As the company’s 2nd anniversary fast approaches; we caught up with Co-Founder and Owner of Comfort Aquatics, Adam Comfort to learn about how he and his fellow co-founder and wife, Lottie have grown their business from 11 to 1,100 members!
Who is Adam Comfort and Who Are Comfort Aquatics?
Adam Comfort is a Co-Founder of Comfort Aquatics. He has over 20 years’ experience of working in the swimming industry, with many of those years spent in the pool teaching children how to swim.
Comfort Aquatics is a West London based swimming school operating across 5 private swimming pools. They offer small group and private sessions up to Stage 7. They also offer parent and baby classes and intensive courses in the school holidays. At time of writing, Comfort Aquatics have over 1,100 members; a significant increase from the 11 who attended their sessions between April and September 2017.
When Did You Start the Business?
We delivered our first swimming lesson as Comfort Aquatics in April 2017. In September of that year, Lottie, my wife and fellow Comfort Aquatics co-founder, and I went full-time with the business.
Why Did You Start the Business?
We started Comfort Aquatics because we wanted the freedom to do our own thing, create our own successes and make our own mistakes. With over 20 years’ experience teaching and managing swimming lessons, I personally felt I had got to a point in my career where the logical next step was to start my own business and use this vast experience to create something from scratch which I was really proud of.
How Did You Grow the Business from 11 Swimmers to Where You Are Today?
The key to our rapid growth is the consistent delivery of a great product. We haven’t spent a penny on advertising.
Lottie and I have a huge amount of industry experience between us, so we know what works, both from a teaching point of view and in terms of delivering an overall customer experience.
Our first 11 swimmers came to us because we had taught them in previous jobs; having a strong personal reputation as a coach is really important because parents will literally move their children in order to follow you if they love coming to your lessons and are making progress in their swimming.
Parents talk, and as word-of-mouth started to spread, we had more and more swimmers knocking on our door wanting to learn with Comfort Aquatics. I’d estimate around 90% of our current crop of members came to us via a referral.
We have found a niche between the high-end and public facilities and are delivering exactly what this market wants.
What Were Your Greatest Challenges?
In the early days, running the business without CoursePro was a huge challenge. Having led on the implementation of the system across Virgin Active’s estate, during my time at the company, I knew how valuable it would be to us but we needed to get to a tipping point in terms of member numbers, and therefore cash flow, in order to justify getting it in. As soon as we hit the magic number, I was on the phone to Alex [Davison – Head of Sales & Marketing] to get the ball rolling!
Finding pool space is an ongoing challenge. The size of the pools we have been able to secure regular usage of in our area has limited us to only be able to offer lessons up to Stage 7. We have lots of demand from parents of children who reach Stage 7 for further lessons, but we just can’t physically accommodate those lessons with the facilities we have at this time. If you happen to hear of a 25m pool in West London which has availability, please do let me know!
How Has CoursePro Helped Comfort Aquatics Grow?
There is no way we would have been able to handle our growth without CoursePro; it honestly does the job that I would expect to have needed to employ 5 or 6 office-based admin staff to do at our current size, at a fraction of the price. Instead, I can act as the Swim Manager for all 5 of our sites without breaking a sweat – and still find time to teach the occasional lesson myself!
Aside from making administrating our lessons a breeze, CoursePro also plays a significant role in the delivery of our customer experience; which is again hugely important to our success – both in terms of referrals and retention.
We love the HomePortal feature in particular here, because of the direct connection it gives us with parents – further strengthening the relationship we have with them. It allows them to quickly and easily see their child’s progress on their terms in their own time, online via a PC or mobile device; which is great for us because, as much as we’d like to, we rarely have the time to discuss these things individually with them between lessons of an evening. Without CoursePro progress wouldn’t be anywhere near as tangible to our parents and, at the end of the day, we are in a results business.
Another great value-add for our customers is the Online Bookings add-on. It has been a lifesaver and has given me so much time back. Even just thinking about having to take payments manually – parents queueing out the door- sends shivers down my spine! Today’s consumer expects to be able to pay quickly and easily, how they want to, when they want to, where they want; don’t make it a chore.
Where Do You See Comfort Aquatics in 5 Years’ Time?
We’d like to be offering lessons for Stages 8, 9, and 10, so we are going to have to find a bigger pool which can facilitate that. We want to continue our growth and, ultimately, my goal is to find a school with a pool and be their ‘swim school in residence’; teaching pupils in the day and using the facility for Comfort Aquatics private lessons in the evening and at weekends.
If You Could Give One Piece of Advice to Someone Looking to Start a New Sports Course Business, What Would it be?
Believe in yourself and just go and do it! It is really daunting to go out there on your own and take that leap. Have confidence in yourself and your expertise; what is the worst that can happen? Offer the best lessons you can and there is no reason why it won’t work for you like it has for us.
Here at CAP2 we couldn’t be more impressed by the growth Adam and team have made. With plans for further expansion, we’ll be right by their side helping them continue building on their success in the future.
Thanks for chatting with us Adam!