McKinney Chamber of Commerce Member Highlight
Stephanie Talley, Academics Plus, L.C.
Longtime McKinney Chamber of Commerce member, Academics Plus, L.C. shares insights on business and being a member of the McKinney Chamber of Commerce.
Who are you and what is the name of your business?
My name is Stephanie Talley and I am the Owner/Director of Academics Plus, L.C.
What inspired you to start your business?
Mark and Melinda Crenwelge founded Academics Plus in 1991 and developed programs designed to teach students how to think. The terms “metacognition” and “brain training” weren’t catch-phrases in education like they are now, but the Crenwelges were ahead of the times. They have always stressed the importance of critical thinking skills, especially in relation to reading and math, as well as the joy and personal excellence one finds with academic success. When I started working at Academics Plus in 2013 as an instructor, I knew I had found something special. As a former classroom teacher, I had seen first-hand how impossible the task of playing “catch-up” with a student could be and the frustration students endure without experiencing success at school. Academics Plus’ programs successfully accomplish that task, as well-documented by 25 years of rich data collection, and I wanted to remain a part of that. So in 2015, rather than return to teaching, I actually lived the American dream right here in McKinney, Texas, and purchased Academics Plus from the Crenwelges to continue this legacy.
Original Ribbon Cutting 1991
Celebrating 25 Years in McKinney
What services or products do you offer?
We offer enrichment and remedial programs for K-12 students in reading, math, Algebra, and SAT/ACT preparation. It’s so much more than tutoring because A+ instruction is diagnostic and prescriptive, based on each learner’s individual needs.
What is unique about your business?
Academics Plus is truly student-centered. We collaborate with classroom teachers, school administrators, parents, and even medical professionals to ensure our students’ academic success. And our learning environment is so powerful we named it! Success begets success and students thrive when they can absolutely feel that success is within their grasp. We call this our “oasis” for learning and it begins with the physical—bright, cheerful colors, positive statements and beautiful art—and transcends to the emotional—the firm belief that we can increase the academic performance of each student. Whether academically struggling or striving for the highest level of scholarship achievement, the first step is knowing this is possible. Our unique A+ Oasis is evident from the first moment through our door.
How does your business give back to the community?
We participate in and donate to many local school and non-profit fundraisers, and annually Academics Plus sponsors a spelling team at the MEF Spelling Bee. We were thrilled to see the return of this fun fundraiser (which began when Melinda served on the MEF board back in the 1990’s). Mark and Melinda helped Lynn Sperry begin the McKinney New Teacher Breakfast 20+ years ago and we continue to sponsor new teachers and an MISD campus each year in this event. A+ staff members are also actively involved in local service clubs, including Rotary, Kiwanis, and Lion’s Club, as well as the McKinney Chamber and the Greater Anna Chamber. On a smaller scale, one of my new favorite things to do is weekly volunteer tutoring at Faubion Middle School. We truly live in an amazing city and it’s such a joy to be able to give back and be involved!
What obstacles did you have to overcome to get to where you are today?
My background is in education, so learning to manage a business has been a personal and exciting new challenge. I was blessed to come into a very well-established business with an experienced and talented Founder, Melinda Crenwelge, who is my Consultant/Confidant/True Friend. Together we have maintained the high-quality instruction that Academics Plus has always been known for.
What methods have you used to grow your business?
Developing personal relationships in the community has consistently been the key to success for our business. We are not selling a product, but truly offering a service.When people know and trust you, they will come to you in their time of need, and what better return on investment is there than the success of our children? We get to become part of their family, and they become part of ours. Our referrals drive our business.We have found our parents, classroom teachers, website, involvement with the McKinney & now Anna Chambers of Commerce, local service clubs, and churches to be our life line to a successful business.
What is the secret to keeping happy customers?
Communication. Lay all the cards out on the table, clarify the expectations, be open and honest. It’s not just good for business, it’s being a good person. We run our business as we strive to run our lives; this is our calling and our passion.
Who has been your greatest inspiration?
My husband, Mike. He is the one person who can keep me anchored, who keeps me calm during stressful times, and who believes in me. And he always knows how to make me laugh.
What is your most/least favorite thing about your business?
Success stories of students can bring me joy for weeks on end. There’s no better feeling than knowing you were a part of a child’s success and happiness. And now our students are bringing their own children to A+! It is so delightful to discuss a student’s test results with Melinda as she fondly remembers their parent’s time at A+ years ago. We are living a legacy and are so proud to see the young adults our students have become.
Where do you see your business going in the future?
Right now, we will continue to grow with McKinney. But who knows where Academics Plus may end up! I just keep trusting in God’s will and know that He sees the bigger picture.
To what do you attribute your success?
I like to think of success as a process rather than a destination. But where I am today can be attributed to the love and support of others. My parents, who have provided me with incredible opportunities throughout my life; my husband, who always believes in me; Melinda Crenwelge, who is my mentor and friend as well as our founder; Jesus Christ, my Savior and friend. And of course my amazing A+ staff. I may be steering the bicycle but we are all pedaling hard together.
How are you involved in the chamber and what is the effect on your business?
I strive to attend (or have a staff member attend) as many Chamber events as possible. Developing relationships with other business people in the area not only is a personal blessing but it brings in business. Chamber involvement also keeps us aware of community events and needs so that we can better serve our clientele.
What’s the best advice you would give a new chamber member to get the most out of their membership?
If you can’t go to everything, go to something. Explore the Chamber website; there’s all kinds of hidden treasures on there. Also attend a Benefits and Breakfast meeting—this will make you more aware of the benefits of Chamber membership so you can find your niche. Be involved in some way and have fun!