Scotty Milas' All Things Considered Franchising Podcast with Jeff Gartner of Hudson Valley Swim

April 27, 2023 00:25:07
Scotty Milas' All Things Considered Franchising Podcast with Jeff Gartner of Hudson Valley Swim
All Things Considered Franchising Podcast
Scotty Milas' All Things Considered Franchising Podcast with Jeff Gartner of Hudson Valley Swim

Apr 27 2023 | 00:25:07

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Show Notes

Today’s guest on the podcast is Jeff Gartner, President and Founder of Hudson Valley Swim.

Hudson Valley Swim has been teaching infants, children, and adults of all ages to swim since the company was founded in 2003. They have been a member of various swim associations since established. Many of their swim techniques were first introduced via those associations and fine-tuned to the needs of their customers over time.

Jeff begins with alarming stats about why learning to swim is so important. He says, “Less than half of the children in the United States know how to swim. However, 85% of them spend lots of time around water in the warmer months. That’s a recipe for disaster.” He also states that there are 4,000 drownings each year and another 8,000 near-fatal drownings.

When asked what prompted Jeff into franchising Hudson Valley Swim, Jeff says, “I was approached several times that work with FSOs (Franchise Sales Organizations) like mine. I had already developed the concept of bottling it up. So, I said, let’s take a look at that and what is that opportunity?”

Jeff is asked about his business model and potential franchisees. He says, “The model is a pool rental model. We find facilities with underutilized pools with large square footage. We bring a program like ours so they can make money and bring in potential new customers. So, it’s a win-win all around.” << CREATIVE BUSINESS MODEL ALERT!

Scotty Milas can be reached at [email protected] or at (860)751-9126.

Jeff Gartner can be reached at www.hvswim.com or (888)4HV-SWIM.

#allthingsconsidered #scottmilas #franchiseopportunities #businessownership #jeffgartner #hudsonvalleyswim #fso #businessmodel #swimminglessons #fitnessfacilities

 

