Big Blue Swim School has been paving the way for “life’s big moments” ever since its founding nine years ago by competitive swimmer and U.S. National Champion Chris DeJong. Driven by a commitment to enrich children’s lives by building confidence through swim instruction, DeJong opened his first Big Blue Swim School in the Chicago suburbs of Wilmette in 2010, subsequently adding locations in Buffalo Grove, Niles and Hoffman Estates. Big Blue’s fifth location in Chicago’s North Center is opening its doors in March 2019.
The swim instruction and enrichment brand stands alone in the swim space thanks to critical points of differentiation. These include a commitment to cultivating both swim and life skills, the employment of full-time child engagement specialists and the leveraging of data-driven methodologies for everything from real estate to proprietary management software. Big Blue’s strategic investments in operations and technology position the brand for impressive growth and set the bar high for would-be competitors.
Below, we dive into five reasons why investors should be looking at Big Blue Swim School.
A recession-resistant industry and Amazon-proof model
Big Blue Swim School’s Chief Development Officer, Scott Thompson, explained that the brand’s industry protects it from recession, while its approach to real estate and capital deployment defends against “the Amazon Effect.”
“There will always be a need for swim instruction, no matter what the market or the economy is doing,” said Thompson, pointing to Big Blue’s recurring revenue model. “And our model is highly efficient and semi-absentee-investor in structure, so investors can maximize their time and capital.”
In a world where quick-delivery brands like Amazon are driving brick and mortar operations out of business, Big Blue Swim School is thriving.
“The Amazon Effect actually means we have more prime real estate to choose from, and landlords love Big Blue’s experiential retail because we bring moms and families to the shopping centers and we operate off-peak hours,” Thompson said.
Big Blue’s pools are larger than the industry average because of the brand’s market insight and response.
“Our research indicates that most parents [in the U.S.] have two kids about 36 months apart, meaning one is learning to swim while the other is progressing to swimming as an activity. That often means we can handle a child all the way until they are 10 years old with our 1,000 foot swimming challenge, while accommodating the younger sibling who is learning to swim 5 feet all within the same half hour for mom or dad. This is huge because it allows for us to maximize the life-time value of the customer where at other swims schools the older child is aging out of the learn to swim program and moving on to another activity,” Thompson explained.
The result? A uniquely far-reaching revenue funnel.
Data-driven assessments and innovative proprietary software
“We built two businesses at the same time when we launched over 10 years ago,” Thompson said. “We built a swim instruction business and a technology business.”
Big Blue’s CEO Chris Kenny emphasized the uniqueness of the model. “We have a highly differentiated model across the board, from facilities to instruction to technology,” Kenny said.
To Kenny’s point, Big Blue leverages a data-driven real estate assessment that identifies prime real estate in trade areas for a turnkey solution. Furthermore, franchisees receive support from Big Blue’s dedicated real estate team, whose tools include leading construction and operations software. New pool marketing launch automation optimizes pre-opening.
Once an owner-operator officially opens the doors to their location, Big Blue’s proprietary management software, Lesson Buddy, systematizes the operations, tapping into cloud technology. Lesson Buddy therefore gives franchisees access to data across the franchise system, meaning access to the brand’s intranet resources and facilities management support. Lesson Buddy also offers online scheduling for parents and an accessible progress report through an app. Big Blue’s data solutions deliver innovative, cost-reducing results.
An impressive investment profile
Big Blue has a proven record of leading the $20 billion swim industry, and the returns speak for themselves.
“Our franchisees see an average of 35 percent ROI, as disclosed in Item 19 of our education Franchise Disclosure Document,” Thompson said. He credits this success to Big Blue’s best-in-class consumer offering backed by the brand’s unique digital advantages.
Distance-based methodology to inspire life’s big moments
Big Blue Swim School’s primary goal is to “inspire life’s big moments” by helping kids develop swim skills including stroke, breath and movement, plus life skills including courage, perseverance and hard work. To these ends, Big Blue child engagement specialists utilize a distance-based learning model in which children target increasingly longer distances. “This lets the child build confidence in the pool and taps into their need for belonging and physiological safety,” Thompson said. “Seeing their skills increase builds the self-esteem that will fuel them through life.’