Meet Crystal Cotti, who left her job as a news anchor to open multiple Sylvan centers throughout Texas.
I grew up in a small, central-Texas town called McGregor, before pursuing a career in journalism at the University of Texas in Austin. During my last semester of college, I started working as a morning news reporter at the television station FOX 7, and eventually, ended up working there for six years. From 2004–2010, I covered Austin’s city hall beat before taking over operations at the local Sylvan. I am married to former Democratic member of the Texas House of Representatives, Mark Strama, who works as the head of Google Fiber in Austin. We have two young daughters.
How I Heard About Sylvan
The next town over from where I grew up was Waco, and they had a Sylvan. I had heard of Sylvan and knew that it helped kids, but that was about it. Even though I haven’t always pursued a career in education, it was always in the back of my mind. My parents were firm believers in the importance of education and they enforced that idea with all their kids. The thing that I’m most proud of is not that I was the first person in my family to go to college—it’s that I wasn’t the last. All of my younger siblings also attended college.
My dad always said, “Education is key to a better life.” I think Sylvan would say the same thing. At Sylvan, we help all kids reach their potential to be successful in school, and more broadly, successful in life. Sylvan makes sure that kids have the support they need to make it through to college and to find a career. That’s what the brand said to me and why I was interested in being a franchisee.
We are big supporters of a lot of non-profits, all related to education. Our Austin location has supported an organization called A Community for Education (ACE), which provides literacy support for children Pre-K through first grade. We’ve also supported the Campfire branch and the Boys and Girls Club of Austin. Usually, we get involved by providing donations, outreach for parents, workshops, and tutoring. We are still learning the charitable landscape of Kyle, our newest center location, but we hope to get started there soon.
Challenges I Faced To Get To Where I Am Now
Just like all small businesses, 2009 and 2010 were really difficult years for local economy and national economy. Businesses that survived were businesses that were lean and mean. We’re really proud that we didn’t have to do any lay-offs, but we did cut the fat out of our budgets and got efficient with operations—that was key. When the economy started to improve, we were in a much better position to serve our community.
One of the other challenges of owning a small business is making sure we are financially accessible for our community. We implemented payment plans and financing options so we could be more affordable for any budget. More than anything, we relied on providing excellent service and building relationships with local families. For us, receiving a recommendation or a word-of-mouth referral is the most valuable resource we can get.
Development Plans With Sylvan
We want to help as many kids as possible reach their academic potential. But, in Texas, if you want to be convenient to people, you can’t be more than a 15-minute drive away. Our new Kyle location will bring us closer to families that need our services. Eventually, we would like satellites in Buda and San Marcos, TX. We aim to be the most convenient and effective tutoring option that families in Hays County can access.
Since I was a TV journalist, I still love telling stories and I still love editing videos. I combine that with my experience at Sylvan by doing an education segment for local PBS station called Education Edge every Monday at 7:45 a.m. We provide tips for parents to help their kids do well in school.
Want to know more about Crystal's franchise story? Check out her video!