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 1 00:00:06 Hey, everybody. Scotty, my another episode of All Things Considered Franchising, and I am your host. All Things Considered Franchising is powered by Scott, my franchise coach.com. All Things Considered franchising is a weekly series of podcasts that provide education and guidance in the franchising industry. Scott Mylo franchise coach is attended and a successful franchise consulting company helping individuals build a roadmap, begin the journey of investigating and researching franchises that are a best fit for reaching short and long-term goals. The services we provide are at no cost to our clients. Today's guest, Jeff Gartner, president and founder of Hudson Valley Swim, along with his wife Joan, back in 2003. The idea came about. Jeff, welcome to the show. Speaker 2 00:01:02 Thanks for having me, Scotty. Speaker 1 00:01:04 Good, good. Let's jump right into it. Uh, Jeff, by, uh, by trade, I guess as an entrepreneur, your background has been in, um, general technology, software development, uh, your wife and I, uh, your wife, uh, and you created a, a a a franchise, uh, Hudson Valley Swim. I think, if I'm correct, you, uh, started the actual business in 2003, but, uh, franchised it, uh, just recently in 20, uh, 22. Uh, tell us a little about Hudson Valley Swim. How did you get to this point? Um, was it a life event that made you start thinking about teaching people how to swim? Because you start from six months and you actually teach adults as well, correct? Speaker 2 00:01:50 That's correct. We, we run the full gamut of, uh, swim lessons, including special needs and, um, and competitive swimmers as well. Um, so we, we, we go soup to nuts or just short of, uh, having our own swim team. Uh, yeah, so we, we, we started back in, in 2000 and in three, uh, and the, that, that actually the idea came about because, you know, when my kids were young, we used to bring a, an instructor in to our backyard pool to teach them and some of the neighbor kids, uh, how to swim. And the instructor that we brought in was phenomenal. And, you know, just, I, I had dabbled in a few other businesses, um, real small businesses over time and, and, and I, I came up with the idea, Hey, we, we ought to like, look at doing this as a business. And, um, and so the idea grew from there. Speaker 1 00:02:47 Interesting, interesting. Um, teaching children how to swim and even adults has become, uh, at least within the franchising industry, uh, I guess the term or the slogan is it's, it's, it's a lifesaving, um, a lifesaving event teaching people how to swim. Uh, I think, uh, I read statistically that the amount of children that, uh, sadly pass away because of drowning, um, is pretty alarming. And this has become swim lessons or teaching children how to swim. Even adults has become a lifesaving, uh, measure. Uh, talk about the, the role that swim lessons or teaching people how to swim, um, is actually that lifesaving event. I mean, it, it's, it's, it, it's an important part of life. We probably don't realize that we are probably around water or bodies of water, uh, even the bathtub, I guess in, in some regards, a lot more than people realize. Am am I correct here? Speaker 2 00:03:52 Yeah, that's, there, there there's a lot of alarming stats in there. Uh, for instance, uh, less than half the children in the United States know how to swim, yet 85% of them spend time around water in the, in the warmer months. So that's a, that's a recipe for disaster. Uh, and and that's evidenced by a lot of the, uh, statistics that are, um, you know, the C d C puts out, so there's, there's 11 drownings fatal drownings every day. So that's fourth, about a 4,000 a year. But, uh, what you don't hear about as much is there's another 8,000 near fatal drownings. And that when, when I say near fatal, that doesn't mean these people are out of the woods. So there are long term effects as a result of, uh, a drowning that's not fatal, that could be, uh, um, br brain damage for, from lack of oxygen. It can be respiratory issues and another long-term effects. Um, and so we look at swim lessons as more of a mandatory activity, uh, than something like gymnastics or dance or, or tee-ball, right? They're not in the same category. It, it's, it's critical that you learn how to swim. It's not as critical that you learn how to dance. And that's how knock on those other sports, I don't really consider them in the same category. And hence we've trademarked the terms swim lessons, save lives, and, um, and because that's really our mantra. Speaker 1 00:05:25 That's Speaker 2 00:05:26 Interesting. As you were saying. Speaker 1 00:05:27 So you started your business in 2003 kind of an idea when you were bringing your children to swim lessons your own children, uh, in a neighbor's pool. Um, how, how did the business develop, develop? I mean, i, I, is this something that you said, Hey, we're getting lessons over here and started to invite other families to bring their kids and use the same instructor that you had mentioned. I mean, give us the, give us kind of this, uh, profile or image of how the business started to grow. Speaker 2 00:05:59 Well, for the first step was finding a year round location, because you know, where we are in New York, um, you know, the, the, you have a two or three month season and, and, and it's the same way in, uh, in, in a lot of the United States. So, uh, we, we, we had to find an indoor pool so that we could run year round. Um, back then when we first started, social media really wasn't a, um, wasn't a thing, right? And so wasn't trying to grow the business back then was a lot slower than it is today. Uh, plus we had to learn, you know, what, what