I first heard about Water Babies through my sister, Jess, who founded the company with her husband Paul in Yorkshire in 2002. At that time, baby swimming was pretty much confined to the South East and they were amazed by the speed at which the business took off… 200 clients after just eight weeks! This exponential growth and their obvious passion for what they were doing prompted me to start thinking about getting involved. After much discussion it was decided that my becoming a franchisee would be the best way of expanding the company.
My career up until that point had been fairly diverse, incorporating management consultancy, retail and marketing, so I relished the challenge of doing something different. A year later, in summer 2003, I started my first lessons in Bristol and Bath. Of course, the fact that I was joining a family team, where I had access to unlimited support, was appealing to me. But I also appreciated the fact that franchising offered me independence to run my business within a network of support and a central point of leadership.
With my marketing background I fully appreciate the value of a strong brand, and this, I believe, is one of Water Babies’ greatest strengths. Not only is our corporate image incredibly well devised but the brand now stands for so much in terms of fantastic customer service, innovation and attention to detail.
Although the last few years have been extremely hard work and full of challenges, I’ve enjoyed seeing my business grow from just myself, juggling all the teaching and administration, to a team of two administrators and 11 instructors. We started with 120 babies and now have close to 1,000 with a waiting list of 850 - mostly gained through word of mouth.
As far as Jess, Paul and the rest of Head Office go, I feel they have always provided me with great support and help – I feel constantly pushed to achieve more and be the best that I possibly can be in everything I do. The company, although much larger these days, still harbours a strong ‘family’ feeling: everyone works with, rather than for, each other. Most importantly, we are all passionate about what we do. Although the first couple of years when setting up a franchise are incredibly demanding and time consuming, I’m so glad I did it.