In this feature, TopicUK speaks to some of Yorkshire’s most driven and ambitious young entrepreneurs. Here, we catch up with Nathaniel Birkett, founder of The Swim Specialist.
How old are you?
I am 29 years old.
Tell us a bit about how you came to be running your business?
I have eleven years of experience in coaching, a huge passion for sports and a real appetite for learning. Setting up my own business seemed like a natural progression for me.
Prior to setting up my business, I worked as a swim instructor in Majorca. I had a ‘light bulb’ moment when teaching a young Swedish boy to swim. Despite the language barrier, I was able to transform the child’s water confidence through my imaginative approach to teaching. I wanted to share these skills with the rest of the world.
What areas do you specialise in?
The Swim Specialist delivers fun and engaging swimming lessons to children and adults across West Yorkshire.
Lessons take place in a nurturing and entertaining environment. Unlike other swim schools, we’re passionate about improving swim techniques through the use of innovative games, themes and challenges.
Our creative teaching methods, combined with new technologies, allows us to cater for all ages and abilities and focus on water confidence through intensive stroke development.
Our sessions are strategically planned, monitored and evaluated to ensure the best possible outcome for each swimmer. This has resulted in exceptional outcomes for our customers.
The swim academy to date has taught 1,324 swimmers since June 2016.
With four locations across the region including, Brighouse, Drighlington, Osett and Sandal, The Swim Specialist has ambitious plans to become West Yorkshire’s leading swim school.
Who has provided you with help and support along the way?
In 2017 I secured a place on Natwest’s Business Accelerator programme. This has provided invaluable support for me. The advice I have received from my peers and business enablers has helped me to grow significantly in the last year.
Networking and building relationships has also been crucial. I regularly meet with a business mentor who also operates in the sports industry.
I find that setting goals and checking in with him helps to keep me on track. We frequently conduct mastermind sessions, whereby my mentor will assist me with any problems I am struggling with or any targets I feel I need to achieve.
How many clients/customers do you currently look after? Tell us a bit about them.
We have grown membership by 67% in 2018; taking our current customer number to 520.
Our customers are primarily families from West Yorkshire, however our YouTube channel has taught people to swim as far and wide as America, Canada, Australia, India, Italy and Germany.
We frequently receive messages from our global supporters, thanking us for our innovative methods of teaching. It’s hugely rewarding to have such a significant reach.
What would you say has been the most challenging part of growing/running your business so far?
Managing and finding the right people that share your business’s values is incredibly challenging. Thankfully we now have a solid team of ten swim instructors and I’m looking to make two new hires in early 2019.
Another challenge that I know a lot of start-ups face is cash flow.
And what has been the most rewarding?
The best thing for me is the constant opportunity to learn; if there is something I want to do or achieve I am able to do it without feeling restricted.
Do you use social media for your business and if so, to what effect?
In 2018 we really upped our game in the world of social media. I now work alongside a social media specialist who has created a strategy for The Swim Specialist for next year.
Our major goals include increasing our YouTube following to teach one million people to swim by the year 2025. Our ‘how to’ YouTube videos have so far been very popular.
What advice would you give to another young entrepreneur starting out in business?
People say take risks, I say take calculated risks. Many people are too afraid to step into the unknown because of a fear of failure of rejection. Start small and take risks you can afford to lose.
Once you have refined your business and your happy with the service or product you can deliver, then be as resourceful as possible. Save money and save time by investing in systems, processes and people.
Why do you feel that Yorkshire is a great place to do business?
The people are so friendly and easy to get on with. Wit business being business to consumer; I love being able to know my customers on a personal level.
Everybody in Yorkshire loves to have a catch up over a cup of tea and the customers are no different over the phone or in person.
Where do you hope to see the business in five years’ time?
The business in five years’ time needs to be recognised for being the number one choice of swimming lesson provider in Yorkshire.
We will have thousands of weekly swimmers in house, with a greater online presence teaching people worldwide using our online courses. Our target by 2025 is to have taught more than one million people how to swim using our unique themes, games and challenges.
More will be revealed if you follow my journey!