Big Blue Swim School, a swim school franchise founded by former competitive swimmer Chris DeJong, has taken a big first step in achieving its goal of growing to 150 units by 2020 by signing its first franchise partners, Wendy and Erik Skaalerud, who will bring five locations to the Denver area.
Wendy and Erik are experienced entrepreneurs, with experience both in franchising and creating their own business from the ground up.
“We were area developers for Orangetheory Fitness for Colorado, and grew our portfolio to 30 units, seven of which we owned ourselves,” Erik said. “Ultimately, we decided to sell because we had an opportunity to exit at a fair price, get rid of our liabilities and to lock in our gains. We were nervous about the market and there was a lot of available capital ready to invest and we did not know how long the window would last. We believe you sell on the way up and not at the top. We also saw a lot of competition coming for us as our success in Orangetheory was unprecedented.”
After selling their Orangetheory franchises, Wendy and Erik were looking for their next step and came across Big Blue Swim School and were attracted to both the business opportunity and the consumer proposition.
“Big Blue Swim School has high barriers to entry, excellent returns and solid lasting power in the market, but most importantly, it helps to prevent drowning, a life safety issue,” Erik said. “We are excited to create a whole culture of quality swimmers and open the door to add a whole new level of swimmers coming out of Colorado.”
The opening date of their first Big Blue Swim School location is still to be determined, but they plan to open five locations over the next three to four years.
“We felt strongly that Big Blue Swim School, even in its very young stage, has implemented a solid strategy and team that support our growth and sustainability over time,” Wendy said. “In addition, they have instilled a culture of support, engagement at all levels and a leadership team that will serve all franchise owners throughout the process. We believe the philosophy of developing confidence through mastering the skill of swimming during a child’s formative years will serve them in all aspects of their lives as adults.”
The Skaaleruds also identified the commitment of the corporate team to the success of everyone in its franchise system as a reason they wanted to become Big Blue Swim School’s first franchisees.
“We have made a commitment throughout our life to align with people of integrity, kindness, grace and authenticity,” Wendy said. “The team at Big Blue fits the bill completely. In addition, the knowledge they bring from concept, design and operations is incredibly impressive. The entire team has a great attention to detail. We have already been happily surprised by the amount of support we are getting.”
Parents of two sons, ages 15 and 13, Wendy and Erik are thrilled to partner with a brand whose emphasis on family mirrors their own. The feeling is mutual.
“We are very excited for the power team of Erik and Wendy,” said Scott Thompson, Chief Development Officer of Big Blue Swim School. “Their franchise and business experience sets them up to be awesome franchise partners in Denver who will live the Big Blue mission and inspire big moments for kids in the communities they serve.”
Big Blue Swim School prides itself on making the art and science of making scheduling easier on busy families. Facilities are built with multiple pools and lane use is maximized through the brand’s proprietary scheduling software, Lesson Buddy. Through Lesson Buddy, parents can easily schedule (and reschedule) their children’s classes online versus spending long amounts of time on the phone with an employee, and franchise owners save on labor costs by utilizing the technology.
“The team at Big Blue have gone above and beyond to ensure every aspect of the franchise experience has been addressed and attended to,” Wendy said. “There are no rocks left unturned. This is a solid group to partner with. They are completely committed to the success of each owner and the overall brand, and we look forward to growing with them.”
The startup costs for a Big Blue Swim School franchise range from $1,767,500 to $3,649,000. The franchise fee is $50,000. The real estate/construction management fee is $68,000. The new pool opening fee is $60,000. To learn more about franchising with Big Blue Swim School, visit https://www.bigblueswimschool.com/franchising/.
Big Blue Swim School was founded in 2009 by competitive swimmer Chris DeJong. The first location opened in Wilmette, followed by Niles, Buffalo Grove and Hoffman Estates. In 2017, Level 5 Capital Partners acquired a majority stake in the brand, and is rolling out an aggressive strategy to grow through franchising to 150 locations by 2020. Big Blue Swim School’s real estate footprint, proprietary technology Lesson Buddy, coupled with its practice of employing full-time child engagement specialists that teach based on a proprietary distance-based swimming methodology sets Big Blue up for long-term success.
Swimming news is courtesy of Big Blue Swim School, a SwimSwam partner.