worked, you know, did radio work. We had to try it, did, uh, did the newspapers work. We had to try it, the Penny Saver Road signs, um, money mailers, you know, we, we tried it all and they, those were really expensive ways to market the program, and they had very limited, um, uh, utility for us, you know, so, um, it, it, it, it took a while to grow the business, but once, um, social media started to rear its, uh, rear its head, some might say ugly head <laugh>, um, uh, I, I look at it more positively than that. Speaker 2 00:07:17 Uh, you know, it was a lot easier to, to get the message out, you know, and whether it it's an ad or just a video of, you know, a, a a, a, a little a child doing something really spectacular where people are like, wow, you know, and then sharing that and tagging other people and so forth. It really helped to build the business, uh, through those, uh, using those tools. And we sort of bottled that all up into here's your recipe for how to do it. And, um, and, and we would a, as we expanded ourselves into multiple locations, we were able to, okay, what's the recipe that worked here? Let's try it here. Yes, it worked. Let's do it again. And we did it again, and then again and again. Speaker 1 00:08:00 So you decided to expand the business into, into other areas. Um, so you, you, in, in franchising, we would call that corporate locations, I guess. Yes. Or corporate territories. Uh, so, and you were doing this before you actually became a franchisor. So the challenges I guess were, um, to find the locations, the pools to rent the water, I guess, to teach, and then also finding the instructors for those locations, or instructor then doing the re uh, the, the, the, the advertising to get the parents or adults to come in for the lessons. Correct. I mean, that, that's, yes. Just to set the stage, so you are growing, uh, getting into the corporate locations, flash forward 19 years, 18, 19 years. You don't wake up one morning and say, Hey, I want to franchise my business. What was the strategy? Instead of keeping it independent and moving into more corporate locations, what was the strategy and how did you get to, maybe we should franchise this, cuz I know probably why you did it, although I don't wanna say, because I'd rather hear it from you, but I want to educate the audience, especially if they're, our audience has businesses that they're thinking about franchising. Speaker 1 00:09:20 So what prompted you to take a look at franchising the business and then eventually go to that route? Speaker 2 00:09:26 Well, I would have to, uh, I'm gonna bet with you, Scotti, uh, I'll betcha a, uh, a beer that, um, um, that my reasons were not what you thought. Um, Speaker 1 00:09:38 Interesting. Okay. Speaker 2 00:09:40 So I was approached several times by companies that do, um, work FSOs with companies like mines Yes. Speaker 1 00:09:52 Franchise sales organizations. They're called FSOs in the franchising industry. Yep. Speaker 2 00:09:56 So they, to help me, Hey, you've got a great business model. This, uh, this business model is something that others have, um, uh, have, uh, moved into the franchise space. Um, you ought to look at doing that. Um, as we start to, you know, grow to another, another location, it, it's like, I, I already had developed the concept of bottling it up, right? And, and, um, and, and so that combination of them chirping in my ear along with my need to str my background is in, you know, business process automation and things like that. And, and a lot of what I was already doing, I said, you know what, let's take a look at that and what is that opportunity? So now, Scotty, you tell me what you thought. Speaker 1 00:10:44 Nope. That's, you know, uh, I think we have to buy each other a beer, so we're gonna have to drink one each <laugh>. Um, but actually, uh, you know, Jeff, that is probably the primarily reason people get into franchising their business, is that they start to develop the corporate locations one after the other. And the systems, the management of those systems, the people implementing the systems, making sure that they're being duplicated becomes a, not so much a challenge, but the organization starts to grow and grow and grow. Whereas franchising allows you to take those systems, duplicate it, but have a business owner, somebody who has, you know, who who owns the business, your system, so to speak. Uh, your license to run the business becomes a lot easier on the corporate side, although you pick up a lot of some other headaches along the way, probably, but <laugh>, and I think you'll laugh at that, but, um, it, it just makes it a little bit easier to build and scale the business versus doing it all yourself. Speaker 2 00:11:49 Yeah. And then the other item, uh, that I didn't mention was, you know, I love this business. I mean, I'm really, really passionate about this business and what it does for the, for the communities that we serve, right? And, you know, by, I, I have this drive to help people. I've, I've always been involved in the community coaching and, and so forth. And I, I believe that there are others like me that are just sort of looking for the right type of business that gives them the same satisfaction that, that we have, that want to help their communities have that, that serve that servitude kind of an attitude, you know? And, and so I just wanna help find other people that, that do the same thing and for the, the, the better good of the, of the communities. Speaker 1 00:12:45 Yep. No, I mean, that, that, that's, that's great. And obviously, look, you're, you're, you're, you're building something on your end as well. Um, you're obviously building other locations or helping people get into the