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Puddle Ducks

Puddle Ducks provide world-class swimming lessons to babies and children from birth – 10 years through their Baby & Pre-school programme (aged 0-4 years) and their Swim Academy (aged 4-10 years). They also run Aquanatal classes for mums-to-be.

 


Investment Amount:
£20,001 - £50,000
Industry Sector(s):
Children Franchises, Education Franchises, Sports Franchises, Women In Franchising

Puddle Ducks Baby and Child Swimming Franchise

We provide world-class swimming lessons to babies and children from birth – 10 years through our Baby & Pre-school programme (aged 0-4 years) and our Swim Academy (aged 4-10 years). We also run Aquanatal classes for mums-to-be.

Our franchise owners know that hard work pays off and leads to a profitable business and a flexible family life that enables them to be around for all the unmissable moments and more. We call it ‘The Puddle Ducks Difference’.

Our mission is for every child to love and respect the water, and swim beautifully. That’s why our standards are the highest and our approach is unique – this applies to our Franchise model as well as our swimming lessons. A Puddle Ducks management franchise is an opportunity not to be missed.

Reaching for ducks 2

We teach approx. 20,000 babies and children every week in 300+ pools across England, Wales and Scotland. We have 33 franchise territories run by 31 franchises. Established franchises have between 500-1,200 customers each and operate out of anywhere between seven to 18 pools in their territory. We have seen an increase in Puddle Ducks owned and/or managed pools in the last few years as this gives our franchise owners more control.
 

Reasons to take a closer look at Puddle Ducks:

  • The UK’s only 100% child-led baby & child swim school – technically world-class product
  • A team of experts supporting you every step of the way and a fantastic network of franchisees with a wealth
    of experience for you to draw on
  • Full bfa and EWIF members and multiple award-winners and finalists with both of these bodies
  • Our established franchisees enjoyed profits of over £100,000 in 2018/19

We currently have territories available in:

  • London (and surrounding area)
  • Surrey
  • Cambridgeshire (and surrounding area)
  • Buckinghamshire
  • Birmingham/West Midlands/Warwickshire
  • Hampshire
  • Devon
  • South Wales
  • South Scotland

One of only two UK based Franchisors to be awarded the Work Buzz ‘5 Star Franchisee Satisfaction Award’ eight years running, we are also multi-award winners with the bfa and EWIF as well as Franchise Marketing Awards Winners for Best Overall Marketing Campaign. Don’t just take our word for it though, take a look at what our happy franchisees have to say in the Video section.

Training and support provided

Most of our franchisees are trained as Puddle Ducks Baby & Pre-school teachers and will start off in the water, teaching their customers themselves. It’s a great experience to go through the programme and really cements the passion for the brand but not everyone teaches and our aim, through initial business training and ongoing support and the experience of the network is to get you out of the water as soon as possible, managing your own team of teachers and growing your business.

Our Head Office team cover Business Support, IT Support, Marketing, Retail, Pool Management, Technical and Finance. In addition to this, Head Office funds an HR service for the entire network and work closely with our Accountant Partners to ensure consistency and clarity across the network. We have the equivalent of 0.5 full time employees per franchisee.

Team in pool

We believe communication within the network is the key driver for making sure the franchisees feel involved and listened too. It also provides us with a platform to drive home our brand values. Channels of communication include weekly franchisee newsletters, monthly whole network newsletters, Facebook forums for franchise owners, marketing and admin, Shark Focus Group, Marketing Council, annual Franchisee Conference, annual Franchisee Summer School, annual franchisee Regional Meetings, annual Regional Marketing Meetings, annual Business Health Checks and annual Technical Visits. This is in addition to all of Head Office being available on email or over the phone.

What are we looking for in a Franchise Owner?

Puddle Ducks Franchise Owners have a wide range of backgrounds, from solicitors to accountants, from midwives to swimming teachers – they all have two things in common – passion for our brand and a desire to succeed in business whilst doing something rewarding.

We are looking for ambitious, hard-working people who can fulfil the potential that we have to offer. Most of our franchise owners start off in the water but we want you on dry land, managing a team of expert teachers as soon as possible and we have the experience to help you get there.

What will it cost me to start a Puddle Ducks franchise?

These figures apply to a virgin territory. Resales will be unique to the opportunity available.

