Carol Pope has a long history, full of family memories and businesses successes, with her Longview, Texas Sylvan Learning franchise.
Her parents, Betty and Jim Watts, originally purchased the Longview franchise in 1996 when Pope was just out of high school, and they owned and operated it until she took over in August of 2014. Pope’s sister, who has an engineering background, was also a franchisee with Sylvan Learning in Dallas, Texas for five years until she sold her location in 2018.
Pope’s mother Betty had been teaching for almost 30 years and was eligible for full retirement, but she did not relish the idea of staying home all day. Pope’s dad worked at an engineering company at the time, and it was during a dentist appointment that he learned his dentist’s wife owned a Sylvan Learning franchise and was thinking of selling it.
“Dad was in the dentist’s chair and the dentist was asking him what Mom was going to do when she retired,” Pope said. “The dentist said his wife was contemplating selling her Sylvan Learning center and asked if Mom would be interested. Dad went home and told Mom, who was interested from the beginning. It really gave Mom a wonderful new focus coming out of almost 30 years of teaching. She was able to continue in that career path.”
Pope’s parents also owned a Sylvan Learning franchise in Alexandria, Louisiana for a time. With both locations, Pope’s dad took care of the business side of things while her mom was more involved in the education aspect. Her dad frequently commuted between Longview and Alexandria to work on growing both location’s student enrollment.
“My mom is from Louisiana,” Pope said. “When my parents found out that the Alexandria Sylvan Learning center was on the market, my father retired from the chemical company he was with at the time and decided to buy that center. It needed a dedicated operator, and my parents increased the business, owned it for four years and then eventually sold it to one of their directors.”
Pope has a degree in education from Baylor University and taught second grade until she had kids of her own. She was a stay-at-home mom for a time but always remained involved in education in some way, including supervising teachers in training and writing curriculum for a local literacy council. When going through a divorce 11 years ago, she went back to school and got a master’s degree in school counseling and a master’s degree in professional counseling. She proceeded to work with at-risk high school students, and it was during this time that her parents decided they wanted to sell their Sylvan Learning franchise.
“At that point, Mom and Dad were older and ready to travel and not be so tied down,” she said. “I had always told them ‘When you’re ready to sell Sylvan, before you do that, give me the opportunity to see where I am and what I’m doing.’”
The Longview location has thrived under Pope’s watchful eye. Since she took over in 2014, the Longview location has grown in revenue by 30 to 50 percent most months, she said. Student enrollment has grown from averaging around 75 to 85 students to 120 to 140 students. Pope credits the growth to the expansion of programs she now has access to, including the opening of a satellite location in Mount Pleasant, Texas and being awarded the TXAIM grant benefiting students in seven local Boys and Girls Clubs of America.
Pope is open to growing more with the brand.
“I am always looking for centers around me and in my vicinity that would be a great purchase,” Pope said. “I would never want to take away from what we have going on here at Longview, but I would like to expand if the right opportunity arises. Sylvan Learning is a great business to be a part of. You can work and grow with your community on the education side for students so their tomorrow is brighter.”
Pope’s long-term goal had been to open a private counseling practice, but she said she re-thought that when her parents decided it was time for them to step away. She decided this was the right way to continue doing what she loved and help kids who were struggling.
“I believe strongly in what Sylvan is about,” Pope said. “I believe every child has the ability to learn, we just have to address it at the right spot and in the right way.”
She loves being able to help students of all ages, economic statuses and ethnicities.
“I love that Sylvan gives the opportunity to meet the students where they are and not where they’re expected to be,” Pope said. “Our ultimate goal is to get them to the grade level where they need to be. Building that confidence in a student is priceless. Being a counselor, it saddens me always to see a child that has so much potential covered up by frustrations or by a label being put on that student. It makes me very proud when students come in and we can meet them where they are. When we start seeing those heads come up and those shoulders up and those grins coming on their faces, that’s what it’s all about.”
While Pope was comfortable with the education aspect of franchising with Sylvan Learning, she needed support on the business side. That’s where the Sylvan Learning corporate team support really came in handy.
“I know education, but business is not my forte, so that has been my big learning curve,” she said. “There is a great team that helps you in becoming a franchisee and being able to reach out and ask those silly questions that you have to ask to be able to learn that side of the business is helpful. Having my parents continue to be involved has been vital to me as well. With the great support from the corporate team and my parents, I have grown to love the business side as much as the education side.”
The startup costs for a Sylvan Learning franchise range from $70,980 to $159,885. The initial franchise fee is $24,000. For more information about franchising with Sylvan Learning, visit https://sylvanfranchise.com/.