child care franchise

10 07, 2019

Adryenne Hearne-Alvarez and Derek Hearne Sign 5-Unit Deal to Bring Big Blue Swim School to South Florida, Orlando and South Carolina

2019-07-10T12:16:39-04:00July 10th, 2019|Tags: , , , , |

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.

20 05, 2019

Big Blue Swim School Celebrates Successful Start to 2019 with Chicago Opening and Agreements for 24 Locations in Denver, Salt Lake City, Chicago and Minneapolis

2019-05-20T16:29:38-04:00May 20th, 2019|Tags: , , , , , |

Technology-fueled swim school franchise is on track to achieve goal of 150 units by 2021

CHICAGO –In late 2018, Big Blue Swim School, a Chicago-based children’s swim school announced its plans to reach 150 units by 2021 by partnering with growth-minded franchise partners across the U.S. So far in 2019, the brand has already made good on its plans, with the signing of three major multi-unit deals for 16 units brining 10 locations to Chicago, Illinois and six to Minneapolis, Minnesota; five units in Denver, Colorado; and three units in Salt Lake City, Utah.

In March, Big Blue Swim School also opened its fifth Chicagoland corporate location, in the North Center neighborhood of Chicago. This opening was the strongest in the system to date, with 1,400 memberships sold before the doors opened, cementing the brand’s pre-opening marketing strategy to be mirrored for all future new openings.

Former Orangetheory franchisees Wendy and Erik Skaalerud will bring five locations to the Denver area; Sun Stop Sunglasses franchisees Zack and Brittany Groesbeck will bring three Big Blue Swim Schools to Salt Lake City; and Shorewood Development Group CEO and father of five Big Blue Swim School members Louis Schriber III along with Aaron Roth will bring 16 locations to Chicago and Minneapolis.

In addition to aligning with experienced franchise partners with business acumen and the potential to grow the brand in their respective communities, Big Blue Swim School has also focused on building its leadership team. In early 2019, former PepsiCo executive Brooke Mallick joined Big Blue Swim School as VP of Marketing, former Premium Service Brands and College Hunks Hauling Junk executive Justin Waltz joined as VP of Franchise Operations, and franchise industry veteran Catherine Monson joined the brand’s Board of Directors.

“We’ve kicked off 2019 in a big way — by signing major agreements in new markets with incredible franchise partners, with several more in various stages of development,” said Scott Thompson, Chief Development Officer for Big Blue Swim School. “We have also solidified our leadership team to ensure that this will be a huge year for the growth of this brand.”

To keep the momentum going, Thompson and his team have had a presence at many key franchise industry conferences so far in 2019, including the International Franchise Association Conference in Las Vegas in February, and the Multi-Unit Franchising Conference in Las Vegas, the bi-annual FranNet conference in Atlanta and the Great American Franchise Expo in Dallas in March.

Looking ahead in 2019, Big Blue Swim School plans to exhibit at the International Franchise Expo in New York in late May, in addition to hosting Dive-In Day events for brokers, and regionally in Phoenix and Seattle in July and Dallas and Houston in August, which will allow Big Blue Swim School executives to present the brand to groups of 50-100 potential investors.

“In the first few months of 2019, we have been laser-focused on building our infrastructure, developing our strategic growth plan and franchise marketing materials, and hiring the right leaders to join our executive team,” said Thompson. “With 24 committed franchise locations and two corporate leases signed, we plan to have at least 50 committed locations by the end of 2019. We are well on our way of achieving our goal of 150 open units by the end of 2021.”

ABOUT BIG BLUE SWIM SCHOOL

Big Blue Swim School was founded in 2009 by competitive swimmer Chris DeJong. The first location opened in Wilmette, Illinois, 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. To learn more about franchise opportunities with Big Blue Swim School, visit http://YourBigMomentStartsHere.com.

14 05, 2019

Family Prepares To Bring Big Blue Swim School to Salt Lake City

2019-05-14T14:34:53-04:00May 14th, 2019|Tags: , , , , , |

Husband-and-Wife Franchisee Duo Zack and Brittany Groesbeck signed a three-unit deal to bring the technology-rich swim instruction concept to the Salt Lake City market.

SALT LAKE CITY — Leading swim instruction franchise Big Blue Swim School is coming to Salt Lake City this year as part of a three-unit deal signed by husband-and-wife franchisees Zack and Brittany Groesbeck. The pair own a series of sunglass retail locations throughout Utah and Zack is a Director of Sales for Maui Jim Sunglasses. The Groesbecks are still working with the Big Blue development team to secure prime real estate, but plan to open one location each year for the next three years and to potentially develop the entire Utah market.

