50+ Entrepreneurs

Sylvan Learning Center Franchise

Taking early retirement after more than three decades of working in the Lawton, OK, public school system didn’t mean that Howard and Jo Jean Johnson were ready to slow down.   They dreamed of starting a business that would fill a need in the community and provide them with a successful career change.  The ideal solution was to open a franchise of Sylvan Learning Centers, the world’s leading provider of supplemental education services to primary and secondary school students.

Howard and Jo Jean Johnson
My Location
Lawton OK
United States
Year Company Formed
My Successes

The first task for the Johnsons was convince Sylvan’s corporate officials in Baltimore that Oklahoma’s third largest city qualified for a franchise. “Sylvan’s demographic review indicated that Lawton was indeed a viable location for its third Oklahoma Learning Center,” Howard says. “It was up to Jo Jean and me to make it happen.”

Having worked with community education during his years as a school administrator, Howard knew all about SCORE and the valuable services the organization provides to new entrepreneurs.  But he was in for a surprised when he called SCORE’s Lawton Chapter. “The man who picked up the phone turned out to be Vic Yarborough, my family’s next-door neighbor when I was growing up,” Howard says with a smile. “He and his colleagues would a tremendous help in getting us started.”

More than four years after contacting SCORE, the Lawton Sylvan Learning Center serves approximately 150 students each month with after-school help reading and math, as well as other academic needs.  In terms of revenue, the Johnsons’ franchise ranks among the leading 35 percent of Sylvan’s more than 900 Learning Centers in North America, putting the couple more than halfway on the road to repaying their bank loan.  They also purchased a new building that gives them an additional 1,500 square feet of much-needed space for their growing business.

What's Great About My Mentor?

Vic Yarborough, a retired executive with Halliburton Services, immediately enrolled the Johnsons in several seminars that provided advice on banking, legal issues and zoning.  As with most of new enterprises, though, the big issue was money.  “Vic put us in touch with a bank and helped us prepare the business plan for the loan application,” Howard says.  “That led to an SBA-backed loan that we used to pay the franchise fee, lease a building, do the build-out, purchase equipment, meet city zoning requirements and meet our other start-up costs.”

How SCORE Helped

The Johnson’s still call on SCORE occasionally when a question arises about management or finances.  Howard is also pleased that his search for a new business advisor reconnected him with an old family friend.  “I was so happy when Vic stopped by recently to tour our new building,” he says.  “The expert, caring help he and his colleagues at SCORE provided was absolutely essential to our success.  They have been helpful from the get-go.”

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Starting a business or non-profit organization is not a trivial undertaking. The following steps should only be undertaken after you have completed your business plan and obtained sufficient funding.

Business Plan

Starting a business or non-profit organization is not a trivial undertaking.  The following steps should only be undertaken after you have completed your business plan and obtained sufficient funding.  Help in developing a business plan is available from local SCORE mentors, Online mentorsface-to-face workshops and

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“Mail Works” Help Business Achieve Sales Results

“Mail Works” is the name of the Company.  It might also be their motto.

As consumers are bombarded with electronic advertisements, the old-fashioned “direct mail” is making a comeback.  And “Mail Works” is leading the way, proving that “mail” does indeed “work” in today’s marketplace.

When partners Donna Burke and Claude Montgomery started their business in 2005, they were determined to be the best, service-oriented mail handler in the area.  But something else happened along the way.

Their unique expertise and computer technology have propelled Mail Works to the forefront of “personalized data base management,” which enables customers to individualize their mailings to achieve maximum returns.

As a result, the mailings you get might not be the same as the ones your neighbor receives; they may be uniquely targeted according to your preferences and your buying habits.  Mail Works puts it all together for clients, and saves them money besides.

Part of their success is efficiency: their two-shift operation meets critical deadlines, and computer-controlled automatic equipment performs quickly and accurately.  Donna and Claude attribute much of their success to their employees, whose product knowledge and willingness to “go the extra mile” for customers add up to a successful business.

Donna and Claude love people, and it shows in their commitment to serving their clients.  In today’s tough economic environment, sales are hard to come by, and Mail Works gives their customers an “edge.”

The partners also give credit to the local chapter of SCORE – Counselors to America’s Small Business – and to counselors Jack Chezek and Jim Bayer.  Jack and Jim meet monthly with Donna and Claude, and there are always “five or six things to talk about” according to the partners.  “Taking advantage of their experience has been a tremendous help to us,” according to Donna.

SCORE is supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration, and may be reached at 419.259.7598 and www.nwoscore.org

Donna Burke
My Location
5272 Tractor Rd
Toledo OH 43612
United States

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