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Why Experienced Multi-Unit Franchisees Adryenne Hearne-Alvarez and Derek Hearne Decided to Diversify Their Portfolio With 5 Big Blue Swim Schools
Why Experienced Multi-Unit Franchisees Adryenne Hearne-Alvarez and Derek Hearne Decided to Diversify Their Portfolio With 5 Big Blue Swim Schools

The Chicago-based siblings look forward to positively impacting communities while providing vital life skills to children and their families.

Growing up in Chicago, Illinois, siblings Adryenne Hearne-Alvarez and Derek Hearne were always true entrepreneurs at heart. “We had a knack for finding fun things to do,” recalled Adryenne. “We were always asking: ‘Is this a business opportunity?’” 

Throughout his youth, Derek had several business-related hobbies, while a young Adryenne instructed fitness classes and sold Mary Kay beauty products—though she had to secure her mother’s permission to do so. 

Little did they know that they would one day become successful multi-unit, multi-brand franchise partners.

Their latest venture? Diversifying their portfolio by bringing leading children’s swim instruction franchise Big Blue Swim School to South Florida, Orlando and South Carolina with a fresh five-unit deal.

After attending Buffalo Grove High School, the Hearnes both graduated from the University of Illinois, Adryenne earning her MBA and Bachelor’s of Science in sociology; Derek earning his Bachelor’s of Arts in economics. Derek went on to enjoy a successful sales and operations management career in logistics, marketing and IT security. 

During her undergraduate pursuits, Adryenne worked as a personal trainer in big box gyms, and after graduation, she applied that experience to opening her own boutique gym in Chicago’s South Loop neighborhood. Her model empowered personal trainers to run their individual businesses within her facility—a community-building win-win for all involved.

After nearly four years running her gym, Adryenne switched gears, entering the field of medical device sales. She worked with the company Medtronic for the next decade, beginning as a sales representative and working her way up to a position at corporate headquarters in Minnesota.

It was during this period that Adryenne first discovered Orangetheory Fitness. “I’ve always loved the fitness industry—especially when you can put some technology behind it,” she said. “I went to my first class at 5:00 a.m., and as soon as I walked in, I said, ‘This is it. I know fitness, and this is good.’”

Today, the Hearnes own four Orangetheory studios open around Chicago, with three more in the pipeline. “Derek and I would constantly talk about owning a family business together,” said Adryenne. “We went back and forth on ideas for years, looking for a concept that has a proven business model and offered something we’d both find fun. Most importantly, we wanted something that would have an impact on the community.”

That desire to make a difference is also what led the Hearnes to Big Blue Swim School. The pair discovered the swim instruction brand at a Las Vegas multi-unit franchising conference in March 2019. Adryenne and Derek were walking the aisles, browsing concepts across industries that could diversify their portfolio, when Big Blue caught their attention.

“There are a few things we look at when evaluating a new concept and Big Blue checked all the boxes,” said Adryenne. “We had the opportunity to meet the team at a Dive-In Day in Chicago and we were really impressed by the business model and the effort put into growing the brand. We didn’t look back. This is what we want to do and it fits our short-term and long-term strategy.”

Adryenne and Derek were particularly impressed with Big Blue Swim School’s scalability, strong unit economics and use of technology, including the LessonBuddy™ app, an easy-to-use customer-facing lesson management and scheduling platform. “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.”

Big Blue Swim School’s Chief Development Officer Scott Thompson shared that he is excited to see the Hearnes join the Big Blue system.

“Adryenne and Derek radiate energy and passion. They are always reaching beyond their grasp and going the extra mile for their clients,” said Thompson. “They cultivate great teamwork with their employees, and embrace others’ differences. They are just awesome—you can’t find better people than them.”

Adryenne said that the Florida market has proven very successful for their gyms, so she and Derek look forward to bringing Big Blue Swim School there for the first time. “We’re excited to branch into the South and Central Florida markets because we know the opportunities there,” she said. “It is a market where kids are constantly swimming and going to the beach. There’s an extreme need for a child to know how to swim there. We thought it was a no-brainer.”

With Big Blue Swim School joining Orangetheory and Amazing Lash Studio within the Hearnes’ diverse franchise portfolio, Adryenne said one secret to their success is a strong, cohesive partnership. “A lot of franchisee partners divide and conquer, but Derek and I share the majority of roles and responsibilities,” said Adryenne. “We make decisions together. We just work really well together and I think that’s because we have the same common goal.”

That goal? To make a real, positive impact on those communities their upcoming five Big Blue Swim Schools will serve. “When people walk into your business, they want to feel a sense of happiness, belonging and community. That’s what we’re looking to offer with Big Blue Swim School,” said Adryenne. “Parents will be able to come in and enjoy themselves, watch their children gain major survival skills and be proud to and show their friends and family pictures of what their children learned. For us, success is bringing that to the community.

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