  • Franchise Fee: £24,000 + VAT
  • This gives you the licence to operate exclusively in your territory for 5 years with the option to renew. There is no additional fee at renewal
  • Minimum Personal Investment: approx. £5,000 + VAT
  • We are an approved franchisor with HSBC, Lloyds, NatWest and all have franchise departments who understand the landscape and are ready to lend as long as you have the Minimum Personal Investment stipulated by that particular bank
  • Working Capital
  • Everybody’s personal circumstances are different, but we advise that you have enough money in the bank to sustain yourself for the first 12-24 months so that you aren’t drawing on the business. In addition to that, and depending on how quickly you want to grow the business, you may find that you need to pay for things like pool hire upfront so factor that into any business plan

Two in pool

Ongoing Fees

  • Management Service Fee: £10% of sales
  • National Marketing Levy: 1% of sales

blue mum and baby

cards image

Green mum and baby

History of Puddle Ducks

Puddle Ducks was founded in 2002 by Tracy Townend and Jo Stone after they met at ante-natal classes. As their friendship grew, they realised they shared more in common than the birth of their first children - they shared an ambition to succeed in business; the need to strike a work-life balance; and a desire to pass on the joy of swimming to babies and children.

Having spotted a gap in the market for high quality children’s swimming lessons, Tracy and Jo gave up their corporate careers and after much planning, research and training, Puddle Ducks was launched. Jo first saw the name "Puddle Ducks" on a barge whilst on holiday and it seemed to encapsulate our approach: aquatic, friendly and fun. A little research into the habits of the puddle duck confirmed that the name was indeed appropriate.

Tracy and Jo wanted to bring their vision to children across the UK and franchising was the best option for this with the first franchise being sold in 2007.

Today we teach approx. 20,000 babies and children each week to swim, be safe and develop water confidence right across the country via a network of dedicated franchise owners.

We have a very clear mission, vision and set of values that is at the heart of everything we do. Everyone who works with us and for the Puddle Ducks brand has a passion for swimming, an ambition for growth and a commitment to become experts in every aspect of their business.

Reviews and Testimonials from Franchise Owners

Jane B

row of stars

I have been a franchisee for 11 years now and I have no hesitation in rating them 5/5! Puddle Ducks has changed a lot since I joined and that's one of the things I love about them. They embrace change and feedback from the whole network and are constantly striving to improve. The Head Office team are absolutely fantastic - real experts in their respective fields, giving us the very best swimming programme out there and all the tools we need to make our business a success. It's been a huge adventure, one I would recommend to anyone who is willing to work hard, wants a challenge and to make a difference..

Suzanne A

row of stars

We are so proud to be working with a franchise that cares so much about the quality of the service it provides and the support it provides to franchisees both new and old. Our experience from initial contact 9 years ago to becoming a mature franchise has been nothing but positive, the network feels like a family and Puddle Ducks HQ have invested a lot of time and effort improving the programmes, the brand, the operating systems and marketing strategies over this time. With Puddle Ducks we have built a successful business that we love. We have no regrets whatsoever and look forward to many more years of working with Puddle Ducks.

Jenny P

row of stars

I started looking into buying a franchise when my I was on maternity leave with my first child. My priorities had changed and the thought of going back to the day job and missing out on so much time with her was the main driving force. 9 years later and it is the best decision I ever made. The support from HQ and other franchisees ensures you still feel part of a team whilst also running your own business and building your own mini empire. It's hard work but the rewards both financially and in terms of work/life balance are there for the taking.

Awards and accolades

Don't just take their word for it, Puddle Ducks is recognised within the franchise industry and currently holds or is a finalist for a wide variety of awards.

If you are interested in finding out more about the Puddle Ducks franchise, please request more information!

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Accountant’s passion for swimming is now big business

Carolyn Sharpe (38) swam competitively as a teenager but after pursuing a career as an accountant she never thought she would find herself in the pool again, for any reason other than to keep fit. Now however, Carolyn owns the franchise for Puddle Ducks North East, a baby and child swim school that teaches over 1,400 young children per week to share in her passion for the water.

