Start a swim school by following these 9 steps:
You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your swim school. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
STEP 1: Plan your Business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How long it will take you to break even?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a swim school?
The cost of opening a swim school can be relatively low. One of the greatest costs is the pool itself: if you already have one at your home and are willing to use it for lessons, then this costs nothing. If not, the most cost-efficient step is to work out a pool rental agreement from a local school or hotel. The cost of this varies but can go up to $15 per swimming lane per hour, but the easiest solution is to build this cost into the membership fees for your customer. Insurance may be up to $6,000 per year and obtaining relevant licensing and permits can vary in costs, but are typically less than $5,000. Marketing can vary, as traditional marketing via television, radio, and print to advertise a grand opening may be $15,000 or more, but advertising via social media and Youtube is free.
What are the ongoing expenses for a swim school?
One of the most attractive features of a swim school is that there are few ongoing expenses. Building a pool rental cost into membership fees means that there is no cost for pool upkeep, rent, or utilities. Insurance costs can vary but can cost the equivalent of $500 a month. Beyond that, the only real ongoing costs would be monthly advertising (typically $2,000 a month or less, especially if you use a lot of social media advertising).
Who is the target market?
Generally, the best clients tend to be “older,” as in teenagers on up. These groups tend to want to learn for their own reasons and are more motivated, whereas younger clients are typically there at the urging of their parents and may actually resent the lessons just as they may resent typical school lessons.
How does a swim school make money?
Of course, the most basic way that a swim school makes money is by charging clients for the lessons you provide. You may offer a variety of payment methods, such as charging per lesson, charging a monthly fee for regular lessons, and possibly charging a greater monthly fee for “unlimited” lessons. You should always charge a higher rate for private lessons as this takes away time when you could be making money via group instruction.
How much can you charge customers?
To a degree, how much you charge customers should both reflect the socioeconomic status of your clientele while also remaining competitive with other businesses. Typically, $50 would be the low-end for group lessons while $100 would be the high-end, with the assumption that these lessons last an hour; you can adjust prices downward for shorter lessons. One way to encourage frequent lessons by offering discount rates on a certain number of lessons purchased at once or to offer a kind of membership plan that rewards visits over time.
How much profit can a swim school make?
In general, a swim school has a decent profit margin, with many in the profit margin of 20 to 30 percent, which is particularly high for a service industry. The high margin is primarily due to the aforementioned lack of overhead and monthly expenditures, meaning that you can potentially pocket anything that does not go towards pool rental, insurance, and marketing.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Most of the most profitable tricks have already been mentioned. Renting rather than building a pool keeps costs down while building the costs of rental and insurance into your fee structure helps you to absorb those costs. Advertising more via social media is also free and helps you reach younger people, while liaising with schools, churches, and other organizations is a free way of reaching your key demographic.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is very important. Read our detailed guide on how to name your business. We recommend checking if the business name you choose is available as a web domain and securing it early so no one else can take it.
After registering a domain name, consider setting up a professional email account (@yourcompany.com). Google's G Suite offers a business email service that comes with other useful tools, including word processing, spreadsheets, and more. Try it for free
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC prevents you from being personally liable if your swim school is sued. There are many business structures to choose from including: Corporations, LLC's, and DBA's.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Check out the Top Business Formation Services from our friends at StartupSavant.
You should also consider using a registered agent service to help protect your privacy and stay compliant.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Find the right bank for you, read our review of the Top 5 Banks for Your Small Business
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a swim school. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
In addition, certain local licensing or regulatory requirements may apply. For more information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
All swim instructors should be certified. Certifications typically come from either the Red Cross or the Aquatic Teaching Foundation Unit. Different levels of certification should be obtained relevant to teaching intent. More information on certifications can be found here.
Liability Release Forms
It is advisable to have swimmers sign liability waivers to decrease legal responsibility and encourage transparency. An example of a liability waiver can be found here.
Recommended: Rocket Lawyer makes it easy to create a professional release of liability form for your swim school when you sign up for their premium membership. For $39.95 per month, members receive access to hundreds of legal agreements and on call attorneys to get complimentary legal advice.
Certificate of Occupancy
Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a swim school business.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your swim school business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
- For more information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
STEP 7: Get Business Insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Learn more about General Liability Insurance.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
How to promote & market a swim school
Promote your swim school via traditional and modern means. As mentioned above, this includes combining print, television, and radio advertisement as well as social media. Placing flyers and business cards throughout your community is another relatively cheap way of advertising your business.
How to keep customers coming back
Because of the relative youth of many of your customers, a good way to retain customers is to hold special events. These may include swim parties in the summer and theme parties around holidays. Offering customers rewards programs where customers can earn free lessons over time and getting free lessons for referring their friends can also provide a powerful incentive for customers to come back.
STEP 9: Establish your Web Presence
A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.
Start A Swim School In Your State
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Is this Business Right For You?
First and foremost, this is for someone both passionate and knowledgeable about swimming, as you must be able to provide specific tips and techniques in order to help swimmers succeed. You must be good at working with children, as most of your customers will be younger. And you must be careful modulating group lessons and individual instruction in order to underscore the value of your private lessons.
What happens during a typical day at a swim school?
Most of the day to day activities of a swim school involves conducting the lessons themselves. The most successful swim schools will offer lessons to different age groups, so these will need separate times for instruction. You may also consider offering lessons for aspiring professional swimmers, such as those on swim teams in middle school, high school, and college. Beyond this, you will be reaching out to customers and their parents via email each week as well as designing and releasing advertisements for your business. You may also liaise with local sponsors and take time out of each day to process payments and make sure all customers are accounted for.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful swim school?
It is important to not only be very knowledgeable about swimming but to already be certified as an instructor. This helps you keep initial start-up costs lower because you do not have to hire any additional instructors at first. Having taken swim classes yourself will help you come up with ideas for conducting your own classes. Having community ties with local schools, churches, and other organizations can help you recruit students, while previous experience working at a swim school ran by someone else gives you vital experience for running your own business.
What is the growth potential for a swim school?
There is decent growth potential for a swim school because it is always possible to expand lessons to different groups of clients. For instance, while swim schools have traditionally catered to younger clients, one swim school business owner was able to quadruple her business when she began offering private swimming lessons for adults. For businesses able to work with a diverse age range of customers, the growth potential is very real.
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Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a swim school?
Jump start your swim school by first coordinating with local schools and obtaining permission to advertise your business. In particular, the coaches should be able to spread word of your business opportunity. Make sure to provide a venue via social media and your website for customer testimonials, as those are increasingly popular among younger customers.
How and when to build a team
Starting out, you will likely be the only instructor. You will know when to build a team if you have more customers than you can personally handle or simply want to expand your hours or services.