With startup costs that can range from $1,825,500 to $3,687,000, Big Blue Swim School is a franchise opportunity that requires strong financials. That said, the swim school brand provides plenty of funding options for its franchisees and has many safeguards in place that not only justify the expense but also contribute to a higher ROI because of it.
“The investment is relative to the returns,” Big Blue Swim School Chief Development Officer Scott Thompson said. “If the returns are there, the money will follow. If you’re interested in becoming a franchisee with us and believe in the brand and want to be a great operator and bring Big Blue Swim School to your community, there are multiple avenues to secure funding.”
Funding options available to Big Blue Swim School’s prospective franchisees include Small Business Administration (SBA) loans.
“Big Blue Swim School is SBA-registered and -approved,” Thompson said. “Our FDD was reviewed by the SBA, which makes it faster and easier for our franchisees to get the funding they need. If you’ve got a 401K making a 4 to 5% return, you can roll that over as your capital injection into the SBA loan.”
The brand can also provide assistance to prospective franchisees who are looking to partner with others on a Big Blue Swim School fitness franchise.
“There are ways of putting together small placement memorandums to raise outside capital which we have experience doing,” Thompson said. “There are business plan templates and pro formas that show the returns and make a case to friends, family members and other business associates to try to partner together.”
As one potential avenue to help prospective franchisees secure funding, Big Blue Swim School partners with Benetrends Financial, a 37-year-old full-service funding provider to the franchising industry. Benetrends works with more than 100 franchising brands that have locations in all 50 states and Canada.
“We basically serve as a funding partner for Big Blue Swim School,” Benetrends National Account Manager Storm Miller said. “We work with franchise candidates who are looking for comprehensive funding solutions to open a franchise location. We let franchise candidates know that there are banks out there that will finance their franchise.”
Miller pointed to Big Blue Swim School’s unique model as a major draw for Benetrends to work with the brand and said the unit economics are strong from an investment perspective.
“We don’t really work with any other education franchise brands that play in the same space as Big Blue Swim School,” Miller said. “They’re kind of playing in a ballpark of one. Big Blue Swim School is bringing people to their front doors. They have solid marketing and their pre-opening sales are excellent. They do a good job of making sure markets are well-aware of their presence through leading marketing strategies, and they make sure customers are lined up at the door before the locations even open up.”
One of the first things Benetrends does for prospective franchisees is work toward financing pre-qualification, Miller said.
“Financing sometimes holds people up so we have a very streamlined process to get candidates financed through loans,” Miller said. “We give a two-page financial assessment that takes most candidates between 15 to 20 minutes to complete. It will not negatively impact their credit. We have prequalification for financing within 24 hours and we do not charge a dime for that. We try to have that prequalification ready so that candidates can have their financial information in-hand on Discovery Day and be able to just focus on the brand.”
Benetrends is especially strong at helping franchisees secure multi-unit financing. The company connects franchise candidates with banks that are willing to fund multiple locations, which saves them the hassle of having to go back and secure financing for a second location, Miller said.
“We’ve been able to pretty consistently connect with lenders and meet a more aggressive development schedule for franchise candidates,” Miller said.
In terms of safeguards that help set franchisees up for success, Big Blue Swim School works exceptionally close with franchisees as they navigate their territory. The brand even ultimately chooses the building’s location after extensive study of the market.
“The real estate support we provide is very empirically driven,” Thompson said. “When we go and strategically map out a market, we will tell you exactly where we need to be. If you’re opening three to five locations, we will tell you where to open first in the market, which will set up the rest of the units for success.”
Ultimately, prospective franchisees should know that Big Blue Swim School is in a league of its own and provides an opportunity for franchisees to really make a name for themselves in their market of choice.
“Money will follow great operators and a great opportunity,” Thompson said. “You’re not asking for money to open up a fly-by-night retail store and you’re not competing with Amazon. A Big Blue Swim School franchise is backed by private equity and the brand has been around for 10 years. We’re not going anywhere.”