In this Franchise Chatter Q&A, we get to learn more about British Swim School from Bonnie Alcid, owner of the largest British Swim School franchise in the U.S.
Franchise Chatter (FC): Tell us more about British Swim School.
Bonnie Alcid (BA): British Swim School is a private swim school that has been dedicated to teaching water survival for over 30 years. Our methods are based on teaching beginners of all age groups that the ability to float on their back is the most important water survival skill of all. This enables all swimmers to rest, breathe and call for help, thus alleviating the “silent” danger of floating face down.
We start with babies as young as 3 months old up to adult classes.
British Swim School currently operates out of 80 pools in 14 states in the U.S. and the brand provides water safety survival and swimming lessons to more than 8,000 students per week and conducts more than 250,000 swimming lessons yearly.
FC: Tell us your story with British Swim School. How long have you been an owner?
BA: In 2008, I gave up 15 years of 60-hour work weeks in downtown Washington, DC (in the middle of a recession) to take a chance on my lifelong love: swimming. In 2009, I took a job as a swim instructor for British Swim School and in 2010, I signed my first franchise agreement.
When I signed my second franchise agreement, it made me owner of the largest British Swim School franchise in the United States. I employ 35 people and we teach in excess of 1,200 life-saving swim lessons a week in Montgomery County, MD, a large suburb of Washington, DC.
In September of 2013, I also became co-owner of a third franchise in Northern Virginia.
FC: What sets the brand apart from other swim schools in the industry?
BA: What truly sets this concept apart from the rest is that we focus first on water survival ahead of learning the strokes. We still teach the strokes, but the children do not learn the swim strokes until they have already reached a level of swim survival practices that ensure they will be safe in the water.
FC: We understand that you have a swimming franchise and yet you own no pools. How is this possible?
BA: That is correct – I do not own any of the pools that I operate out of and I do not have the need to. Because I did not have to buy or build a pool, I was able to start the business right away – all I had to do was negotiate leasing contracts with facilities that already owned pools.
Not having to buy or build a pool severely lowered my start-up costs so I was then able to focus my time and energy toward initial marketing, hiring, and training.
FC: Before getting into British Swim School, did you have a background in swimming?
BA: I actually do have a lot of swimming experience and still participate in triathlons, but I know a lot of owners who do not have any swimming experience. The key to operating a successful swim school is to hire a qualified aquatics instructor so that even if you do not have the swimming background, you have someone on-site who does.
FC: What do you think made you such a successful franchisee?
BA: I believe that a lot of my success comes from my passion for the concept. I know that the methods we use really do work and they save lives every day. I still get in the water to teach because it’s still my passion: teaching babies, toddlers, kids and adults how to save their own lives in the water.
FC: What makes British Swim School a good concept to invest in?
BA: It’s been proven time and again that children ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rates. There will always be children and there will always be the risk of drowning – the more swim schools that teach survival skills, the more lives will be saved. In the end, everyone wants to do well in life by hopefully doing some good – I know for certain that I can say I do both.
FC: How can our readers learn more about franchising opportunities with British Swim School?
BA: For more information, you can visit www.franchise.britishswimschool.com.
Bonnie Alcid is the owner of the largest British Swim School franchise in the United States, signing her first agreement in 2010. Alcid employs 35 people and teaches in excess of 1,200 life-saving swim lessons a week in Montgomery County, Md. For over 30 years, British Swim School has been dedicated to teaching water survival skills to children as young as three-months-old in over 90 rented pool facilities.