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Why Sylvan Learning Is Positioned for Major Franchise Growth in 2021

As savvy investors look to partner with established, tech-driven brands in the booming supplemental and enrichment education segment, Sylvan Learning is emerging as one of the year’s leading franchise opportunities.

Sylvan Learning*, the leading supplemental and enrichment education brand with more than 750 points of presence across the country, is gearing up for some serious franchise growth this year. The brand pivoted quickly during the COVID-19 pandemic to provide consistent revenue streams for franchisees and custom remote learning and socially distanced programs for students and families. Now, as the supplemental education category becomes more relevant than ever, Sylvan Learning is becoming one of the industry’s hottest investments due to its best-in-class programs and franchisee-centered business opportunities. 

Big News From Last Year

In 2020, as many franchise brands struggled to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, Sylvan Learning not only survived but thrived. The brand signed 21 new territories, opened 16 new centers and completed 26 resales. For more than four decades, Sylvan Learning has been ahead of the curve, developing one-of-a-kind programs and personalized learning for families, a variety of revenue streams for its franchisees and a forward-thinking approach to technology. 

When the pandemic first hit in March, Sylvan Learning was able to introduce a virtual tutoring option as school districts transitioned to remote learning. The brand also rolled out a mobile app in some markets that allows parents to book virtual lessons with Sylvan-approved tutors. 

“Our ability to pivot from in-center service to virtual delivery in a very short period of time was a big accomplishment for us last year,” said Sylvan Learning CEO John McAuliffe. “At the beginning of March 2020, we were operating at 90% in-center delivery, and that dropped to zero overnight.”

The brand was able to leverage a strong foundation of virtual programs that were established long before the pandemic. Those programs include SylvanSync™, which houses Sylvan’s entire curriculum digitally; a cloud-based CRM system, which manages customer communication; and a cloud-based administration system that enables franchisees to manage their businesses remotely. All of these digital programs helped Sylvan Learning adapt to the unprecedented landscape, increasing student capacity and igniting fast growth for franchisees.

Now, the online tutoring market is expected to reach $153 billion by 2025, according to a study by Technavio. “Looking ahead, we believe online tutoring will become a tool that is commonly used as many parents choose a hybrid education model for their children,” said Monica Nicolau, chief technology officer. “Sylvan Learning has spent the last year building upon its already industry-leading technology platform to ensure we are the provider of choice moving forward.”

Last year, Sylvan Learning also rolled out a $2.5 million royalty and fee deferral program that ensured franchise owners had the support they needed to continue providing solutions to families in need of educational support. 

“Another major accomplishment over the past year was the fact that we were able to help our franchisees stay in business through financial, operational and marketing support,” said McAuliffe. “As of March 2021, our system-wide revenue is up 5% over 2019 levels, which shows we have made a rapid recovery.”

Why the Supplemental Education Segment Is Poised for Growth

The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of supplemental education and providing students with custom support that meets their specific needs. “Children have missed over a year’s worth of school as a result of the pandemic,” said Emily Levitt, vice president of education for Sylvan Learning. “In addition, many school districts were not prepared for the abrupt shift to virtual education, which created a decline in effectiveness and an even greater need for supplemental education.”

Now, Sylvan’s programs are more in-demand than ever before and offer a glimpse into the future of the supplemental education industry. “Families who never even considered supplemental education are finding their children falling behind, and Sylvan’s advanced curriculum fills this gap by ensuring a child gets back to where they need to be academically and socially,” said McAuliffe.

In addition to their established services, Sylvan has continued to evolve its programs alongside the supplemental education industry as families adapt to the unpredictable environment. Last year, the brand rolled out its School Support program, providing students with in-center, socially distanced and lower capacity school support needed to login to virtual classrooms and get the help to complete their schoolwork without being in a typical classroom in person. 

Sylvan Learning parent Linda Ashby said the experience of enrolling her 14-year-old-son in School Support was “wonderful, easy and seamless.” “Staff members would call and check every couple of weeks just to see how it was going. I really, really appreciated it,” she said. ”My son has always struggled in math, but the pandemic made it even harder. It took about a couple of weeks, and Sylvan’s tutor had him up from an F to a low A.” 

Susan Valverde, Sylvan Learning’s chief franchise operations officer, notes studies are coming out every day that show children in every K-12 level have had their education profoundly disrupted. “Both the schools and the parents need the help of credible instructors to ensure children overcome these new challenges,” she said. “We have a 40-year track record of success in helping schools and children through personalized education, and we are proud to be in a position to fill this demand.”