Founded by U.S. National Champion swimmer Chris DeJong after he missed qualifying for the U.S. Olympic team in 2004 and 2008 by three-tenths of a second—just behind Michael Phelps—Big Blue Swim School takes a holistic approach to swim instruction, developing critical life skills like confidence and self-esteem consistent with children’s developmental levels. Big Blue is now positioned to become a dominant player in the $20 billion swim school industry thanks to key differentiators such as Lesson Buddy™, a proprietary and easy-to-use lesson management platform and customer self-service mobile app; a proven curriculum; and optimized operational model involving data-driven capacity planning.

The Groesbecks’ journey to Big Blue Swim School is a fascinating one. After witnessing a tragic drowning incident at their local pool several summers ago, the Groesbecks—themselves parents of two young children—knew that they wanted to commit themselves to promoting pool safety and providing unparalleled swim instruction through a swim school franchising opportunity. They first looked into Goldfish Swim School, where their children were enrolled. After unsuccessfully negotiating territories with Goldfish, Zack decided to look elsewhere. Once the Groesbecks learned about Big Blue’s proprietary teaching and real estate-sourcing technology, scheduling software and dual-pool model, they were hooked.

The Groesbecks have signed a three-unit development deal with plans to open one location a year for three years, along with the goal of eventually developing the entire market and expanding the Big Blue footprint to eight or nine locations. The duo is presently in the midst of locking in real estate for their first location, but is ecstatic to bring Big Blue Swim School to Salt Lake City this year.

“Zack and Brittany are just truly awesome people,” said Big Blue Swim School’s Chief Development Officer, Scott Thompson. “They have young kids in a swim school and Brittany herself embodies our target customer, so they have an incredibly valuable perspective. Additionally, they understand the Salt Lake City market and are right in-line with Big Blue’s philosophy concerning the importance of water safety and swim education. We’re thrilled to welcome them to the Big Blue family.”

The Groesbecks identified Salt Lake City as the perfect market for Big Blue Swim School development because Utah claims the youngest population in the U.S. and families in the state often include four or more children.

“It’s an extremely family-oriented community—every extra dollar goes to their children, and into extracurricular activities or programs to their benefit,” said Brittany Groesbeck.

“Today, parents are leery of contact sports and looking for alternatives for their children,” said Zack Groesbeck. “That’s Big Blue Swim School.”

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.

8 05, 2019

Big Blue Swim School Partners With Shorewood Development Group For 16-Unit Deal

2019-05-08T15:56:09-04:00May 8th, 2019|Tags: , , , , , |

Nation’s Leading Swim School Franchise’s Newest Franchise Partners Led by Louis Schriber III and Aaron Roth to Bring 10 Locations to Chicagoland, Six More to Twin Cities

CHICAGO — Big Blue Swim School, the nation’s leading swim school franchise, is excited to announce a new partnership with Shorewood Development Group to bring 10 new locations to Chicagoland and an additional six locations to the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

Shorewood Development Group, a Buffalo Grove, Illinois-based commercial real estate firm specializing in infill retail shopping center development, brings a wealth of relevant experience to the Big Blue Swim School franchise family. Led by Louis Schriber III and Aaron Roth, SDG Swim, LLC’s 16 locations will be managed by Jeff Plazak and Rachel Chavez.

“I was first introduced to Big Blue Swim School when my children attended lessons in Glenview. Being in real estate development, we knew some early investors in the brand and were intrigued,” said Schriber. “Once the Level 5 team got involved with Big Blue, we knew this was of significant interest to us and started pursuing the brand as another business to grow within our Shorewood investment model.”

Added Roth, “My excitement about the opportunity and the brand increased after flying down to Atlanta and meeting the Level 5 team. Their energy, passion and vision for Big Blue Swim School was contagious, and made me a believer of the model, culture and future of the brand.”

Like Big Blue Swim School co-founder Chris DeJong, Schriber has a long history with competitive swimming. Raised on the water in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, swimming has always been a part of his life.

“Growing up both on and in the water, I recognize that not only is water safety extremely important, but also that being a skilled swimmer opens the doors to adventure and fun,” said Schriber. “As a result of always being in the water, I was a natural at swimming. I swam varsity all four years of high school and continued to swim competitively in college for the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse.”

Fast forward to 2019, and the team at Shorewood Development Group is prepared and excited to tap into its vast knowledge and network in the commercial development space to expand Big Blue Swim School’s presence throughout Chicagoland and into the Twin Cities market.

