The Franchise

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:35 pm

When Susan Wainscott was an elementary school teacher in Brookfield, she started teaching swimming lessons on the side to save money for a new water heater. Nine years later, Susan and her husband, Barrett, who live in Waukesha, decided to start their own business providing swimming lessons. Their company, Swimtastic Corp., opened its first Swimtastic Swim School location in Waukesha in 1999. The Wainscotts opened a second location in Menasha a year later. As those locations became successful, they pondered the notion about franchising their business. After meeting with franchising experts, they decided to do just that earlier this year.

In April, Kara and Dion Kampa opened the first franchised Swimtastic Swim School in Franklin. In August, Molly and David Sengstock and Megan and Dave Sall opened a Swimtastic location in Omaha, Neb. "Our early focus was on good quality swim lessons," said Susan Wainscott. "And now it is to provide opportunities for people who want to start their own business." The Wainscotts plan to have at least 25 Swimtastic locations, some corporate and some franchisee-owned, across the country in the next five years. "We knew that we wanted to franchise," Susan said. "We knew that almost everywhere else, kids are (taking swim lessons) outside, in freezing cold water with too many kids in the class, and we thought one day we would like to open our own swim school."

By the end of next year alone, the Wainscotts plan to have 18 locations. Ultimately, the Wainscotts believe their company could expand to have international locations. The Wainscott’s next target market is Green Bay for a corporate-owned school. In addition, Swimtastic Corp. recently signed a franchise agreement with Cindy and Scott Salentine, who plan to open Swimtastic locations in Thiensville and Madison. The Salentines named their company Discere Docendo Inc., which means "to learn through teaching." They have put earnest money down on a two-acre lot in a light industrial park on Executive Drive in Thiensville, Cindy said.  The Wainscotts are looking at locations in the northwest suburbs of Chicago and then plan to find sites in Michigan and Ohio for multiple corporate-owned locations, Susan said.

Swimtastic Swim Schools offer swim lessons to children in a pool that is about four feet deep and 90 degrees in temperature. No more than four children are in each group, and the classes are taught year-round by professional swim teachers, Susan said. Swimtastic is part of the United States Swim School Association. Before establishing Swimtastic Corp., Susan had been teaching swim lessons since she was 13 years old. She also previously worked in human resources and office management jobs. Barrett was a computer engineer for Glendale-based Johnson Controls Inc. for 20 years and left the company to fully commit himself to Swimtastic Corp. Susan and Barrett created a business model that is convenient for staff, parents and kids, Susan said.

Swimtastic Swim Schools have observation rooms for parents. The swim lessons are 30 minutes long. Customers of Swimtastic also can participate in a recreational swim team in which children compete against other children at the same location. The Wainscotts plan to hold recreational swim team competitions against other Swimtastic locations in the future, Susan said. Swim lesson packages of one day per week for 11 to 15 weeks range from $179 to $244.  The Wainscotts also have adopted the slogan, "Smart fish swim in schools" and print it with the Swimtastic logo of a fish on merchandise, including towels, backpacks, goggles, bathing suits, swim caps and coffee mugs that are sold at every Swimtastic location.

"Parents are after a quality, established brand that people recognize," Susan said. Entrepreneurs pay a $35,000 fee to become a Swimtastic franchisee. They receive everything needed to run the business, including the curriculum, building plans, merchandise, marketing and advertising products and campaigns, human resources structure and information, pool maintenance information, a list of preferred vendors and special software designed by Barrett, Susan said.  The software organizes scheduling and tracks customer activity for classes and payments, among other things, Barrett said. Initial investments for Swimtastic franchisees range from $450,000 to $1.1 million, depending upon several factors, including location and whether the site is leased or owned by the franchisee.

As Swimtastic Swim Schools continue to open across the country, the Wainscotts plan to increase the price of the franchise to $50,000, Barrett said. The Wainscotts  offer two weeks of training for franchisees and work with them during the week before the opening of the building, Susan said. Franchisee-owned Swimtastic locations are modeled after Swimtastic Corp.’s Menasha location, Susan said, which is 6,100 square feet and sits on one acre of land. Each Swimtastic location takes about eight months to build and about one year to open for business, Susan said. Franchisees have the option to lease space within a building or buy land to build a new facility, she said.  The Sengstocks and the Salls formed their own company, 2DSS Inc., when they opened the location in Omaha. They plan to open more Swimtastic locations in the Omaha market, Molly Sengstock said.

