Sylvan Learning Center, Bismarck and Fargo

SBA’s 2018 North Dakota Small Business Person of the Year Kari Weigel believes she can change lives – and she is, one student at a time.  And she is changing students’ lives in big towns, rural areas, and reservations across North Dakota and the United States.

She learned she could make a difference when in high school she worked in her mother’s Bismarck, N.D., business, Sylvan Learning Center. It is a franchise business that offers personalized tutoring on a number of subjects, as well as study skills and ACT prep courses, primarily to students in grades K-12.

Kari went to college, graduated, and spent five years working as a certified public accountant. She soon realized that she missed helping students. She missed helping a student reach his/her full academic potential. In 2004, Kari returned to Bismarck to operate the business with her mother. Her long-term goal: Own the business.

In 2008, her dream came true when she purchased the business. Since then Kari has expanded services, added a new facility, been a leader in the national Sylvan community, as well as an active volunteer in her community and the state.

Kari’s passion to help students reach their full academic potential led her to look for ways to expand services to the children in rural North Dakota. She was one of the first franchisees to pilot ‘Ace it!,’ Sylvan’s supplemental instruction program that can be taken out of the centers and into the schools.  In addition, Kari and her team helped to develop Sylvan’s iPad instruction format. These programs have made it possible for Kari’s centers to serve more than 1,000 students that would not have otherwise been able to access Sylvan programs because there isn’t a Sylvan Learning Center in their rural communities.

When the opportunity arose, she expanded and acquired the Fargo, N.D., Sylvan franchise center. When Kari determined she needed a new building to meet her growth plan, an SBA 504 loan helped her construct it in December of 2014.

She has consistently grown, employed more people and provided exceptional services. Kari has grown the business from a single location to two brick-and-mortar locations and three satellite locations throughout the state of North Dakota. Her business also operates after school STEM programs in five schools in Bismarck and Fargo. This growth has allowed Kari to increase her number of employees by about 50 percent. For several consecutive years, Kari’s centers have been recognized in the top 1 to 2% of all Sylvan centers.

Kari is a leader in the Sylvan community. She is a board member and vice president of the Franchisee Owners Association, an elected board that represents all Sylvan franchise owners in negotiations with Sylvan corporate headquarters.

Company Name: 
Sylvan Learning Center
Location: 
Bismarck, ND