The Chicago-based siblings look forward to positively impacting communities while bringing vital life skills to local families.
CHICAGO — Leading children’s swim instruction brand Big Blue Swim School is officially coming to South Florida, Orlando and South Carolina, thanks to the recent five-unit signing of accomplished franchisee duo Adryenne Hearne-Alvarez and Derek Hearne.
Born and raised in Chicago, the Hearne siblings both graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago; Derek received a degree in economics while Adryenne holds an MBA and an undergraduate degree in sociology. They both worked in the corporate world for several years before making the transition to multi-unit franchise ownership with Amazing Lash Studio and seven Orangetheory Fitness locations.
An avid fitness enthusiast, Adryenne has worked in the industry in several capacities such as personal trainer to boutique gym owner before taking the plunge into franchising. Derek had a successful sales and operations management career in logistics, marketing and IT Security prior to starting with Orangetheory Fitness in late 2014. For their next venture, the sister-and-brother duo were looking for a proven business model that would positively impact the community. When they discovered Big Blue Swim School at a multi-unit franchising conference in Las Vegas, the Hearnes were sold.
“There are a few things we look at when evaluating a new concept, and Big Blue checked all the boxes,” said Adryenne Hearne-Alvarez. “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.”
The Hearnes seized on the opportunity to be first-to-market in South Florida, Orlando and South Carolina. As multi-unit franchisees, they were impressed with the model’s scalability, strong unit economics and use of technology, including the LessonBuddy™ app, an easy-to-use customer-facing lesson management and scheduling platform.
Big Blue Swim School was founded by U.S. National Champion swimmer Chris DeJong after coming in just behind Michael Phelps in qualifying for the U.S. Olympic team in 2004 and 2008. The brand approaches swim instruction holistically, imparting life skills like confidence and self-esteem in students while benchmarking swimming progress. Big Blue Swim School is well-positioned as a dominant player in the $20 billion swim school industry, with national expansion currently ongoing.
“When people walk into your business, they want to feel a sense of happiness, belonging and community. That’s what we’re looking to bring,” said Adryenne Hearne-Alvarez. “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.”
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 between with their employees, and embrace others’ differences. They are just awesome—you can’t find better people than them.”
ABOUT BIG BLUE SWIM SCHOOL
Big Blue Swim School was founded in 2009 by competitive swimmer Chris DeJong. The first location opened in Wilmette, followed by Niles, Buffalo Grove and Hoffman Estates. In 2017, Level 5 Capital Partners acquired a majority stake in the brand, and is rolling out an aggressive strategy to grow through franchising to 150 locations by 2020. Big Blue Swim School’s real estate footprint, proprietary technology Lesson Buddy, coupled with its practice of employing full-time child engagement specialists that teach based on a proprietary distance-based swimming methodology sets Big Blue up for long-term success.