The Sengstocks reside in southeastern Wisconsin and had heard about Swimtastic Swim Schools locally, Molly said.

The Sengstocks are moving to Omaha, where the Salls live. "Swimming is such an important skill to teach children, and there is nothing like (Swimtastic) in Omaha, but there are so many children and young families," Molly said. Cindy and Scott Salentine had been looking at business opportunities for a few years before they found that Swimtastic was offering franchise options after they began sending their son to swim lessons at the Franklin Swimtastic, Cindy said. "We looked further at the UFOC (uniform franchising offering circular) and thought that for a first-time entrepreneur, it seemed like a very simple business to start, yet it would give you all of the experience you need from the building plans to picking out shrubs," Cindy said.

Scott owns EJ Salentine Inc., a Buick and Pontiac dealer in Muskego, and Cindy has experience in public relations from a past position for Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson Inc. "Barrett and Sue just have such a passion about this company, and you feel as though you are part of a family," Cindy said. "It is a nice place to be, because a feeling of family camaraderie makes business so much easier."

Hottest franchises

The following are the top 10 franchise opportunities that Entrepreneur magazine named in its 2005 Franchise 500. Criteria for the ranking included financial strength and stability, growth rate, size of system, number of years in the business and length of time franchising, start-up costs, litigation, percentage of terminations and whether the company provides financing.

  1. Subway: Submarine sandwich restaurant headquartered in Milford, Conn.; $12,500 franchise fee; $75,000 to $220,000 total investment.
  2. Curves: Women-only fitness center headquartered in Waco, Texas; $39,900 franchise fee; $36,400 to $42,900 total investment.
  3. The Quizno’s Franchise Co.: Submarine sandwich restaurant headquartered in Denver; $25,000 franchise fee; $208,400 to $243,800 total investment.
  4. Jackson Hewitt Tax Services: Income tax preparation headquartered in Parsippany, N.J.; $25,000 franchise fee; $51,700 to $85,400 total investment.
  5. The UPS Store: Business, communication and postal service center headquartered in San Diego; $29,950 franchise fee; $138,700 to $245,500 total investment.
  6. Sonic Drive In Restaurants: Drive-in hamburger restaurant headquartered in Oklahoma City; $30,000 franchise fee; $710,000 to $2.3 million total investment.
  7. Jani-King: Commercial cleaning headquartered in Addison, Texas; $8,600 to $16,300 franchise fee; $11,300 to more than $34,100 total investment.
  8. 7-Eleven Inc.: 24-hour convenience store headquartered in Dallas; franchise fee varies; total investment varies.
  9. Dunkin’ Donuts: Doughnut shop headquartered in Canton, Mass.; $40,000 to $80,000 franchise fee; $255,700 to $1.1 million total investment.
  10. RE/MAX Int’l Inc.: Real estate agents specializing in residential and commercial property headquartered in Englewood, Colo.; $10,000 to $25,000 franchise fee; $20,000 to $200,000 total investment.

Could your business be franchised?

Chip Baranowski, a strategic franchise advisor for FranNet in Brookfield, suggests the following steps for business owners to determine if their business would be a good candidate for a franchise.

  1. A good concept. A business must be profitable, unique and able to stand the test of time. Not only does it have to be unique, but it needs to be something that will be interesting to other people so that people will step up and buy a franchise of the business once the owner is ready.
  2. Successful prototype. With each unit a business owner adds, the owner proves the validity of the systems and concept. The return on investment needs to be attractive to potential franchisees and business owners need to show that franchisees can break even easily.
  3. A good system. The purpose of a franchise is to have all of the problems and mistakes erased from the system so that the franchisees will open and become more profitable as soon as possible. Every franchise will expect a training class and a set of operations manuals to make them skilled and efficient.
  4. Money. A company or business owner should start with a $50,000 minimum with a strong cash flow to develop the business concept and pay for a franchise consultant, franchise attorney, operations manuals, franchise brochures and marketing and management staff.
  5. A dedicated management team. Business owners will need to build the strong support structure required for franchisees. A business owner’s dedication to the well-being of franchisees is vital, as well.

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