In this exclusive Q&A, we learn more about the Big Blue Swim School franchise opportunity from Scott Thompson, its chief development officer.
Franchise Chatter (FC): What has proven to be the most successful route to sign franchises during coronavirus?
Scott Thompson (ST): We believe doing the right thing for candidates during this time helps show them what a great partner we will be for them by offering to extend the payment of their development fee or franchise fee and giving them more time to get their first unit up and running.
FC: How many new franchise partners have you signed and where? How long will it take to get them up and running?
ST: Four new franchise partners were signed in March for 14 units with three in Hartford, Connecticut, three in Pittsburgh, five across New York and Southern Connecticut, and three in Detroit, Michigan. We have had a total of 22 units signed so far in 2020 with a goal of 54.
The pool readiness process (site selection, lease negotiations, design/permitting, and construction) to open the first location usually takes about 18 months, so we are expecting to have all these locations up and running in the next several years.
FC: What makes the Big Blue Swim School opportunity recession-resistant?
ST: Big Blue’s business model is recession-resistant, it cannot be automated or outsourced, and is tailored to meet the needs of multi-kid families. Swim lessons fill a vital skill for water safety and cannot be replaced by an online offering. Unlike other hard goods retail franchises, swim lessons are impervious to Amazon.
We opened our first pool in 2009 at the height of the great recession and excelled right out of the blocks. Parents are willing to invest in their kids’ safety and as a result, swim schools are now a $3 billion industry. Our pool and technology provide ultimate convenience for parents.
FC: What does the hiring climate look like for full-time swim associates?
ST: With 26 million new people filing for unemployment during this pandemic, we believe once we can open again, we will find great full-time swim associates who will want to help kids learn to swim. I would also like to say that we maintained employment to all our existing swim associates during this pandemic at our corporate locations.
FC: What technology has Big Blue Swim School implemented to stay ahead of the competition?
ST: Our proprietary technology, Lesson Buddy™, makes it easy for parents to fit swim lessons into their lives, not the other way around, because they can schedule and reschedule lessons at any time, and multi-kid families can all swim during the same 30 to 45 minute window.
Our cloud-based platform is designed so franchise partners can operate successful pools without needing a daily presence. It allows for them to manage their business through dashboards and KPIs all the way down to the shift level. They can track variable costs and schedule efficiencies, so they have total transparency in terms of ROI and health of the business.