Small Business Spotlight: A Plus Test Prep

APlus Test Prep

5501 Fortunes Ridge Drive
Durham, NC 27713

Vincent and Sheba Brown, owners of APlus Test Prep, specialize in tough love; tough love for parents and tough love for students. With more than 20 years in education and the personal experience of preparing four of their own children for higher education, they know a thing or two about what it takes to get to college.

“College acceptance isn’t just about a GPA. You have to be willing to work hard, take challenging courses, volunteer and have a great score on the ACT or SAT.” said Sheba. “There is no short cut to success.”

A former high school teacher for nearly a decade and a first-generation college student herself, Sheba has spent most of her career preparing students for college. So when she and Vincent started their business six years ago, they created a program with three key elements that would lead to success: academic rigor, affordability and access.

Once a month APlus Test Prep connects with parents and students at a free community event they call “Student Prep Preview.” Hosted at their Durham offices, the one hour session allows Vincent and Sheba to connect with parents, have students complete a few sample questions and get a better feel for who might be right for the program.

And their program is affordable. Average cost for college test prep programs hover around $900 but the Browns are determined to make sure that parents can make the investment in their children and still provide for their family. To do this, they keep their three week program at just $350.

“We are living this every day as parents,” said Vincent. “It is real for us, we know how expensive college can be that’s why we are the least expensive program out there.”

But don’t let the low cost fool you, the Browns get results. Last year, one of their students, Mya Reid, a Hillside High graduate, earned $1.6 million in scholarships and was accepted at 37 schools. Reid is not the exception, but the norm for students that complete the APlus Test Prep program.

In the summer of 2017, Vincent and Sheba worked with 3,000 students across North Carolina. In their six years in business, Vincent said he can no longer count how many students they have served. “APlus has worked with high schoolers as far east as Gates County and as far west as Elkin, North Carolina and every area in between,” he said. In fact, several high schools – public and private – contract with APlus to prepare their eleventh graders for the ACT, a test all North Carolina juniors are required to take.

“What we do is really about economic development,” said Vincent. “A company coming to Durham needs a robust talent pipeline and we are doing our part to make Durham more attractive to employers by preparing the future workforce.”

APlus also partners with corporations to offer “APlus Corporate” an employer-based and funded program for the families of employees to ensure that their children are college-ready. They recently partner with Triangle giant SAS to offer this program to their employees.

For years, Sheba served as a question writer for the SAT and understands that standardized tests require a different way of thinking and preparing, especially for communities of color where test prep is still a relatively new concept. “We didn’t have this in the eighties and nineties in our community,” said Vincent. “But we are determined to help all families see that this is a tremendous opportunity for us in the brown skin community.”

The Browns also acknowledge that college is not for everyone, which is why connecting with parents is so important to the couple. “In the twenty-first century education past high school is absolutely necessary, but parents need to be open to all kinds of options for students,” said Sheba. “Parents need to recognize that learning a trade or apprenticeship is not a dirty word. There are some parents that take offense when you say that to them.”

At the end of the day, the Browns love what they do and according to Vincent, it helps that they are married and don’t have to worry about firing each other.

APlus Test Prep also offers preparation for PRAXIS, LSAT, GRE GMAT and all other standardized tests.

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