RIPPLES SWIM SCHOOL
Can you tell me a little bit about your business generally?
My husband and I were living out in California for his job about – my daughter had just turned one at the time, so that’s how I count the years – Elaine is turning 13 now, so 12 years ago. Our kids were very young, and they needed to learn how to swim. So when we got out there, we searched around for a place and the kids started going to a place in Seal Beach, and it was this pool that was only for kids to learn how to swim. And I thought it was the most amazing thing ever – and the kids learn to swim so quickly! Nothing we had seen around here in Bristol was similar. I was like, “This is what we need at home!” And so we spent about two years out in California, came back home, and then started on the journey of building the business, figuring out how to get the money, and finding a space.
When we first opened, we thought, maybe we’ll have 100 kids. Maybe it could be my part time job, since our littlest one had just started kindergarten. And right now, the Bristol location has about 1500 kids.
What do you think people should know about your business?
People should know how specialized it is and how much it’s geared toward families. We have a big open shower area, we have a viewing area for families, changing tables in every stall, we have a back room that’s a little more private with an 80-inch TV view of the pool for families to go into. We pride ourselves on trying to make the life of a family a little bit easier.
I saw on your website that you have a saltwater pool – can you tell me about that?
We do! We have a saltwater pool, but it doesn’t mean there isn’t chlorine in there. It’s a system that when the water reaches a certain salinity, it passes through a machine and an electromagnetic pulse creates the chlorine out of that saltwater. It means we’re allowed to use less chemical chlorine in the pool, which makes it a little bit gentler on baby skin and the skin of our instructors, who spend 6-8 hours a day in the pool.
What would you say is your favorite part of your work?
Getting to know the families. I think most of the people who work for us would say the same thing. I feel like the teachers and the staff are the people in a kid’s life that the children and the families never forget. They are such an important part of growing up. I feel like we definitely form a bond with the families, and I feel like it’s that connection to the people that come in and people in the community and knowing that we’re doing something for the community to keep the kids safe.
So if you want your child to start lessons, how does that work? Where do you start?
Either online, by phone call, or in person. Some people want to see the place before they sign up. If they do sign up online, we call the families and do a full onboarding. They show up a few minutes early for their first day, we show them around, and then they start their lessons.
Are they one-on-one lessons, or are they group lessons?
We offer all of the above. We try to keep our one-on-one lessons to kids that either have a real fear of the water or otherwise some sort of special need for an individual lesson. For the group lessons, the youngest kids are two children to one instructor; the next age up is three kids to one instructor, then the next step up would be four kids to one instructor. And then we have a parent child class, which is eight to one, but each child is also with your mom, dad, or caregiver.
And it looks like you have a retail shop for purchasing swim equipment and things, is that right?
Yes, just swimsuits, earplugs, goggles, swim cap pool, swim diapers. We started out of necessity with people forgetting swimsuits, like, “Gosh, we really should carry them!” And it’s kind of evolved into all the things that parents have forgotten through the years. We started carrying towels because that seemed to be our biggest one that people were forgetting.
Are there any other things that we didn’t talk about that we should have?
We also offer makeup lessons for families – that’s not always something a place offers, so it’s good to know.. We try to be as accommodating as possible and as understanding as possible, working together, trying to do what’s best for the kids and the families at all times. I feel like that’s our goal. That’s our intention, being as much a part of the community as you can. Especially growing up in Bristol, it’s really special to be able to come back there and be a part of the community in a different way, even though I don’t live there and I’m not technically raising my family there – I’m still connected to it.
Check out Ripples Swim School at 15 Gooding Avenue in Bristol, Rhode Island!