Carolyn

After giving birth to her first child, Carolyn decided that she wanted to leave her successful corporate career to find a better work/life balance. She soon decided that a franchise offering plenty of support and plenty of flexibility was the way to go. This is a familiar path, shared by many Puddle Ducks franchisees. During maternity leave Carolyn began taking her son to swimming lessons and a seed was planted.

“I did lots of research,” said Carolyn, “I loved the idea of a franchise and even more-so of a franchise that allowed me to share my love of swimming with babies and children; taking my son to Puddle Ducks lessons and watching him develop in the water was such a joy but I wanted to be smart about my decision. To leave a good job I needed a robust business opportunity. Puddle Ducks stood out head and shoulders above every other franchise I considered.

“I was particularly interested in franchising as it means that you have an established quality product and support when it comes to issues such as safety, insurance and the technical aspects of running classes – something which I felt that I couldn’t do on my own.”

The Puddle Ducks award winning Teachers are trained by Head Teacher and Technical Director Ali Beckman and her team of Super Teachers and are accredited by the Swimming Teacher’s Association. With a background in competitive swimming, as well as a qualification and experience working as a lifeguard, Carolyn fitted in right away.

Carolyn went on to win Puddle Ducks Franchisee of the year in 2014. She held onto that title in 2015, as well as being awarded the British Franchise Association’s top title of Female Franchisee of the Year. She now has a dedicated and passionate team working with her building the business. The business now has an annual turnover in six figures, proving that you don’t need to compromise on income to strike the perfect balance between work and family life.

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How a Puddle Ducks mum became swimming school entrepreneur

Accountant Kim Pinnington had been a Puddle Ducks customer for several years before she decided to leave behind her career in banking and dive into the swim school business for herself. Now, two years on, her financial background and personal experiences have stood her in good stead.

She has expanded from one large franchise region into two and her business is growing all the time, while still affording her the opportunity to accompany her own children to their Puddle Ducks swimming lessons.

Kim’s two franchise territories cover, collectively, South Cheshire, Staffordshire, Shropshire, Wrexham, Sutton Coldfield, Walsall and North Birmingham. Throughout those regions she manages a team of teachers, highly trained in the award-winning Puddle Ducks method and accredited by the Swimming Teachers’ Association.

Kim

“From the beginning, Puddle Ducks felt like a safe career path, even though I didn’t have a background in swimming,” said Kim, “I’d taken my children to Puddle Ducks swimming lessons and had found them so valuable, as a place for the kids to learn important skills and for me to meet other parents. Our teachers are real experts and they love their jobs, so Puddle Ducks lessons are just lovely environments to be in..

“When I discovered the earning potential of a Puddle Ducks business and how well supported franchisees are, I couldn’t think of anything I would rather do. I’m very proud to put my name to this business that I get so much from, both as a customer and now as a member of ‘the family’.”

Kim’s hard work and transferrable skills, combined with the award-winning training and support from Puddle Ducks head office, have made her one of the company’s most successful franchisees in just two years.

Ambitious couple develop flagship Puddle Ducks site

Liz and Phil Gabriel own and manage Puddle Ducks baby and child swimming school franchises in Nottinghamshire and North Leicestershire. In 2017 they also bought and relaunched The Key Health Club in Nottingham, as a flagship home for Puddle Ducks in the area.

Liz & Phil

An ambitious, professional couple, neither Phil nor Liz had experience of teaching swimming when they signed on the dotted line with Puddle Ducks back in 2010 but they knew a great brand when they saw it. In the years since setting up, they have been instrumental in helping the brand grow into the top-rated national franchise that it is today and they, in turn, have received the support to grow their business beyond all recognition.

“Nottinghamshire was our first territory,” said Liz, “I launched with 15 customers and now routinely teach 1,000 babies and children every week. It was quite a culture shock in the early days because I had come from a long career as a buyer for a national pharmacy chain. Everything about my working day was different, so I didn’t mind starting small but I always knew that I wanted to grow the business and that I would, with the fantastic support of the head office team. That’s why I chose Puddle Ducks in the first place, though it was a much smaller company at the time my professional experience had taught me to spot a good brand when I saw one. I knew we could all go far together.”

“These days I’m no longer teaching; Puddle Ducks teacher training is second to none, so there is no shortage of excellent teachers eager to get in the pool. Following the first few years of ‘all hands on deck’ I went back to being able to really use my unique business skills to develop the company.”

