When Sylvan Learning was looking for a franchisee for its previously corporate-run center in Owasso, a suburb of Tulsa, Oklahoma, the supplemental education franchise was determined to find an owner with a strong relationship to the community and commitment to community integration.
When Josh and Rebekah Ploch applied to take over the Owasso Sylvan center, the brand found what they were looking for. Not only had the Plochs lived and served in the Tulsa area for years, but the couple boasted an ideal mix of expertise for Sylvan ownership; Josh had built a career in HR, strategy, and operations, and Rebekah worked in higher education.
“A core tenet of Sylvan’s philosophy is that a child’s education is informed by every component of his or her life, inside and outside of school, so it’s important that Sylvan franchisees are rooted in the environments where their students live and grow,” said Georgia Chasen, Sylvan Learning’s senior director of franchise development.
The Plochs examined every aspect of Sylvan’s core values and franchise model before signing on, ultimately deciding that Sylvan ownership offered a unique opportunity to combine their acuity for business management and dedication to progressive education.
“Education has always been an important part of our lives and careers,” said Josh. “As we were looking toward next steps, Sylvan jumped out at us as a great fit.”
Josh had worked as a unit marketing director for a fast-food franchise, which provided insight into the franchise world, but, more importantly, it gave him a chance to work closely with local community organizations.
“We did a lot of on-the-ground marketing,” Josh said, “This work put me in touch with a lot of community groups doing really great work around town. I knew that I wanted to continue working with the community in my next chapter.”
Transitioning into a heavily community-oriented organization was a logical trajectory for the Plochs, who have always been active community servants in Owasso.
“Tulsa has a robust serving culture,” Josh said. “It's a great place to work, raise a family, and start a business, and we’ve always been active in our local church. We’re also on the board of two area non-profits, one of which is an educational organization.”
That kind of involvement with the community is exactly what Sylvan’s development team looks for in new franchisees.
“Our learning centers become community hubs in every market,” said Chasen. “It’s important that the people we have running those centers are plugged into the community and have a real interest in bettering their environment.”
Josh and Rebekah have found that Sylvan lives up to their commitment to enriching communities, and the franchise has empowered the Plochs to run their center with an eye toward the specific needs of their community.
“We’re still in the learning phase right now but Sylvan has offered us amazing support as we’ve been figuring out how to best apply our resources. Right now, we’re continuing to push back-to-school programs,” said Josh.
The Plochs’ location is focused primarily on offering students and parents safe and educational after-school options.
“We’re currently making a big push to promote Sylvan EDGE [a suite of STEM programs offered at some Sylvan centers] and homework help,” Josh said.
But the Plochs’ plan is to continue growing their center, strengthening their core offerings and picking up new services.
“Owasso is continuing to grow,” said Josh. “As Tulsa grows, Owasso has grown enormously alongside it. To run a Sylvan center here is a huge opportunity. We’re looking forward to growing with the town. We’d like to increase our STEM offerings, and ideally we’d like to open a satellite center in the near future.”
Sylvan, too, is planning for steady growth over the next few years.
“Between expanding our presence in existing markets—both domestically and internationally—and bringing new franchisees on board, Sylvan is on a path of rapid growth,” said Chasen. “We’re eager to continue this trend going forward into the rest of the year, ultimately allowing Sylvan to close out 2017 on a record-breaking high.”
And while Sylvan plans for their own growth, they remain dedicated to supporting the growth of their existing franchisees.
“The first thing that jumped out at us when we came on board was Sylvan’s structure of support,” Josh said. “The corporate team didn’t just set us up and then step out; they have been a huge help in every part of the transition, answering questions, training us, walking us through the process. It’s clear that they don’t just want to be a part of our community, they want us to be a part of theirs.”