business that may have the same, uh, uh, feeling a community involvement like you, who want to give back to the community, uh, provide a necessity, uh, to children, adults, swimming lessons. Um, so, uh, I, I I, I, you know, the reasons why you franchise it are valid reasons, uh, you know, uh, other than just waking up in the morning and saying, well, I wanna be a franchisor. There was a reason you wanted to scale the business, and this became a source, uh, to be able to scale the business. Um, let's talk about the brand Hudson Valley Swim. Um, how did the model, uh, it's, it's not a brick and mortar, uh, facility, so you don't have to own your pool, uh, you're renting pools or renting the space or the time within the pools. Tell us a little bit about the model. Um, tell us a little bit about the, uh, you know, type of franchisee you're looking to bring into the system. Uh, if our audience is listening, people that may be considering a business model that's really getting involved with the community, uh, works with children, tell us a little about what you're looking for as far as a franchisee in the model itself. Speaker 2 00:14:09 So, so the model itself, uh, as as we discussed, is a pool rental model. So we find facilities, uh, uh, fitness centers, uh, tennis clubs and so forth that have indoor pools to start, um, that where the, their water is underutilized. And, uh, that's usually a very large, uh, square footage in a facility, right? That, uh, is not generating any revenue for them. So there's, there's, uh, certainly a lot of, uh, value to bring a program like ours in, um, so that they can make some money. Plus we are, uh, bringing new potential customers into their facility, uh, that, you know, that we are marketing, there's no cost to them to market too. So it, it's kind of a win-win all around. Um, the, uh, the value of using the pool rental model to, to us and a franchise or potential franchise owner is, uh, time to market. Speaker 2 00:15:08 Uh, we can get you up and going in as little as three months. Your initial investment is low. You don't have to build a pool. Um, and, uh, those typically take, you know, two, three years to get through all the planning and so forth. And it's certainly a few dollars behind that. Um, the operational costs are really low, so the, uh, the ability to break even in a very short amount of time is very realistic. Um, and, and, and not just break even, but go, you know, in the black, you know, and, um, and so it, it's, it's a really low risk type of an opportunity for folks. Um, the, the perfect owner to us, uh, as we, we sort of alluded to as somebody that wants to do something for the communities, uh, you know, run a business that they could be proud of. Speaker 2 00:15:58 There's a, there's a lot of great businesses out there that, you know, aren't the most glamorous, you know, and, uh, and this is kind of in a way, is, you know, it's, it's one that you could really promote. You can, you know, be happy putting it on, uh, uh, uh, when you're sponsor a local team, putting it on their shirt. It it's, it's a good brand. Um, you know, so a community oriented person, uh, they don't have to have any aquatics background. They're gonna run the business. They're gonna, we're gonna have location without, uh, securing a pool, first of all. And we do have a national contract with, uh, uh, a large, uh, fitness facility. We're working on others, um, so that we have access to, to, uh, to, to water, but we also, uh, work with them to, to find the right type of instructor. Speaker 2 00:16:53 So one of, one of the values of our swim program is we have, um, very, very experienced swim, swim instructors. We're not really looking for the rookies, you know, somebody making a minimum wage. There's a lot of programs out there that, right, in my opinion, underpay, and they get what they pay for. Um, so we're, we're looking for the more expensive instructors, the ones with ha you know, that might have 5, 10, 15 years of experience looking, uh, doing this as a career, you know, um, and, but it's not just how much of experience, it's not the certifications they have. They, they may have, it's are they a teacher, you know? Right. Do they inspire you? So those are the, some of the personalities that we're looking for, because we've had some very, very experienced instructors that realistically were duds in the water. You know, they were just monotone. Speaker 2 00:17:45 You've had instructors like that. Everybody that's listening can identify with that teacher in school that really inspired them. That's the kind of person we look for, you know, in, in the instructors. And it's more than one instructor to run a full-time program. Um, but, uh, initially you really wanna start off with that, with that all-star. And, um, and, um, so, you know, that the, the, the person we're looking for community centric, um, um, wants, you know, might, might be a little risk averse, you know, might not have, you know, the biggest net worth, you know, might even wanna start off running, um, sort of an after school and weekend kind of a program instead of, you know, quitting their job and running it full-time, husband and wife team, or, you know, two partners, um, right. That, that works perfectly. Um, those are some of the characteristics that we, we, we look Speaker 1 00:18:40 For. Interesting. So I think right off the bat, one of the thing that comes to my attention, and especially in today's environment, um, we can talk about, you know, we won't get into labor issues or anything, but, um, I think one of the things that I like to promote to my clients is to consider brands that don't have a lot of moving parts. Um, so let's, let's talk about hours of operation. I