Phil left a career in technical sales to join the business in 2014, when the couple took the decision to expand into a second territory. Three years later they were able to buy and redevelop The Key Health Club.

Already the health club’s biggest client, running 63 classes a week in the pool, the Puddle Ducks owners and now health club owners, have created a fantastic hub for family and fitness activities in their community. Puddle Ducks baby and children’s swimming classes run daily at the club, as well as at other locations across Nottingham, Mansfield, Loughborough and Leicester..

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Over 11 happy years in the pool with Puddle Ducks

Sarah Austin has owned the Bristol and Bath franchise of Puddle Ducks baby and child swimming school for long enough that she has passed a number of milestones. The business was teaching 1,000 children a week by 2015, received an award for excellence at the company’s national conference in 2017 and celebrated 10 years in business in 2018. Now, she is happier in her role than ever.

SarahAustin

“I worked in marketing for years before I became a franchisee. I enjoyed that industry, in many ways, but I spent too much time in the office and on the motorway, with not enough time with my young son. I did, however, take him to swimming lessons and we both absolutely loved them. I hadn’t heard of Puddle Ducks back then but I enjoyed being in the pool enough to give up my job and become a baby swimming teacher.

“It was only three years later, when I discovered Puddle Ducks, that I realised I could combine the best of both worlds and use my business experience to build a career doing the thing that I loved and really believed in.”

As well as teaching important life skills to tiny tots, Puddle Ducks provides a fantastic opportunity to parents to meet and form friendships. In fact, it was through a like-minded friend that Sarah originally heard about Puddle Ducks. Close friend Jane Bozic became a Puddle Ducks franchisee in Dorset and, after doing her own due diligence, Sarah decided to follow in her footsteps and buy the franchise for her own area. Both still support each other in the running of their successful franchises.

“The flexibility of being my own boss was what originally drew me to franchising,” said Sarah, “And it has been invaluable over the years. I’ve worked hard but I have been supported every step of the way by my brilliant team and national office Duck HQ and can easily fit my role around my family commitments.

“If I was going to offer one tip to someone thinking of buying a franchise it would be to consider the life you want and look for other franchisees already living that life. If they can do it – if I can do it – so can you.”

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Parent professionals are shaping their own family friendly business

Suzanne and Gary Horton enjoyed their careers as legal professionals until, following the birth of their second child, they discovered that their traditional roles didn’t leave enough time for family life. So, in 2011, they bought the Puddle Ducks baby and child swim school franchise for Greater Manchester. The business now teaches swimming to over 1,000 customers every week from six local pools, including their very own family swim centre Aqua Nurture. The couple sit at the helm of a thriving business that has family life at its heart.

Suzanne & Gary

Back in 2010, with two young children, Suzanne knew she would love to leave her career as a senior associate solicitor and go into business for herself. It was her subsequent discovery of the Puddle Ducks franchise that allowed her to do just that, the following year.

“I’d read about women setting up their own businesses. Being my own boss and having the flexibility to balance work and family life seemed like a very attractive option. However, I had no bright spark of my own, plus setting up your own business can be risky. When I heard about Puddle Ducks, with its proven business model and support structure I was excited but still nervous. It was speaking to other franchisees that sold me on the idea. I realised that other sensible, professional business-women had made a huge success of this, so I knew that I could do the same.”

Puddle Ducks Greater Manchester was soon thriving, so much so that Gary was able to take the plunge too; having always been involved in an advisory capacity, he left his job and officially joined the family business.

In 2016 the Hortons expanded the vision of what a Puddle Ducks franchise could be by opening their own family swim centre. Aqua Nurture in Hyde was the first Puddle Ducks franchisee-owned pool. The site, which was previously a watering hole of a different kind, was converted from a pub into a wonderful community resource. The building now houses a hydrotherapy pool and other facilities including treatment rooms and a café.

They both bring a different perspective to decisions and play to their own individual strengths. Suzanne focuses on the operational and financial side and Gary tends to work on marketing and the long-term vision, a vision which has seen them recently expand the business with the purchase of a new Puddle Ducks territory for Worcestershire. Their own experience as parents has allowed them to develop a successful business that perfectly meets the needs of other local families and imparts an important life skill for young children, supported by the award-winning team at Puddle Ducks HQ.

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