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Sylvan Learning Summit Speaker Jason Blanshine On How Signing With Sylvan Just Days Before Pandemic Shutdowns Began was a Great Idea

Sylvan Learning franchisee Jason Blanshine signed on with Sylvan Learning just days before health authorities declared a pandemic in March. He quickly saw the brand pivot to continue to provide an essential service.

By Alex Lockie1851 Franchise Editor
Updated 1:13PM 01/21/21

Jason Blanshine wasn’t enjoying his job as a teacher anymore. Despite having a strong background in education and a deep passion for his work teaching students, the administrative drudgery of being a teacher caught up to him. 

That’s when he and his wife decided to sign on with Sylvan Learning, a 750-unit point of presence educational supplemental and enrichment franchise with 40+ years in the business. 

“For the past 12 years, I was a special education teacher at a local elementary school,” Blanshine said at the Sylvan Learning Summit online. “I wasn’t enjoying teaching as much as when I started. My wife, who is from Rochester, New York, where Sylvan has a presence, mentioned the brand.”

But Blanshine, like many teachers, had no experience running a business. The prospect of signing over a huge chunk of his savings to start a new venture gave the Blanshines pause, despite the strong brand recognition and Jason’s track record as an educator. 

“For me, the biggest back and forth was just the security you have as a teacher financially,” he said. “Going into a business, I don't have much of that background. My background is all on the education side”

Blanshine’s good friend, an accountant, grilled him while he weighed his decision. The friend asked him “Why Sylvan? Why not just open a business yourself?”

Blanshine thought long and hard about his friend’s question, but emerged undeterred. After speaking to franchisees, going over the numbers, and researching his area, Blanshine was more determined than ever to bring the brand to his home region in Delaware. 

“I told him it came down to the support Sylvan offers,” Blanshine said. “From the very beginning, there’s someone you can bounce a question off of at any time. They’re really quick in getting back to you. The support continues right into the ownership of the Sylvan franchise. Even today, I know there’s always a franchise business coach there for you. There’s marketing help. There’s a concept already there.”

But for Blanshine, the testimonies of fellow teachers rang the truest.

“The biggest thing is other franchisees — there’s just so much support there. That’s what convinced me,” he said.

Just days after signing the paperwork to open his Sylvan franchise, the whole world was dealt an enormous blow.

“I signed the papers to purchase the franchise and then it was just days before the country pretty much shut down,” said Blanshine about signing up for his franchise in early March 2020. “I was like ‘Oh my goodness, what did I do!’”

But Sylvan leadership quickly saw the positive impact they could make during this challenging time by supporting remote learning. Since schools closed and children had to start learning remotely, Sylvan has become more relevant than ever. Now, the brand offers School Support, where children can log into online learning and have a real, qualified teacher besides them all day long. Providing this new service, in addition to many others, demonstrated how Sylvan readily pivoted to serve the needs of its communities. For the franchisees, Sylvan waived $2.5 million in royalty fees to help ease the burden. 

For Blanshine, seeing that leadership from corporate put his mind at ease. 

“Luckily, I got to actually see just how easily Sylvan turned that into an opportunity and change to the virtual platform,” he said. “I’m watching these franchisees still succeed through these times. It makes me feel more relaxed about it now.”

Blanshine went ahead with his franchise and is off to a roaring start. 

“I’m learning business every day,” Blanshine said. “I have the educational background to understand everything on that side, but for me in this area, we didn’t have anything like Sylvan. I felt like I was bringing something this community needed.”

Without even having a grand opening ceremony, Blanshine has already seen some return on his investment. 

“We’ve been open two months, and we’ve had a tremendous start to things,” he said. 

Perhaps even more importantly, Blanshine still gets to directly help kids and families learn, which speaks to the passion he had when he got into education in the first place. The only difference is that now, Blanshine gets to transform student’s lives as a business owner, not just another teacher working for an under-funded school. 

“The advice I was given here was that you have to take a risk to be rewarded,” said Blanshine. “This business is rewarding in itself. Seeing the parents that come through who have really no place to go, who say they’ve been waiting for something like this to come to the area and that they’ve tried everything else — it’s just the best feeling to get to help them.” 

Watch Jason’s interview from Sylvan’s Franchise Summit here.

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