“We have a deep understanding of the Chicago market and are extremely well-connected here, which gives us confidence in our ability to select the ideal locations for our swim schools,” said Schriber. “Signing on for the exclusive rights to the remaining Chicagoland territory was critical for us to be able to be hands-on and grow our schools to both our and Big Blue’s high standards.”

Thanks to Roth’s roots in Orono, Minnesota, Shorewood Development Group has a strong familiarity with the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and feel that is one of the premier markets in the Midwest for expansion. Coupled with Big Blue Swim School’s analytical ability to identify top markets, the brand’s new franchisees are well-equipped to execute.

“Other than just being my home state, Minnesota is truly an amazing, thriving market full of active, family-oriented people that really focus on their kids,” said Roth. “It also doesn’t hurt that Minnesota is ‘The Land of 10,000 Lakes’ — where people love the outdoors and regularly interact with water, marking swimming a must-have skill. This makes our schools and services very important to the families in the community.”

“Aaron and Louis both have large families, each with five children all under the age of 14. They are intimately familiar with the important role swimming plays in kids’ lives,” said Scott Thompson, Chief Development Officer of Big Blue Swim School. “Their experience as business owners and ability to take existing real estate, envision a totally new product and execute in accordance to that vision are exceptional. They have the same vision for Big Blue Swim School and there’s no doubt in my mind that their locations will be something to behold. Their ability to grow and retain top-tier employees gives us the utmost confidence that our schools will be in great hands with Jeff and Rachel leading the way.”

“We feel confident that our partnership has the necessary market knowledge, analytics and personnel to make the right decisions and get open quickly with the right locations,” Schriber said. “Our immediate goal is to fulfill our commitment to these 16 schools while continuing to evaluate new market options to expand into. We couldn’t be more excited to begin our journey with Big Blue Swim School and feel these 16 schools are just the beginning.”

ABOUT BIG BLUE SWIM SCHOOL

Big Blue Swim School was founded in 2009 by competitive swimmer Chris DeJong. The first location opened in Wilmette, Illinois, 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. To learn more about franchise opportunities with Big Blue Swim School, visit http://YourBigMomentStartsHere.com.

9 01, 2019

Backed by an Investment from Level 5 Capital Partners, Big Blue Swim School Prepares to Grow Through Franchising to 150 Units by 2020

2019-01-09T06:58:36-04:00January 9th, 2019|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Big Blue Swim School’s consumer proposition, proprietary technology and real estate opportunity primes the brand to become the national swim school leader

CHICAGO — Not many franchisors can give credit to the start of their business to losing to Michael Phelps. A competitive swimmer at the University of Michigan, ranked fifth in the world in backstroke and fourth in the U.S., Chris DeJong trained under the same coach as Phelps. For the 2008 Olympics, DeJong finished behind Phelps and missed qualifying by just four-tenths of a second.

“To be perfectly honest, I’m pretty sure if I had made the team, I would have not left the sport with the hunger and desire necessary to start a business. I’m almost certain that personal disappointment fueled the next step in my career,” said DeJong, Big Blue Swim School President and CMO. “I was able to experience swimming at every level from age group swimming to international competitions. I left the sport somewhat disappointed with my competitive swimming career and had a unique perspective on everything that was wrong with swimming, especially at the entry point.”

DeJong soon moved to Chicago and partnered with John Lonergan, a Big Ten all-academic swimmer at the University of Iowa, to coach a local swim team in Evanston, teach lessons and run the aquatics program at North Shore Country Club in Glenview. The duo developed great contacts during this time, including Chicago Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts (now a member of the Big Blue Swim School board) and, through their combined swimming and teaching experience, created a curriculum focused on achieving fast results. DeJong and Lonergan opened their first standalone swim school concept in Wilmette in 2009, which grew from 600 to 2,200 families essentially overnight. They opened locations in Buffalo Grove (2015), Niles (2016), Hoffman Estates (2017), and will open a fifth location in Chicago’s North Center neighborhood in March 2019.

“From a consumer standpoint, Big Blue Swim School‘s four points of execution — explain, demonstrate, mimic, correct — allow our child engagement specialists to deliver an experience that actually helps kids learn how to swim,” said DeJong. “Our proprietary distance-based methodology ensures that we are measuring our students’ progress in the ways that actually matter and more quickly achieve better results. Parents are willing to invest in this because it’s a vital life skill, and they are able to rapidly see not only that their investment has paid off, but more importantly, that their children know how to keep themselves safe in and around water.”

