Claire moved from Manchester at the age of 18 to study Sport and Exercise Sciences at University. Now married and settled in London, Claire has worked in the swim school business for over 15 years having managed and developed other swim schools before starting her own called Swimming Rocks in 2009.
Claire also designs and develops products for the swim school industry and has recently won her first award nomination and runner up prize in the UK Pool and Spa Awards for her very first product launched only a few months ago, a teaching platform for swim schools.
I’ve always loved swimming and was quite good at it from an early age. I have taught swimming non-stop since the age of 16. That’s a lot of years!
Swimming Rocks was born of a strong ambition to have my own successful and well respected swimming school. So in 2009, when an opportunity arose to acquire my own swimming pool contract, I jumped at the chance. And it’s grown from there. Going from strength to strength. We now teach over 550 students every week!
What makes Swimming Rocks unique?
It’s so important to have the right Team. Instructors who are passionate, career orientated and long term. We are lucky. We have simply THE best team of Swimming Instructors in London. Its how the business has grown and I’m grateful that they have been integral to that.
Our service is effortless. We recognise that today’s mummies and daddies are busy people and that juggling activities isn’t easy. So each mummy has direct mobile access to their own swim manager for whenever they need it – and with over 500 students every week, making sure that we know everyone on a more personal level is never easy – but we always manage it!
One very positive move we made last year was to introduce HOME PORTAL – Individual student progress is updated after every lesson via our Instructor ipods and synced immediately so busy parents can follow their family’s progress via their own online area.
With the addition of mini squads, racing teams, aquafun sessions and pool parties we are moving quickly with what our clients tell us they want.
There are a fair few swim schools out there, and we know we need to stand out. We love Swimming Rocks, to us, it’s more than just a job.
What are your three top tips on teaching children to swim?
Praise, Patience and Persistence.
Swimming Instructors can give badges and certificates but its mum and dad who are most important to children. Your PRAISE will encourage, give confidence and keep their interest to keep going and improve more and more. Its lovely to see a student complete a new task only to look straight to Mum sat on the poolside clapping and giving the thumbs up!
It can be really daunting for some children but with practice they can develop a lifetime’s enjoyment of swimming. Be PATIENT. It takes time to learn to swim properly and whilst some skills will come easily, others may take a dauntingly long time to achieve. But they will get there in the end…..we promise!
Don’t give up. Especially when it’s cold and dark outside. Keep going to your lessons and your will see results. Even small breaks in lessons can have a regressive impact. PERSISTENCE will pay off.
Swimming is a healthy activity that can be enjoyed forever and you never know, we may even find the next Ellie Symonds, Ryan Lochte or Rebecca Adlington!
What challenges have you faced in your business?
Financial security…. fear of failure…not having enough time…managing expectations of staff and customers. I could go on and on…
But I suppose the biggest challenge I have faced has been building solid relationships.
Businesses rely on good reputation. We retain our pool contracts through good business practice and commercial sustainability. Our customers keep returning because we provide solid customer service and our staff stay because we look after and develop their careers.
Taking that leap of faith is hard but it was and still is worth it every day!
Can you offer any advice to women setting up their own business?
Network whenever possible. Opportunity can present itself at the most unusual times.
Build relationships with and know your clients. They will drive the direction of your business.
Look after your staff and invest time in them. In turn, they will look after you. I am about to have my first baby and I’m confident that my team are able to look after the business exactly how I would. Its a nice position to be in!
And finally, create a work/life balance that works for you. Starting your own business can be hard but nobody wins if you start resenting your business and can’t spend time with those who matter most to you.
What is the most rewarding aspect of what you do?
That’s easy, I LOVE being on that poolside talking to mums beaming with pride telling me how much their child loves their lessons. Its what I work so hard for. And it means we are doing something right!
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