April 17, 2024

Sylvan franchisee Terry Hiduke, far left, is driven by a desire to help kids learn. He’s pictured here with his wife, Joanne Bell (second from right), and his granddaughters, Emilia and Iliana Feliciano.

Sylvan franchisee Terry Hiduke, far left, is driven by a desire to help kids learn. He’s pictured here with his wife, Joanne Bell (second from right), and his granddaughters, Emilia and Iliana Feliciano.
Terry Hiduke doesn’t care about retirement. “I would be bored to death,” the 72-year-old said.
Instead of taking a well-deserved breather from the work force, Hiduke recently opened his third Sylvan Learning franchise in Florida.
Hiduke wears many different hats, depending on the needs of the business, and it’s never boring. He holds meetings with his staff each week to discuss performance and dig into what’s working and what’s not, he recruits directors, reviews marking data and, sometimes, he’s a janitor.
Hiduke opened his first Sylvan location in 1988 in Fort Myers, Florida, while he was working as chief financial officer for Lee Health Care. He and his wife were looking for a business to invest in, and they were “enamored with helping kids. That’s still important. To me, we help kids and it provides a living,” Hiduke said.
Maryland-based Sylvan assesses kids on an individual basis to see where they are in their academic career to help get them where they need or want to be, CEO John McAuliffe said. “It’s very personalized,” he said.
Franchise Group Inc., also owner of The Vitamin Shoppe and Pet Supplies Plus, among others, purchased Sylvan in 2021 for $81 million. The brand had 564 locations at the end of 2021, about 20 fewer than in 2019. System sales in 2021 surpassed pre-pandemic numbers, at $177 million—a 6.6 percent increase from 2019. The brand didn’t report its 2020 sales to Franchise Times.
The acquisition hasn’t changed Sylvan’s operations, but Franchise Group has brought “a great degree of experience in franchise development, which should help grow our system,” McAuliffe said. “They have also brought help in the area of administrative help in terms of benefits and other expenses because of their total size and buying power compared to Sylvan on its own.”
McAuliffe sees growth opportunities for Sylvan in the form of establishing new territories in North America and expanding its tele-learning programs. The cost to open a Sylvan Learning franchise ranges from $85,525 to $186,930.
The COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on schools when it began, as educators were scrambling to figure out how to properly translate their teaching to an online medium. “There could be 29, 30 kids for one teacher on a Zoom call, which is an unbelievably difficult situation, both for the teachers and the students,” McAuliffe said. “And as a result, large groups of students fell behind academically. It’s no fault of anybody, but just because of the restrictions that were put on them.”
Hiduke’s locations struggled to stay afloat in 2020 when pandemic restrictions required many businesses to close. “The pandemic almost killed us because our business went to zero,” Hiduke said, but with Sylvan’s virtual platforms and the Paycheck Protection Program, “we were able to get through.”
The centers were flourishing toward the end of the year as students aimed to catch up and overcome struggles with online learning and the stress of the pandemic. “By fall that same year, we were going like crazy in our centers,” Hiduke said.
McAuliffe labeled Hiduke as a community-minded man. “After all these years with Sylvan, he’s expanding because he sees the need that’s out there in the community,” McAuliffe said.
Hiduke’s three locations are all in the Cape Coral/Fort Myers area. At one time he had more centers, but the 2008 recession led to some closures. He’s continued his 30-plus-year tenure with Sylvan because he sees the service as an asset to the community.
“Some kids struggle, and we’re there to help them get back on track and getting back into school,” Hiduke said. “We’re basically happy when we lose those kids who need remediation.”
Hiduke’s teachers also help kids experiencing homelessness, whether via video calls, setting up a mini-clinic in a local homeless shelter or seeing the students in the existing learning center. He hopes to continue this work and expand it where possible in the future.
Emilee is new to the world of franchising. In the past, she’s reported on anything from city government to education to business, and she’s always up for a challenge.
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