In this exclusive Q&A, we learn more about the Goldfish Swim School franchise opportunity from co-founders Chris and Jenny McCuiston.
Franchise Chatter (FC): Can you tell us what inspired Goldfish Swim School and how it got its start?
Jenny McCuiston (JM): When Chris and I returned to our hometown of Birmingham, Michigan after college, we realized there was a serious lack of professional swim lessons facilities for infants and children. I have a degree in early childhood development and as a competitive swimmer my whole life, even making it to the Olympic Trials two times, I wanted to give kids an exciting place to learn to swim and experience the same thrills I did.
With my swimming experience and Chris’ financial acumen as a business major from Michigan State University, we set out to create a child-focused swim school to help children become safer and more confident in and around the water.
Once we decided we wanted to jump into the waters of owning our own business, Chris and I went on a bit of a nationwide tour to explore swim schools. When we got back, we gathered our thoughts and from there opened Goldfish’s inaugural location in Birmingham, Michigan. With that launch, we unveiled our innovative Science of SwimPlay® teaching method that has helped Goldfish students thrive by using games, mascots and animated drawings to help kids learn through fun.
With child-friendly décor, a 90-degree pool, and dedication to providing a “Golden Experience” through monthly celebrations and curated details, as well as a snack shack, tropical themed pro shop and an air-conditioned viewing gallery for parents, Goldfish took off. With this massive success, we began franchising with the help of Chris’ brother Andrew, as president, in 2009 and began expanding our footprint across North America.
FC: What sets Goldfish apart from other swim schools in the space?
JM: The key differentiators that set Goldfish apart are our state-of-the-art facilities, our customer service standards, our commitment to water safety, and our proprietary learn-to-swim curriculum.
For us, creating a space that fostered our love for swimming meant addressing one of the staggering statistics tied to the recreation – that drowning is the number one cause of accidental death for children ages 1-4. This is either because many children don’t receive water safety or swim education at a young enough age, or they don’t receive it at all.
With this in mind, we offer lessons for all children from infancy to adolescence. As a member of the National Drowning Prevention Alliance, we also don’t just teach kids how to swim, but also how to respect the water. We effectively teach this respect through our proprietary curriculum called The Science of SwimPlay®.
The Science of SwimPlay® curriculum is focused on teaching swim and safety skills while building character through guided play. The small classes, consisting of 4 children maximum, play games and have colorful drawings featuring our mascot, Bubbles, so that they learn through fun – after all, science proves kids retain more learning this way.
FC: We heard you recently launched Goldfish RX. Can you tell us a bit more about this venture?
JM: Yes! We just launched Goldfish RX in April, 2019 and it is a true passion project between myself and another mom, Nicole Hughes, a fellow water safety advocate who sadly lost her three-year-old son Levi in June, 2018.
Following her loss, Nicole founded Water Guardians: Levi’s Legacy, in memory of her son, and has worked to bring awareness and conversation to the topic, ultimately taking her message to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to advocate for change. We support her mission whole-heartedly and aimed to be a support tool for pediatricians.
In partnership with Nicole, we formed Goldfish RX which aims to build relationships with pediatricians across the country by providing educational material needed to promote doctor-patient conversations around drowning prevention, the importance of water safety, and the value of swim lessons at a young age.
This is especially important as drowning remains the number one cause of injury-related death among children ages 1 to 4, taking the lives of three children in the United States every day. It was time for radical change and it’s our aim through this program to make a difference.
FC: What qualities does Goldfish Swim School look for in a potential franchisee?
Chris McCuiston (CM): At the forefront, a potential Goldfish franchisee has to have the same passion we do for teaching children swim safety and how to swim overall. We also seek potential franchisees who have a passion for the Science of Swimplay® system and creating a fun and inviting family-centered environment. This person should hold our core values at heart, including treating people with integrity, compassion and trust.
While a potential franchisee does not require experience owning their own business, they should have management experience, an entrepreneurial spirit, strong skills in customer service and an overall self-motivated drive to succeed. Monetarily, we also seek individuals who have a net worth of at least $1,000,000, with liquid assets in excess of $500,000.
FC: What’s next for Goldfish Swim School?
CM: Right now, Goldfish is on the fast track for nationwide expansion. Currently, we have 87 open schools in our system, with 100 expected to be open by the end of 2019. With 25-30 schools slated to open in the next year and 260 openings projected within the next five years, we’re excited to have the opportunity to spread our passion for water safety across North America!