up working full time at the Jacksonville location for several years in various roles. She started off as a contracts manager before managing student programs. She eventually took on a center director role. From July 2017 to July of 2018, she was a partner franchisee. She never thought about owning a Sylvan Learning franchise on her own, but then she had a conversation with the previous franchisee, who had decided to move on to another business opportunity.
That conversation was the clincher for Cochran.
“I knew that it was a really good opportunity, but what really sold me was sitting down and having a conversation with the previous franchisee and hearing about the ups and downs of owning a business,” she said. “Just hearing how passionate she was and still is about Sylvan helped me make that decision.”
On July 1, 2018, Cochran took over ownership of the franchise. While she’s still new in her role, she’s already made the center her own. The center moved to a new location in August and a lot of her staff came over with her.
“Just making it a fun environment and continuing to develop the team has been a really great aspect of ownership,” Cochran said. “Being able to take my ideas and implement them has been great. Building the team has been a fun part and continuing to watch my directors do what they do every day and do it well has been great. So has seeing families come in with smiles and thank yous.”
Prospective franchisees, she said, should know that Sylvan Learning does an excellent job of complementing what children experience at school.
“We’ve done a great job of mirroring what’s going on in the classroom and keeping up with the curriculum that’s being taught,” she said. “It’s just one of those things that makes Sylvan stand out versus a competitor.”
Cochran is also working on expanding her location’s reach. She just re-opened a satellite location and is looking to open another satellite location in 2019.
“I’ve only been at it for a few months and it’s definitely been a learning experience, one that can stretch you in ways you didn’t know,” she said. “So far it’s been a very rewarding journey, and if someone is even contemplating or thinking about becoming a franchisee, I think it’s certainly something to look into. I would consider it a great opportunity for everybody.”
The startup costs for a Sylvan Learning center range from $70,980 to $159,885. The franchise fee is $24,000. To learn more about franchising with Sylvan, visit https://sylvanfranchise.com/.