Level 5 Capital Partners Sees Big Blue as the Next Big Brand

In 2017, Level 5 Capital Partners, an investment company that grew from one Core Power Yoga studio to become the third largest national yoga studio operator in less than a decade, acquired a majority stake in Big Blue Swim School, and plans to grow the brand through franchising. 

“The consumer proposition, lifetime value of each member and real estate opportunity were what drew us to Big Blue Swim School,” said Chris Kenny, Big Blue Swim School CEO and Managing Partner of Level 5 Capital Partners, adding that the $20 billion swimming lessons market*, the brand’s results-oriented curriculum and the real estate in high-traffic areas made available by Amazon and other online businesses were contributing factors. 

Big Blue Swim School’s real estate footprint is generally between 10,000 to 12,000 square feet, with two 91-degree pools, which allows owners to map out class times by age group and make it easy for parents of multiple children to attend classes at the same time. Because teaching positions are filled by full-time child engagement specialists that receive benefits, Big Blue Swim School has less staff turnover, which saves the franchisee time and money and makes parents and children feel more comfortable.

Competitors in the swim school space typically connect new franchise owners to local real estate brokers who source Class C or Class D locations in warehouse areas, while Big Blue Swim School has a team of eight dealmakers canvassing the country to identify trade areas that fit the brand’s member profile.

“Competitors in the space are primarily focused on getting a good deal on rent, and are finding spaces in warehouse districts that are outside of the daily commute for parents. We are taking the opposite approach by using data on our current customers from Lesson Buddy, demographics, psychographics, traffic patterns and more, to narrow down the options to the top three sites to present to franchise owners,” said Kenny. “We are literally knocking on doors of properties that fit our profile, even if there’s a current tenant, to make sure we have the very best location. As an experience-based business that drives a lot of traffic to shopping centers, Big Blue Swim School is very attractive to landlords. The right real estate is pivotal to our success from a consumer standpoint, and our turnkey, hands-on approach to sourcing real estate and managing the process from lease negotiation through the construction makes it very easy for franchisees to open locations.”

The investment range for a Big Blue Swim School is $1,767,500 to $3,646,000. The brand is looking for franchise owners to develop in Florida, Texas, Southern California, Denver, Charlotte, Northern New Jersey, Georgia and Washington, D.C., the brand is set to add 50 locations in 2019 on the way to meeting its vision of 150 units by 2020.

Big Blue Swim School will support new franchise owners in a number of other ways, like lead generation through a corporate call center, and marketing through the required franchisee marketing fund, to help franchisees save money on labor and ensure that they are able to focus on running their day-to-day operations. 

“Swim schools stack up financially against other top tier franchises but offer a much more rewarding opportunity, and have a longer lifetime customer value,” said Scott Thompson, Chief Development Officer at Big Blue and Level 5 Capital Partners. “We have a strong Item 19, but beyond that, we are attracting people who want to make a difference in their communities and be a part of life’s big moments for families. When you’re part of the community, helping children learn to swim and giving parents peace of mind, it gives you a real sense of pride. You’re not just investing in a business, you’re investing in a lifestyle and a community, and franchising gives us the opportunity to do that on a larger scale.”

A key brand differentiator that will help the team achieve the expected growth is the brand’s proprietary software developed by Chief Technology Officer Casey Morford. Lesson Buddy leverages membership, sales data and operational insights to make business recommendations, including when and where to have class times to maximize return, as well as monitoring the chemical makeup of the pool itself. 

“Lesson Buddy is a tool that systematizes the operations for our franchise owners and gives the franchisor access to data across the entire system,” said Kenny. “If a location has an issue with its pool, the equipment functions with smart technology that’s connected to our software, so we are able to deploy facilities managers to the site to take care of any issues. Plus, the parents love being able to easily schedule lessons and will soon view their children’s progress on the app, which also relieves the franchisee of having to hire an employee to manage class scheduling for members.”

With a best-in-class product, strong brand leadership, a growth model and proprietary technology, the brand is set to add 50 locations in 2019 on the way to meeting its vision of 150 units by 2020.

“We are not treating this business like a normal franchise brand,” said Kenny. “With our network of interested multi-unit franchisees, the consumer value proposition and the business opportunity, we anticipate seeing immediate and long-term growth for Big Blue Swim School.” 

ABOUT BIG BLUE SWIM SCHOOL

Big Blue Swim School was founded in 2009 by competitive swimmers Chris DeJong and John Lonergan. 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.