Sara Harrison runs her Angela's Swim School franchise in Southwark and Greenwich.
"Hi, my name is Sara Harrison, I'm 31 and a franchisee. I'm proud to say I have just completed my first year as a franchisee with Angela's Swim School.
I own the Southwark and Greenwich franchises. It's been hard work, stressful at times but so rewarding, I love my job and would strongly recommend this to anyone looking to become their own boss within a business that has a proven track record and can provide support and advice when needed.
My first introduction to Angela's Swim School was in May 2014 when I took on an admin position for an existing franchisee covering the Dartford area; coincidentally this was the same franchisee who taught my son to swim a few years earlier. In October 2014 I was approached by Angela Wilson, CEO of the swim school with regard to taking on my own area. I then took and successfully passed my ASA level 1 and 2 to become a fully qualified instructor. I decided to jump in (please excuse the pun) and took on two areas, Southwark and Greenwich.
I hadn't got a clue about running my own business. Accountants, legal contracts, public liability insurance, business accounts and payroll, it might as well have been in another language. I'm of average intelligence but have never had the need to deal with these sort of things. That's the benefit of a franchise model, they steered me in the right direction, gave help and advice…oh, and a very large manual. I provided the hard work and determination to make it happen.
We agreed a start date of January 2015, this gave about three months to market my one pool, a small private spa pool in Catford. I wore the heels down on my favourite shoes dropping leaflets off to schools, doctors, playgroups. I'd even pull my car over when I saw a mum with a young child. I took stalls at Christmas fairs and any event that was likely to attract children and I was there promoting the benefits of fitness and safety in teaching children to swim.
I started in the January with four instructors and 55 children, this steadily grew to a second pool, then the third and fourth, all the time with continued marketing through leaflets, stands at Charlton Football Club and even a two-day event at the Excel Centre. We also use social media and are proud of the reviews we have received, especially those on Facebook and Kallikids.
So one year later, I have four pools and 14 instructors teaching over 400 people to swim each week, and that figure continues to grow. We have babies from four months to adults taking their first lessons, we have clients with special needs or restricted abilities and I still personally enjoy the look on each and every face as their confidence develops along with their swimming technique.
I get up at 6.30am and start replying to emails whilst drinking my first coffee, often the day ends about 8pm and although the office is open Monday to Friday, I will register new clients and deal with emails seven days a week. Despite the long hours, I've still taken time to add a few more training courses to my portfolio including 'reach and rescue' course, 'child protection' course, 'life guard and first aid' courses and ASA 'parent and teacher' course.
I believe a successful franchisee needs to be driven, self-motivated and willing to work hard, the rewards are there if you believe in your product. Could you go out and do it on your own? Possibly, but on your own you will make more mistakes, it will definitely take you longer and you will miss out on the collective marketing and buying power that a franchise can offer. Ideas can be shared, advice offered and the security of having your own area to market using a proven and tested setup.
It was a no-brainer for me, and it's working well.
We have just taken bookings for the next course and I am proud to say we have had a whopping 100% renewals from existing clients. I don't want to sound complacent, I'm never that, but a 100% renewal rate tends to indicate I am doing something right."
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I enjoy owning my own business and also being part of a bigger picture. We are part of an ever growing network and benefit from the support that Angela’s Swim School gives us.