Jennifer Nix was a competitive swimmer growing up. As a teenager, she turned her interest into a business, teaching swimming in high school. After college and twenty years of business experience, she started a landscaping company, and found it to be unfulfilling. A few years later, she reunited with an old high school friend, and decided to share her passion with the world and open Aqua Sports Swim Academy. Here is her story:
I was a swimmer growing up. I had a business in high school in which I taught swimming, and I did it on my own for about six years, even after college. I had experience from my first "start up" company, a landscaping company. I met an old friend in 2011. She suggested we start a swim school since we taught swimming together in high school, and made good money. I wanted to work on my own and get out of the landscaping business.
Our capital for Aqua Sports consisted of the pool lease down payment and first month’s rent totaling $5,400. My business partner, Holly, fronted the cash and was paid back from the swim school during our first thirty days of business.
Running the business
How did you learn to run a business?
I learned to run Aqua Sports from all my life experiences combined, starting with teaching swimming when I was thirteen. I developed the skill sets I use to run Aqua Sports from the following: My years as a competitive swimmer, traveling business consultant, an executive in a medium size company, and starting up another small business. All successes, mistakes, and failures lend themselves to lessons learned and better choices the next time around.
The most difficult thing?
Finding quality employees and keeping them. I spend most of my time on employee hiring and development, customer satisfaction, employee issues, customer complaints, or policy issues. These can be issues from the pool being too chlorinated on a day, to placing a child in a different class because of their skill level. People are the key in this business. They all have to fit together.
The most surprising thing?
I am surprised at the money and how easy it is. To give you an idea, most service businesses have profit margins of around 10%. We are at 30% or better. Swim schools in general experience healthy profit margins.
The most rewarding part about owning your business?
Seeing happy people. I’m talking about employees AND customers. Also, working in a business that can sustain itself.
What I’ve learned
From the time I was twelve, babysitting, to post college, I have applied everything that I have learned to my business. I pulled from all past experiences, both professional and personal, for this business. I’ve learned that my value system lends me to help people. It has led me to the partnership that I am in, and all the legal fees associated with it. I have learned about tact and professionalism, and how that affects your business image. I have learned that you will make some of the same mistakes, but as time goes on, you will make them for different reasons.
If you could go back in time and give yourself advice as you were getting started, what would that be?
No partnership. I would do it myself. Different people can have different money issues and values. You should find out how you fit together in your professional life. From the start of the business cycle, you should walk through every step to the end of the business cycle; from implementing your idea, to receiving payment. Test drive it out in your mind.