I recently had the pleasure of attending a retirement celebration in the Midwest for one of our first-generation Sylvan Learning Franchisees, Ellen Jacobsen.
Ellen had been an extraordinary classroom teacher for 18 years when she saw a print ad for a Sylvan franchise decades ago...and I am glad she responded to that ad! She was surrounded by small businesses growing up, and combined that with her love for education to create a thriving Sylvan business - she has changed thousands of lives. It was clear from the hundreds of teachers, students, and community members who attended the celebration that Ellen’s connections with the community are deep and long-lasting.
Ellen also has been a tireless Chamber of Commerce member and community volunteer, serving on multiple committees and boards across the state. In addition to helping families directly, Ellen also established Sylvan as a high quality partner to schools, providing remediation and test prep services directly to school districts, small and large. Many people are surprised to learn that only three in 10 high school students will graduate from college. Ellen has helped improve those odds in her communities through her Sylvan franchise. Way to go Ellen!
Ellen has been an exceptional member of the Sylvan franchise community, so her retirement is a bittersweet moment for us. But the great news is that Ellen recently transitioned the business to the next generation: her daughter Kari Weigel and husband Ryan.
This family business has a fantastic combination of business savvy and educational passion, and an unwavering commitment to children, families, teachers, and schools. Kari learned the business from the ground up, spending much of her high school free time at Sylvan, helping her mom and practicing the caring approach and customer service excellence that has been the hallmark of their Sylvan Learning family business. Kari then attended college and began her business career with a Fortune 500 firm - but Sylvan drew her back home to North Dakota. There, she joined Ellen as they built the reputation of Sylvan across the state as a dedicated resource to families seeking math, reading, writing, study skills, and college prep tutoring services. Ryan recently joined the family business, where his financial and accounting background complements Kari's strong business leadership. Both have an exceptional commitment and compassion for children and their families.
Ellen’s entrepreneurial spirit continues. The Jacobsen - Weigel family were amongst the first Franchisees to expand their business with a SylvanSync satellite, reaching more families using Sylvan's digital learning platform. The local community leaders were terrific partners as always, helping them find a satellite location so they could provide Sylvan services conveniently to local families.As I reflect on Ellen's transition to her next chapter, I think of the thousands of students that she has helped over the decades. Ellen reflects our Sylvan passion: to help students succeed in school and life. There are so many other families throughout the Midwest that need a Sylvan. We need more people like Ellen and Kari, and Ryan to bring Sylvan to Chicago, Cincinnati, Detroit and the hundreds of other available markets.Kari and Ryan continue to be in growth mode. They recently acquired the Fargo Moorhead territory to add to their existing business. They will open their beautiful new Fargo Sylvan Learning Center this Fall, and in the meantime have a convenient satellite location serving the Fargo Moorhead community.
Sylvan Franchisees like Ellen, Kari, and Ryan make me proud to be a member of the Sylvan Community. Congratulations Ellen, and thank you to the entire Jacobsen - Weigel family for making Sylvan a top tutoring brand in the Midwest…and in America!