The Advantages of Franchising With Sylvan Learning

Over the past 40 years, Sylvan Learning has perfected not only its consumer offering, but also its business model. The franchisor provides hands-on support and a robust pool of resources to its franchisees, as well as offering cloud-based, technology-driven systems and processes to help them run their businesses, drive profitability and achieve their individual growth goals.

In addition, franchisees benefit from Sylvan’s brand awareness, which far outshines competitors in the industry. This advantage isn’t just because of its footprint  — Sylvan also provides the widest range of programs for children of all ages and all levels. Whether a child wants to accelerate their writing and reading skills, get caught up on math or prepare for the SATs, Sylvan has a program for them, which means franchisees are able to appeal to more customers while diversifying their revenue streams.

“Sylvan Learning has the modalities to service any type of student, and franchisees can be confident they are delivering proven programs that are making a difference in their communities and in the lives of students,” said Amy Przywara, chief marketing officer.

When San Jose-based Sylvan franchisee Abhishek Srivastava decided to franchise, he wanted to run a business that helped people. “It was important for me to find a franchise that not only made financial sense but also excelled in education,” he said. “I chose Sylvan because the quality of education it delivers with its program is superior to other brands. Our program provides a highly personalized learning model, because each child is different, and one-size doesn’t fit all when it comes to education. Sylvan has been in education for 42 years and brings its vast experience to bear in its programs.”

The Sylvan leadership team, composed of industry executives, longtime Sylvan employees and former franchisees, also provides owners like Srivastava with support on everything from technology to operations to marketing. The brand even has a dedicated education team, designed to help individual center owners come up with plans dedicated to specific children.

“The combination of our support infrastructure, innovative business model and the fact that demand is at an all-time high really positions franchisees for success in 2021,” Nicolau said. “We have had almost no centers close despite the pandemic, which is proof our franchise can succeed in the toughest economic climate.” 

The Sylvan Learning Franchise Investment

Sylvan Learning is recognized in the segment for its low initial investment and simplified fee structure — 16% of monthly growth revenues and a total minimum annual royalty of no less than $32,000. The initial franchise fee is $24,000, with an initial investment range of $69,760 to $161,445, minimum qualifications of $75,000 minimum liquidity and $150,000 minimum net worth.

According to the brand’s 2021 FDD, Sylvan Learning centers saw a top 25% average gross revenue of $518,159, a mid-upper 25% average gross revenue of $271,159, a mid-lower 25% average gross revenue of $180,972 and a bottom 25% average gross revenue of $104,646.

Sylvan’s flat-rate royalty fee contributes to the national ad fund, mandatory student assessments, SylvanSync, interactive online training platforms, as well as access to the Sylvan corporate team. Other brands in the segment have a confusing fee structure, but this simplified royalty rate saves franchisees money and allows them to bring in higher revenues

“Our focus is to minimize fixed costs, streamline operations and maximize profitability, which we’ve accomplished through lower entry costs, lower licensing fees and a small real estate requirement of 1,000 square feet,” said McAuliffe. 

Sylvan Learning is also starting to roll out a new remote center business model, in which franchisees have the opportunity to open virtually without a brick and mortar location, creating an even lower cost of entry, a broader customer base and a higher return on investment. 

The Future of Sylvan Learning

Now, Sylvan Learning is keeping the momentum strong, with 11 new territories already signed in Q1 of 2021. The brand is also continuing to roll out new customer-focused services to keep franchisees ahead of the curve and meet the changing needs of families.

“Whether it is launching new learning tools or programs, the horizon has opened up and we have proved we can do anything,” said Levitt. “We are always excited to branch out and try new things. For example, we’re reconfiguring our college prep model and finding new ways to add value since SAT and ACT tests are becoming less mandatory.”

On the technology front, Nicolau says the brand is continuing to build out its suite of virtual offerings, making customer engagement easier with an online booking tool, scheduling software and payment method. These advancements will also make the business even more efficient for franchisees as they will have more time to focus on customer service instead of simple administrative tasks.

McAuliffe says this was a challenging year for everyone, but Sylvan Learning was able to evolve its franchise opportunity and operations based on what the team learned. “I’m excited to see all the investments we’ve made come to fruition and pay off for our corporate team, our franchise owners and the families we serve,” he said. “We’re ready to take our learnings and continue growing the Sylvan Learning franchise in 2021 and beyond.”

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