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Big Blue Swim School Growing Its Franchise Business

It’s an unusual way to start a franchise business: losing out to Michael Phelps. Chris DeJong, a University of Michigan competitive swimmer who trained under the same coach as the Olympian, lost to Phelps by just a fraction of a second for the 2008 Olympic qualification.

It was that loss that propelled DeJong into the world of business, where he would eventually start Big Blue Swim School. Soon after this devastating loss, DeJong moved to Chicago and decided to partner with academic swimmer John Lonergan to coach a local swim team, teach swim lessons and run the North Shore Country Club’s aquatic program in Glenview, Illinois.

During this period, the two swimmers made many contacts, including Todd Ricketts (a co-owner of the Chicago Cubs and now a member of the swim franchise’s board) and developed a curriculum designed to bring fast results. In 2009, the partners opened their first swim school concept, which quickly grew from 600 families to more than 2,000. They would go on to open several more locations, with another due to open in the North Center neighborhood in Chicago early next year.

According to DeJong, it’s the school’s four execution points—explain, demonstrate, mimic and correct—that allow its child engagement specialists to give kids an experience in which they truly learn how to swim.

Last year, investment company Level 5 Capital Partners acquired a major stake in the swim school brand and now plans to grow it by offering franchise opportunities.

The real estate footprint of one of this brand’s schools is usually between 10,000 to 12,000 square feet and features two 91-degree pools with 13 lanes across them. This allows franchisees to schedule and map class times by age, and it also makes it easier for parents with more than one child to attend classes at the same time.

Big Blue Swim School is currently looking for people to take advantage of its franchise opportunities in Denver, Colorado; Washington, DC; Texas; Florida; Southern California; Charlotte, North Carolina; Georgia and Northern New Jersey. Its aggressive growth plans include a target of 45 new locations opened by the end of 2019, and up to 150 by 2020’s end.

New franchisees with this swim school brand will receive support in multiple ways, including lead generation by a corporate call center, marketing, and its proprietary Lesson Buddy software, which examines sales data, membership and operational insights to provide franchisees with recommendations, such as where and when to have class times for the best possible return.

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