Swimming School Franchises: Start Your Own in 2019
Swimming schools have been around for a long time, but a report from the Swimming Teachers’ Association (STA) has found that, within the last decade, the sector has grown so much that attending swimming classes is now considered to be a mainstream pursuit. The STA’s report has also revealed that franchised swimming schools have grown in popularity and are now responsible for the clear majority of learn-to-swim courses provided in the UK.
A Significant Rise in Swim School Franchise Opportunities
The good news for potential franchisees is that there is no indication that the popularity of swimming school programmes is going to end: of those surveyed, 82 percent of swimming schools had experienced a “significant rise” in the number of children being taught to swim – particularly in children aged two or younger. On top of that, the findings revealed that in the last five years, swimming school franchises have seen growth of almost 30 percent, with over 60 new schools opening. In addition, 81 percent of respondents reported that their schools were subject to waiting lists – and franchised schools had the longest in the country.
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STA’s Head of Accounts, Zoe Cooper, said that it’s “encouraging to see how privately-owned swim schools have matured and are growing their businesses, with 83 percent stating they run additional sessions to baby swimming, including learn-to-swim programmes (75 percent), adult (35 percent) and disability (19 percent) sessions and Aqua Natal (8 percent)”.
In short, it looks as though the learn-to-swim industry is far from just treading water: it is resilient during economic downturns and has continued to flourish while many others have sunk. So, which are the swim school franchises that potential investors ought to be looking at?
Angela’s Swimming School
The first Angela’s Swimming School was founded in 2002 by ex-international swimmer, Angela Wilson. Over the course of the following eight years, Angela built up her client-base and reputation until, in 2010, a second school was opened. As the demand for swimming schools rose, it launched a franchise model in 2013.
Although Angela’s Swimming School is a relatively young franchise, it has already surpassed its founder’s expectations; Angela says that “in just three years, it has grown to 18 franchises, and turnover has doubled in the last two years. Each week, we now teach over 3,000 people of all ages to swim, from Essex, through Kent, to Surrey and Hampshire.” Since the business’ launch, its model has been firmly established and franchisees buy into several benefits when they sign up, such as:
- An exclusive territory, based on a population of 400,000 people
- A four-day classroom and pool-based induction
- Telephone support for on-the-job enquiries
- Specialist equipment, such as armbands and floats
Angela’s Swimming School also boasts unique teaching methods and has a track-record for getting results. In 2012, four students on the school’s programme were given Olympic trials. While there are plenty of franchise industry awards that are presented to acclaimed franchises, achievements such as these are the ones that resonate with the public and keep the momentum going, in terms of creating demand and loyalty and cementing the reputation of the brand itself.
Puddle Ducks is the only national swimming school that offers classes “from bump through to ten years of age”. It is also one of just two UK-based franchises to be awarded a 5-star Franchisee Satisfaction score six years running, which suggests that this business is a great choice for prospective franchisees.
This franchise has made significant advancements since it was established, in 2002. It prioritises innovation and always seeks to improve its strategies for the good of the business. One example of this innovation is Shark, Puddle Ducks’ bespoke management software. This was introduced in 2016 and since then it has helped to manage classes, keep record of children’s progress, take payments and organise waiting lists. It is also fully integrated with the Puddle Ducks website and Xero accounting software, making it an invaluable tool for the business.
Puddle Ducks is keen to expand the business and is looking for entrepreneurs with strong leadership skills to carry the brand in new territories. You’ll also need to be business-oriented and passionate about teaching young children to swim in order to be accepted by the franchise.
However, once you’re on board, you’ll get the chance to take part in 300 hours of training, both in and out of the pool, in order to make sure your swimming techniques and management skills are up to scratch. Once you have all the tools to succeed in business, you will be able to launch your business. This should cost around £24,000 and give you access to a team of experts that will be able to guide you through the set-up process. You’ll be supported in business operations, IT, marketing, retail, pool management and finance.
What’s more, Puddle Ducks prides itself on its dedication to maintaining regular contact with franchisees. It has developed multiple channels of communication, from weekly franchisee newsletters, monthly network newsletters, Facebook franchisee forums, a Shark focus group and a marketing council. In addition to this, Puddle Ducks runs a variety of annual get-togethers, including franchisee conferences, franchisee regional meetings, regional marketing meetings, regional technical meetings, business health checks and technical visits.
With all this support on offer, there’s no reason why your franchise should fail. By taking advantage of Puddle Ducks’ reputation, proven business model, IT systems and support network, you can develop your very own profitable swimming school.
Puddle Ducks is currently allocating territories in:
- London and the surrounding area
- Cambridgeshire and the surrounding area
- Birmingham/West Midlands/Warwickshire
- South Wales
- South Scotland
As you can see, there are territories available up and down the UK, so there is bound to be a franchise agreement to suit you. To find out more and get the process off to a start, visit Puddle Ducks’ website.
Water Babies is another swimming school opportunity that has made a splash in recent years. 2002 must have been a special year for the swim school industry, as Water Babies was also launched in 2002. The creation of the company follows the classic entrepreneur template of ‘see a niche: fill a niche’. The business’ founder, Paul Thompson had previously attended swimming classes with his baby daughter and enjoyed the process he undertook to become an instructor.
However, Thompson found that “there were no standards and very little professionalism around it, which was quite frightening. We started to put all that in place. Right from the word go, we were determined to be as professional as we could be. We created systems and standards and put a lot of structure into it. We travelled the world, clocking up lots of ideas and information – both scientific and what people are doing – to put our programme together.” It is this rigorous attention to detail and the desire to innovate that puts Water Babies up there as one of the top swimming school franchises.
Within a year and a half of launching, the Water Babies franchise had expanded from 4 to 40. While this might not seem that remarkable, it’s worth noting that this expansion took place organically, without any advertising for franchisees; the whole Water Babies empire was, initially, founded on word of mouth. This demonstrates the kind of demand, loyalty and reputation that will help franchisees succeed; that’s how Water Babies has established itself as a serious contender in the franchise marketplace.
With a franchise such as this one, franchisee support is crucial. Water Babies currently has 52 franchisees and a team of almost 30 people offering them direct support and advice on all aspects of the business. Investors considering buying into the brand can expect a range of management incentives and bespoke products, such as:
- Territories defined by postcodes to ensure that equitable divisions and viable markets are available for all franchisees
- In-house marketing and PR teams
- A range of bespoke products, including swimwear and pool equipment
- Access to an in-house, professional photography unit
Despite its previous successes, Water Babies has its eyes fixed on foreign shores and hopes to roll out franchises to entrepreneurs in the Netherlands, Germany, Canada and New Zealand in the near future.
There’s room in the pool for everyone.
With established swimming school opportunities such as these – and others sure to follow in their footsteps – potential franchisees might worry that the marketplace is becoming overcrowded. Statistics from the STA’s report seems to suggest otherwise, however, as almost 86 percent of respondents believed that the “baby swim market had not yet reached its peak”. Similarly, Water Babies’ Paul Thompson believes that there’s room in the pool for everyone. He argues: “[Competition] makes you sharpen your pencil. It makes you really focus on what you do, it makes sure you don’t get lazy in the marketplace and it also helps spread the word. As long as the people who are practising are good and professional, there’s plenty of space in the market for everybody.”
Alice Tuffery, Point Franchise ©
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