Since its founding in 2009 by competitive swimmer and near-Olympics-qualifier Chris DeJong—who finished behind Michael Phelps and missed qualifying for the 2008 Olympics by just three-tenths of a second—leading swim school franchise Big Blue Swim School has come off the block with a laser focus, targeting 150 units signed or in development by 2021. Today, Big Blue has emerged as one of the dominant players in the $20 billion swim school industry with 39 locations planned across nine states. Big Blue’s innovative curriculum, industry-leading lesson planning software, data-based real estate sourcing and a recession- resistant model all stand out as key facets to the brand’s superior business model.
Given these competitive differentiators, it’s no surprise that Big Blue Swim School has already enjoyed explosive franchise growth, recently selling out its home market of Chicago with a 10-unit deal and beginning expansion into key development markets across the U.S.
Big Blue Swim School is backed by Level 5 Capital Partners, a private equity firm that grew to become the third-largest national yoga studio operator, with 27 locations in four states, all in less than a decade.
“Because of Level 5 Capital’s experience as owner of Level 4 Yoga, LLC, the largest franchisee of CorePower Yoga, we know what it means to be a franchisee and the importance of a strong franchisor—franchisee relationship,” said Big Blue’s Chief Development Officer, Scott Thompson.
“In addition to our proprietary technology, data-driven approach to scaled growth and prime real estate for our franchisees, the Level 5 Capital leadership team has the franchising experience to drive the brand forward. Combined with a proven track record of teaching thousands of children how to swim, Big Blue’s depth of leadership is unparalleled in the swim lesson industry,” Thompson said.
Big Blue Swim School CEO Chris Kenny echoed Thompson’s emphasis on modernizing the swim instruction space as a means to franchise growth. “We believe in our best-in-class model because it is data-driven and backed by Big Blue’s proprietary technology,” said Kenny. “An industry-leading franchise opportunity needs leaders to pave the way.”
That go-for-gold strategy and best-in-class offering have translated to a slew of signings by multi-unit franchise partners. Several recent investors to join the Big Blue system as area developers include former Orangetheory franchisees Wendy and Erik Skaalerud, who will bring five locations to the Denver area; Sun Stop Sunglasses franchisees Zack and Brittany Groesbeck who will bring three Big Blue Swim Schools to Salt Lake City; and Orangetheory and Amazing Lash Studio brother-and-sister franchisees Adryenne and Derek Hearne, who will bring five new locations to Florida and South Carolina.
“I think it’s important for people to know why someone would choose Big Blue Swim School,” said Adryenne Hearne. “The brand is all about the community and has an exceptionally strong business model. That’s very important to a franchisee trying to scale—if a franchisor makes it difficult to spread the word about the business and concept, that’s a hindrance. Big Blue has its unit-level economics and efficiencies perfected. They've been able to make the business into something no other concept has.”
Salt Lake City’s Zack Groesbeck agreed.
“Once we learned about Big Blue’s proprietary teaching and real estate-sourcing technology, scheduling software and dual-pool model, we were hooked,” said Groesbeck. “Big Blue Swim School isn’t just an industry dominator; it’s an industry disruptor. Big Blue is changing people’s idea of what swim instruction can be.”
With a best-in-class product, expert brand leadership, a targeted growth model and proprietary technology, Big Blue is well on its way to 150 units by 2021.
“We are not approaching this business like a typical swim school or franchise brand,” said Kenny. “We have a robust network of interest from multi-unit franchisees, an unbeatable consumer value proposition and a competitive long-term growth strategy. Every month we bring in five to 10 buying groups, and buyers typically sign on for multiple units, so we’re well-positioned to hit our goal of 150 units by 2021.”