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Big Blue Swim School's Recession-Resistant Business Model Attracts Savvy Franchise Partners

Big Blue Swim School creates a recession-resistant business model and strong franchise opportunity through an in-demand consumer offering, industry-leading employment program and data-driven real estate strategy.

By Luca Piacentini1851 Franchise Managing Editor
SPONSOREDUpdated 8:08AM 09/08/20

When national champion swimmer Chris DeJong started Big Blue Swim School in 2009, the Great Recession was just beginning to affect businesses across the nation. Despite a challenging economic climate, Big Blue Swim School developed a strong and differentiated concept, emerging as leader in the lucrative swim school industry with five schools open in the Chicago area, one in Atlanta and 74 signed franchise locations across 15 states. With experts predicting an economic recession following COVID-19, Big Blue is maintaining its reputation as a recession-resistant concept and business opportunity, signing three deals for 11 units in March, with an additional 34 units expected to close this year.

Big Blue’ strong business model is formed by  its numerous differentiators in the swim school segment, including a need for consistent, high-quality swim lessons, the brand’s exceptional customer service, a unique and proprietary enterprise software system and the company’s data-driven real estate strategy.

Strong Product Demand in a Fragmented Industry

“According to the CDC, swim lessons reduce the risk of drowning by 88 percent,” said DeJong. “No matter what the economy looks like, water safety is a critical need that all parents have. Young families are becoming increasingly more aware of this need to invest in water safety.”

As a business model, swim lessons fill a vital need for safety that cannot be outsourced or automated, making swim instruction less susceptible to downturns in the economy. From day one, the state-of-the-art swim school has used both a proprietary enterprise system, known as LessonBuddy™, and an advanced curriculum that employs only full-time swim associates, to set children, and the schools, up for success.

“Swimming is ubiquitous yet foreign at the same time—everybody swims but the swim school market is still relatively new,” said DeJong. “Every child needs to learn how to swim but very few people are familiar enough with swimming to have the confidence or expertise to turn it into a business, while also creating strong, confident swimmers. That’s what provides so much room for growth in this category.”

The swim lesson space is a fragmented market, meaning there is no dominant leader and business practices vary widely. With strong differentiators, a best-in-class offering, and an aggressive growth plan to franchise to 150 locations by 2021, Big Blue is emerging as one of the leading players in the $3 billion per year swim school industry

Appealing to the Growing Talent Pool with Full-Time Swim Associates

A high employee retention rate is required to minimize potential effects of a recession on businesses. The coronavirus pandemic is sending shock waves through labor markets in the U.S. and the rest of the world. Since the start of the pandemic, more than 44.2 million U.S. workers applied for unemployment insurance, an unprecedented figure compared with historical standards. As the nation struggles with record-high unemployment, Big Blue is well-positioned for recovery with an industry-leading employment opportunity that appeals to the deepening talent pool.

By choosing to employ only full-time swim associates, Big Blue maximizes student-teacher trust while also extending the lifetime value of each customer. Because the swim associates are passionate about teaching and able to pursue it as a full-time career, they are truly engaged in finding each kid’s motivation to achieve progress.

“We are proud to provide franchise partners with a proven model for maintaining the best swim associates and managers,” said DeJong. “As we emerge from this crisis, we anticipate an influx of talent looking for employment and Big Blue sets itself apart when it comes to the quality and meaning behind the work.”

Data-Driven Real Estate Selection

Big Blue leverages an experienced team of real estate pros to support franchise partners through site location, construction, and facilities management. The team has a tested, proactive, data-driven real estate strategy designed to place every pool in an optimal location.

“Being in the most consistent path for the consumer is completely dependent on rent,” said Chief Development Officer Scott Thompson. “Franchise partners may think they’ll save a certain amount in rent by selecting a cheaper site, but they could be giving up $1 million in revenue in the long run. Thanks to our depth of tested and proven analytics, sites selected by our real estate team perform an average of 30% better than self-selected locations.” 

This thorough, data-driven approach assures franchise owners their pools are optimized to succeed despite downturns in the economy. When times are tough, an analytically-determined site can allow a business to stay afloat.

Big Blue’s real estate footprint has proven to benefit landlords of retail pools. As commercial retailers are increasingly challenged to bring foot-traffic to their facilities due to the online marketplace, Big Blue offers an incredibly attractive business option, especially in economically difficult times. The value prospect helps Big Blue secure and negotiate premier locations so franchise owners are set up for success, even during a recession.

The rise of e-commerce and the ‘Amazon Effect’ actually works in our favor because we have more prime real estate to choose from, and landlords love how Big Blue’s experiential retail brings moms and families to the shopping centers during off-peak hours,” Thompson said. “We appeal to landlords because we select sites that fall within our customers’ existing daily and weekly habits, rather than sites requiring them to alter their current patterns. We replace failing concepts with outdated business models and reshape foot traffic for shopping centers.”

With strong unit-level economics, a fragmented industry, and a data-driven approach to site selection, Big Blue is the perfect franchise opportunity for investors looking to protect their portfolio during the next recession. 

Multi-unit franchise opportunities are available for qualified candidates looking for their next big opportunity, and veterans can receive a 10 percent discount on the $80,000 franchise fee. The total investment necessary to begin operation of a new Big Blue Swim School is $2,329,223 to $3,636,998 (refer to item 7 in FDD) To learn more or inquire about Big Blue Swim School, visit