An interview with Nic, our amazing franchisee in Wigan and St Helens
Name – Nic
Job – Baby and pre school swimming teacher and Baby Squids Wigan franchise owner
What was your first job?
I worked in a convenience store/off license for £2.75 per hour when I was 16 going through college. I earned £30 a week and felt mega rich!
What did you study?
I studied child development in the early years. The course was a mixture of theory in the classroom, and practical experience in young childrens settings. I knew from an early age that I wanted to work with children. When I was very young I wanted to be a teacher. I enjoyed being around young children, having fun with them, watching them grow and develop and nurturing their natural abilities.
Where have you worked?
I’ve worked in schools, nurseries, after school clubs, kids clubs on cruise ships and also as a nanny. All of them have been very enjoyable and rewarding in many different ways. I’m very passionate about child development and providing a caring and nurturing environment for children to thrive. All of my previous roles have helped me grow and learn, and have shaped me into who I am today.
How did you hear about swimming teaching and what made you decide to become a swimming teacher?
I started to take my son swimming when he was a baby, it took a while to get his confidence up but then shortly after I did we went into lockdown, which meant no swimming for the best part of 2 years. I didn’t realise how much we missed it until the world returned to its new normal and we couldn’t get into our local leisure centres as they were booked up way in advance. I knew swimming is such an important skill to learn for safety reasons so I was keen to get back to it as soon as possible so I decided to join a local gym so that we could use the pool, and my son loved it. We started to go regularly again and I quickly started him up with the baby and pre school swimming classes they had running at the gym. He went from strength to strength quite quickly which was amazing to see. I loved our time in the pool together and it was great to see him learn and have fun.
Knowing that my son is starting full time school soon, I had been actively looking for new careers and jobs that might align with school hours and school holidays. One day in one of our classes, for a short minute, I had a light bulb moment… I was able to take a step back from the class as Nic the Mum and saw it through the eyes of Nic the child development professional and thought, I’d love to do that job. I’d love to be the swimming teacher that helps enable that parent to experience that joy with their child. I can, and I will!
How did you get there?
I enquired about a job as a swimming teacher with my sons swimming school, and they were very encouraging. However I felt the hours of teaching that were available were too few for me and financially I wouldn’t be able to leave my current job as a nanny for a lot less hours. After lots of scrolling through social media at swimming teacher jobs and their roles, I came across an advert for a new swimming school franchise opportunity with Baby Squids. Immediately I was drawn to it. It was just what I wanted to see. I was so keen to become a swimming teacher but wondered how I’d make it happen.
I arranged a call with Laura, the founder of Baby Squids UK 10 years ago, and we chatted for a while at ease. She talked me through the process of setting up a business and becoming qualified as a swimming teacher and how becoming a part of Baby Squids, an established successful brand, would give me access to all the support and tools that I’d need to run my own franchise. I was so excited! The opportunity ticked all the boxes. It meant that I could be the owner and manager of my own business, create my own timetable of working hours to suit my family life giving me a great work life balance. I could be there for the school runs, the assemblies, the school holidays for my son. And I could have a job that I’m hugely passionate about. Before I took the full plunge, the main task was to find a pool in my area who had availability to hire it out to me. Once that mission was complete I signed on the dotted line and got the ball rolling with training etc.
How did the training go?
The baby and pre school teacher training was a really full on, intense few days of theory based, classroom training and pool time, with real children to teach from day 1! There were a lot of homework assignments, lots of lesson plans to write, lots of evaluations to write up and lots of activities to learn. It was a great experience, especially going through it with another new Baby Squids teacher, Clio. We had a practical teaching exam and a written exam on the last day which was terrifying and nerve wracking but the hard work paid off, and we passed!
The first aid and water safety course which was less intense but still lots to learn was a great experience too. The practical training in the water was all new but so interesting to learn.
Over the course of a couple of months, there were lots of business and in-pool training days that I had to do before my first term could start. I was fully supported by Laura through the whole process.
Behind the scenes I was tentatively waiting for bookings to come in and once I reached my target of the first 10 people signing up I was super excited!
Were you excited to get started?
Extremely excited! It couldn’t start quick enough. Once I had completed all the training, written my lesson plans, studied further in my own time, grew my social media pages, put up posters, delivered leaflets, acquired customers… time seemed to stand still for a couple of weeks and the nerves kicked in then. I was all set up and raring to go but I seemed to be in limbo. I wanted so much to get in the pool and teach, to do what I’d been focussing so hard on for the past 3 months! The longer it seemed to take to come round, the more nervous I became and I started to overthink it all.
Eventually the day came and as nervous as i was, I absolutely loved it. Every minute! I relaxed into it, the nerves started to wash away in the pool and being there in the water for those classes seemed to block out the rest of the world and I was purely focussed on delivering a fantastic first class for those families. I went home on a high thinking what was I even worried about?
How do you feel your first term went?
Really, great! I couldn’t have asked for better families to join me for my first term. I’ve met some lovely mums and dads, and brilliant babies and children. It’s been an absolute pleasure to see how each family has progressed throughout the term. Their water confidence and love of being in the water has been a joy to be a part of.
What’s a typical day like as a Baby Squids franchise owner/swimming teacher?
Once I drop my son at preschool I can either be found in the pool teaching. Or I can be found working from home on the business side of things. Answering enquiries, making bookings, planning for future lessons, continuous professional development, communicating with local pools to acquire new venues, keeping the social media pages glowing and up to date and making it as successful as it can be. I also communicate regularly with the other Baby Squids franchisees to discuss how we make things better, as a team.
Where do you see yourself in a year?
I see myself with a wider choice of classes on offer over a wider area, slightly further afield than Wigan and Leigh. We currently have baby swimming lessons in Leigh and baby swimming lessons in St Helens. Growing my solo team and acquiring 1 or 2 lovely teachers to help me run the business so that I can offer these wonderful classes to a broader range of families.
What makes you proud?
I’m extremely proud of my achievements to date. My biggest achievement being my little boy. The light of my life, and why I want to do a job that I’m passionate about and enjoy. It sets the example to him for future years that life is what you make it and you should enjoy what you do and do it with love.
Secondly, I’m proud of becoming a swimming teacher. For helping young children and their families to enjoy swimming and explore the water safely.
It was pointed out to me recently that I’m following in the footsteps of my late Grandad who was a passionate PE teacher, he taught swimming to his students at the high school where he worked and was thought so highly of. I know he would be proud that I have gone on to do similar.