mean, I would say initially it's more of a, especially for children, it may be a before school, after school type program, especially if the kids are older than five years old. But if you're teaching two or three year olds, it may be morning, afternoon, or evening classes. Is that correct? I mean, are your hours Monday through Friday, the occasional Saturday, uh, closed on Sundays? I mean, or is there the owner have a flexibility about on the hours that they wanna operate? And I imagine that also is when, is the pool available as well? Correct. Speaker 2 00:19:36 Well, we look for, first of all, pool availability. We're, we look for, uh, availability seven days, you know, so we're trying to get, you know, a lane or two, uh, in the pool basically full-time. Now, how much of that you use, uh, will scale, you know, so initially you might start off with a, a few afternoons, maybe throw a morning in, throw like a Saturday in, but what you'll find is the, uh, the afternoons and the weekends are high demand times, especially weekends. And so, uh, be prepared, uh, to be running the program on, on Saturday and Sundays, in fact, right? You wanna double up on instructors, you'll grow to a point where you're, you've got two instructors, uh, uh, or more running on the high at the high demand times. Yes, there are daytime hours. That's something you can grow into, you know, so, uh, maybe some of the special needs, uh, the, uh, the mommy and me we, uh, programs, the, uh, there are some adults, um, you know, those, and, and, and also, um, um, the homeschool, um, they're folks that would typically fill some of the daytime hours, but that's still lower demand. Speaker 2 00:20:49 And, um, so at best, you'll, you'll run maybe one instructor at those times when you might run multiple instructors, you know, from three or four o'clock, uh, on and on weekends. Speaker 1 00:21:01 Interesting. We're talking with, uh, Jeff Gardner, who is president and founder of, uh, long with his wife, uh, uh, Joan of Hudson Valley Swim out of, uh, New York, uh, and, uh, a what we consider en franchising a, uh, a growing emerging brand. Jeff, how many, uh, franchisees do you have operating? How many do you have sold, uh, getting ready to open? Give us some perspective of where you're going right now, your direction growth. Speaker 2 00:21:28 Yeah, I mean, it's, it's been a little slow, slow going. Uh, it's given us the opportunity to really, um, streamline a lot of the, uh, of our processes even further, you know, so that we can onboard, uh, more quickly. Um, so we have one, uh, one operational, uh, we have a second one that starts, uh, next month. And, um, you know, we've added, uh, a few more corporate locations and, uh, we have, uh, a couple that are sort of waiting on Speaker 1 00:22:00 Waiting. Yep. State Speaker 2 00:22:02 Approvals, <laugh>. Oh my God. Uh, yes, yes. That's probably one of the biggest challenges. Speaker 1 00:22:09 Yep. Yep. Speaker 2 00:22:10 Registrations. Speaker 1 00:22:11 That's great, Jeff. Um, we're getting ready to, you know, kind of wind down here, but, um, if somebody was interested in learning more about Hudson Valley Swim, uh, getting some more information, I believe you're, you have a family member that's involved in the development side, the recruitment side, Nick, um, what's the best way for someone to get ahold of you or Nick, or, uh, is it just go to the website and what's the website as far as, uh, reaching out? Speaker 2 00:22:36 Lots of ways to get ahold of us. So at a minimum, they can get ahold of you, Scotty, if they know you. Um, uh, you can come to our website, we're at, uh, hv swim.com, and there's a franchise section there where there's an interest form. You could always email franchise hv swim.com or give us a call at eight eight eight four HV swim. Speaker 1 00:23:02 Ah, interesting. All right. Anything else, Jeff, anything else you wanna, you know, share as, uh, we got a, got about a minute here left. Uh, anything else you wanna mention about the brand? Uh, anything about franchising? I mean, obviously franchising offers a lot of, uh, options for people that are looking to become entrepreneurs, uh, whether for the first time or diversify a portfolio. Um, anything you want to add, uh, before we close out here? Speaker 2 00:23:28 Yeah, I, I, I would say give us a look, because once you run through 30 minutes with us, uh, it's actually going to inspire you. So if you're really looking for a business where you could, um, in a low risk way, um, scale to a, uh, a very profitable enterprise, um, but be inspired while doing so, um, this is really, uh, worth the look. And, uh, one, once you, uh, have a chance to talk to Nick and I, um, you, you're really gonna start drinking the Kool-Aid Speaker 1 00:24:04 <laugh>. Great, great, great. Well, Jeff, we appreciate your time here. Over to all things considered franchising, uh, we wish you all the best as the gr uh, the brand grows. Um, uh, I, I, I know for one, what it's like to be part of a embryonic brand and, uh, building it, it's, it's a lot of fun, but it's challenging. Uh, so we, uh, we wish you all the best as the brand grows. Um, this is Scotty, my host of All Things Considered Franchising, powered by Scott, my franchise coach.com. If you have an interest in learning more about business ownership, uh, investigating and researching franchises, please reach out to me at 8 6 0 7 5 1 9 1 2 6, uh, or go to my website, Scott Mylo franchise coach.com. Services that we provide are at absolutely no cost to you. We are compensated by the brands that we represent. So again, this is Scotty My, until next time, all things considered franchising. Have a great day.

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