Before joining Water Babies, I was working for another large independent swim school and was also a self-employed personal trainer in some of London’s top gyms. Having spent the previous few years travelling the world, running a dive school in Indonesia and crewing various yachts around the globe, I felt it was time for a new challenge. Since I really enjoyed my work with the baby classes, it seemed a natural progression to look into running my own. I really believe in teaching swimming from birth, and want all the babies who swim with us to have a truly positive experience which will remain with them for the rest of their lives. I am also keen for babies to start exercising from an early age, which, I hope, will form the basis of an active lifestyle later on.
Since I was already working in the industry I was familiar with Water Babies and aware of its excellent reputation. When I got in touch with them to discuss franchising opportunities, Paul talked me through the options and, upon discovering that they didn’t yet have a franchise in London, I knew instinctively that it was something I wanted to do. So, in April 2007, I signed on the dotted line and set up Water Babies in South West London. Since then, my business has gone from strength to strength – by month five, I’d moved into offices, employed three members of staff and had more than 400 tiny clients.
One of the things which attracted me to Water Babies in particular, was the company’s professionalism and passion for what it does. It’s a very high-quality team of franchisees – we have lawyers, engineers, chemists specialising in Health and Safety, graphic designers and HR professionals, to name but a few; and that wealth of business knowledge is generously shared across the network. From a business perspective, we operate a very effective, exemplary business model: cash upfront and costs at the end of each course, so no-one ever owes us money. (And, mindful of this, we also pay all our own bills pretty much by return!)
As far as support from Head Office goes, it’s 100%. I know it’s a cliché, but we really are one big family – everyone speaks to everyone else within the network all the time and we can call anyone in Head Office day or night if we need to. In fact, we are actively encouraged, as new franchisees, to call existing ones as often as we like and the strength of camaraderie between us is really special. It does mean a lot knowing that, no matter how hard we are working as franchisees, we know that HO are working equally hard on our behalf and really want us to succeed, both from a business and personal point of view. That’s invaluable.