Big Blue Swim School Plans to Dive Deeper Into the Florida Market for Franchise Expansion
Following a recent signing in Tampa, Big Blue Swim School is looking for qualified candidates to expand the winning concept through The Sunshine State.
November 17, 2020 // Franchising.com // Big Blue Swim School was founded in 2009 by national champion swimmer Chris DeJong, with the first location opened in Wilmette, Illinois, followed by four additional Chicagoland schools. In 2017, the Atlanta-based investment firm Level 5 Capital Partners acquired a majority stake in the brand, with a plan to grow through franchising to 150 pools by 2021. Since 2018, Big Blue Swim School has established an ever-growing footprint with signed franchise agreements in strategic markets including Chicago, Salt Lake City, Minneapolis, Atlanta and more. The brand is now heading to The Sunshine State, which is full of potential for the right partners.
“Florida is a great fit for us because swimming is an important part of the state’s culture,” said CEO Scott Sanders. “The weather is warm most of the year, the state is surrounded by water and many homes have a private pool. With families growing up around water, it is critical to parents that their kids learn how to swim. According to the CDC, swim lessons reduce the risk of drowning by 88%,”
As opposed to the competition, which primarily serves children up to age 6, Big Blue caters to children ages 6 months to 12 years, resulting in a 30% increase in the learn-to-swim addressable market. Florida’s youth population is high, with 4.2 million kids from 0 to 17 years old. Plus, Big Blue provides a unique opportunity of delivering the highest quality swim lessons while also providing more scheduling options, allowing siblings to swim in the same half-hour window. “Our optimized capacity planning and facility layout, which features kid-friendly 90 degree pools, make it the most convenient option for the dual working-parent households common in Florida,” said Sanders. “We are confident the demand in Florida will be strong for our industry-leading, mission-driven service.”
Specifically, Big Blue has identified several high-priority territories for expansion in Florida, including Miami-Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Sarasota, Orlando, Jacksonville, Fort Myers and Naples.
When experienced multi-unit franchise partners Adryenne Hearne-Alvarez and Derek Hearne decided to diversify their portfolio with five Big Blue pools, Florida immediately came to mind as the perfect place to open their pools. Although the siblings are originally from Chicago, Adryenne said that the Florida market has proven very successful for their Orangetheory Fitness gyms, so she and Derek signed on to open three pools in the Tampa market and two in Southeast Florida.
“We’re excited to branch into Florida because we know the area is perfect for Big Blue Swim School,” Adryenne Hearne-Alvarez said. “It is a market where kids are constantly swimming and going to the beach. There’s an extreme need for a child to learn to swim and be safer near water. This partnership is a no-brainer for us.”
Adryenne and Derek were particularly impressed with Big Blue’s scalability, strong unit economics and use of technology, including the company’s proprietary cloud-based enterprise system LessonBuddy™. LessonBuddy is designed so franchise partners can operate successful pools without needing a daily presence, while also letting parents conveniently schedule lessons and track their students’ progress. The brand also utilizes the data collected by LessonBuddy to modify staffing levels. The technology-driven model sets the brand ahead of its competitors, as no other swim lesson franchise has a similar offering in Florida or elsewhere.
“The tech piece is key. It’s an efficient way to run the business and that’s important to us,” said Adryenne. “Big Blue has been able to use technology in a way no other concept has.”
Sanders notes that Big Blue is looking for qualified franchise partners who are capable team builders. “Big Blue prioritizes franchise partner success, providing a high level of support as well as a best-in-class technology stack to ensure that each franchise partner can be focused on customer service, hiring, and retaining and training top talent,” he said.
In addition to the five Big Blue pools currently in development in Florida, the team anticipates the potential for 14 more pools in Miami-Fort Lauderdale, four in Tampa, two in Sarasota, five more in Orlando, three in Jacksonville, two in Fort Myers and one in Naples. According to Thompson, the brand already has sites identified in South Florida and Tampa, with a goal of having those pools open within the next 12 to 18 months.
As Big Blue continues attracting qualified franchise partners, the brand is well on the way to achieving its goal of 150 pools signed by the end of 2021, with 83 units already sold in 16 states. With this growing network of multi-unit franchise partners, a strong consumer value proposition and a proven business opportunity, Big Blue is positioned to quickly grow amid the fragmented industry.
SOURCE Big Blue Swim School
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