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Membership History

Associate Member
Joined 2021

Membership History

Associate Member
Joined 2021

Company Overview

Turtle Tots is a unique swimming programme that begins with aqua-natal yoga for mums-to-be and continues with specialised and progressive lessons for babies and toddlers. We welcome over 14,000 babies and toddlers (and their carers) every week, and our franchisees teach in over 250 warm pools across the UK and Ireland.

Swimming is unregulated in the UK, so we ensure all Turtle Tots teachers are as qualified as they possibly can be, through the Swimming Teachers’ Association (STA), and our own world-class training centre.

Sadly, drowning is still one of the leading causes of death in children, and the demand for swimming lessons is consistently high as parents want their children to learn water confidence and vital life-saving skills. Turtle Tots teachers are trained to understand every child’s verbal and non-verbal cues to allow them to progress through the programme, learning in a fun and sociable environment.

Franchisees benefit from three revenue streams: Turtle Tots lessons, underwater photography, and sales through our website’s online shop, which sells a wide range of swimming accessories, perfect for attending Turtle Tots lessons, and swimming elsewhere too.

Franchise Overview

Launched in 2011 in Bristol, Turtle Tots has grown fast and currently has 46 franchisees in the UK, who’s territories cover approximately one third of the country. There is also one franchisee based in Dublin, who’s territory is the whole of the Republic of Ireland.

Brand new territories are available in the UK, and occasionally existing franchises become available to buy.

Turtle Tots has won multiple awards over the last ten years, including AFA Franchisor of the Year in 2019 and 2020. We have been listed in the Elite 100 top franchises for the last four years and most recently were recognised for our response to Covid-19 in the international Stevie Awards for Women in Business.

Training

The majority of Turtle Tots franchisees had very different jobs before they retrained to become swimming teachers, and we guide each new franchisee through the process of becoming a qualified swimming teacher through the STA.

Franchisees then complete the bespoke 5-day Turtle Tots training course which incorporated the STA’s Baby & Pre School qualification. This is a blended training course held over zoom, and with practical pool sessions. After that, franchisees are expected to teach an agreed number of assessed lessons before finally being signed off as having the Turtle Tots Magic!

A key component of the Turtle Tots programme is “Turtle Tums”, our aqua-natal yoga lessons for mums-to-be. Franchisees who wish to teach this complete a 4-day training course run by an external company specialising in yoga.

New franchisees complete two days of business training at our head office in Bristol, covering marketing, merchandise, IT, health and safety, customer service and much more. Ensuring franchisees are fully equipped to run successful and rewarding businesses.

Ongoing, our Aquatics Team arranges regular CPDs for franchisees and teachers. In lockdown most franchisees took the opportunity to become qualified to teach Aquaphobics, who often don’t bring their children to lessons because they are scared of the water themselves.

There is also more informal training via webinars and at our annual conference, where we frequently run workshops on subjects as diverse as Google AdWords, and Neuroscience.

Daily Life of a franchisee

Turtle Tots franchisees usually start their business teaching lessons in the pool, but very quickly grow and employ teachers to teach most of the lessons, and administrative staff to look after the day to day running of the business. This enables them to concentrate on other activities. No two days are the same and tasks might include liaising with pools, managing their team, marketing their business, working on their growth strategy.

Imogen and Nathan Holmes run Turtle Tots Bath and Wiltshire together.

What did you do prior to joining TT?

I was a PR consultant for 14 years and when I had our son Rupert, I realised that I wanted to have more flex over my days and be more in control of my working pattern. I’d enquired about a Turtle Tots franchise early in 2017, but there were no territories available, so when Turtle Tots Bath and Wiltshire became available later in the same year to purchase as an established business, I jumped at the chance.

Nathan – I was a disabled ramp engineer for five years, and prior to that had worked in various customer service roles.

How old was your son when you took on your TT business?

Rupert was a year and a half when I joined Turtle Tots, and I’d been back at work for nine months.

How do you think it differed taking on an established business, as opposed to starting a business from scratch?

Imogen - The best thing about buying an established business was that I could see the cashflow forecast, and I could see (within reason) what my earnings would be, which was a massive help. It’s a scary step going from being employed to self-employed, so seeing the cashflow forecast and knowing the number of customers the business had and the pools that were being hired helped hugely. I feel very lucky that I started with six pools and a team of teachers already in place.

How was the decision made for Nathan to join the business?

Nathan – My job entailed long hours and I’d often have to drive to Cornwall and back in a day, so wasn’t really at home much. Imogen was pregnant with our daughter Maddie and wanted to have some proper maternity time off, so we decided I’d give up my job in April 2018 and run Turtle Tots with Imogen.

What do you enjoy most about running the business?

Nathan - Being our own bosses, and in control of our own destiny. We can make decisions and have autonomy.

Imogen - When the UK went into lockdown a lot of our friends and family were concerned if we would get through this, but actually we think being self-employed is a safer position to be in than being employed. With the cashflow forecast we see what our financial position is likely to be for the 6-7 months ahead, and plan accordingly.

What do you think are the main benefits?

Imogen - The main benefit is flexibility, especially being able to work around our children; and the fact that we both have that flexibility. If I was still running the business on my own and Nathan had a full time job, then it would be me that had to do all the children’s drop offs and pick-ups – but instead we can share these. And if we want to go on holiday, then we can go when we want, and Nathan doesn’t have to ask anyone for the time off.

We’ve always valued the support we get from head office, but throughout lockdown and in the run up to relaunch, the support has been invaluable. Although we all had our own local issues to deal with, receiving the regular emails and knowing that head office were liaising with the Swimming Teacher’s Association and the Children’s Activity Association made a situation with so many unknowns for all of us, much easier to deal with.

We also had a real sense of teamwork. Back in February when we really didn’t know what was going to happen, having the franchisee Facebook page and being able to communicate with each other really made us feel we weren’t alone in the situation.

What are the biggest challenges?

Nathan – The biggest challenge is being on call all the time. It’s a very lucrative and rewarding business but at times it’s also a very reactive business. If there is a problem with a pool for example, then it’s down to us to sort the issue out – and this can happen on any day, whether you’re in the office or not.

Do you have specific roles within the business?

Imogen - Yes, very much so. It’s taken quite a while to adjust to working together. In the beginning, when Nathan first joined the business, I had to show him how everything worked and so we had to work together on things. We soon found out that it doesn’t work if we both are trying to do the same stuff! We now have very clearly defined roles. Nathan’s role includes finances, merchandise and general customer liaison, and dare I say it he’s brilliant at keeping things ticking along. My role includes marketing, teachers and our growth strategy. I’m a bit more creative and constantly looking to push the business further.

What are your long term plans?

Imogen - Just before lockdown we expanded our territory to include Swindon, so we are focussing on growing our business there, as we have pretty much got most of the Bath and West Wiltshire area covered now.

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