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Aqua-Tots Swim School

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The Global Swim School

 

It was in the early 1990’s when Ron Sciarro was training to be in the fire department that he realized he wanted to make a big difference in his community. Having been a lifeguard and a member on of the American Red Cross Safety Committee, Ron realized a potential for teaching young children how to swim.

Given the high number of drowning in the state, Ron wanted to help his local community by giving parents access to a school that was both efficient and available as compared to the city programs which were often overbooked.

Ron soon realized his love for teaching, and parents picked up on that, bringing kids from all over Arizona to be able to attend his classes. “That was really the genesis of Aqua-Tots, even though I conceptualized it more as serving a need versus a business, it really became huge,” says Ron.

Over the years, the founders of the company realized that their was a need for a high-quality swim program that would teach kids more than just the fundamentals of swimming. They quickly began to design a curriculum that would focus on the needs of both the child and the parent. Soon after the release of the program, the Aqua-Tots swim school started spreading across the Phoenix area.

A New Facility and a New System

After years of requests to build an indoor facility, the founders began the process of developing a year round swim school facility. It was in 2005, the founders partnered with Paul and Heather Preston to create the beginning stages of the franchise model and formed ‘Aqua-Tots Swim Schools’ an Arizona Limited Liability Company.

Ron believes that the factors behind his company’s massive success were his ability to systemize the process. “Franchising forced us to be a system. We systemized our curriculum to ensure that a class taught in India would be the same as a class taught in Saudi Arabia,” he says. Wanting to ensure that every child no matter where in the world they were had a great lesson every time, was the driving factor behind their years of developing the right program.

This is a key factor that also sets them apart from other swim schools in their industry says Ron, who generally focus on a personality such as an owner or famous swim star. Ensuring that each class is about a whole class versus one person, helped the founders create a product that can be repeated that will leave parents and children satisfied.

Franchises

After the development of the program, the Aqua-Tots founders started getting a number of requests for franchising. Once the curriculum was perfected, the founders were willing able to sell franchises but decided to be very selective with the candidates.

Focusing on seven core values, the company wanted to ensure that relationships were always more important when compared to profits. Though the Aqua-Tots schools are extremely profitable, making 20-35% margins on average, the founders wanted to ensure that their franchisees are more than just business owners, but people who want to make change in their community.

Averaging around 300 applicants a year for the franchise, the company only awards between 5-7 with around 90% of current franchisees in the process of developing multiple stores.

The founders strongly believe that each franchise system is only as strong as its franchisee. A well-run franchise reflects well on the entire system while a poorly run franchise can affect the sales and reputation of all the shops. This is why the founders look for owners who will value the reputation of Aqua-Tots, while ensuring that they build a school that is fun, safe and enjoyable for all parties involved.

More than a Swim School

Aside from teaching children how to swim and how to be safe in the water, the schools provide a number of other services for parents and children.

A portion of every swim lesson registration fee is donated by the company to World Vision, a non-profit organization that helps children and families all over the world gain access to clean water, food and medical services. This is directly in line with the founder’s vision of providing a service or product that will give back to their community.

Aside from that, the school hoses a number of family activities throughout the year, from birthdays, holiday celebrations to water safety events, the school is committed to providing consistent and reliable fun.

Future Goals

The goal for Aqua-Tots both long-term and short-term is to open around 20-30 stores a year in the United States. Focusing on the 19 major markets and tier 1 cities such as Dallas and Austin, the company hopes to then gradually shift its focus to tier 2 cities and international expansion.

Already open in 5 countries across the globe, international expansion isn’t the company’s main focus as of yet says Ron, who hopes to build a strong foothold in the United States before focusing on the rest of the world.

“We definitely do not want to grow just for growth’s sake, we want to go where people are excited to have us and want to take our message and really see it through,” he says.

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