As part of our case study series, this week SME spoke to Caroline Sparks, commercial director at Turtle Tots, the baby and toddler swimming classes license.
• Tell us about your company.
Turtle Tots is a baby and toddler swimming company, now in its fifth year. We license the model and train up the licensees to run their own Turtle Tots business. We have 44 licensees across the UK and Ireland currently; they’re mostly mums of young childrenthemselves who didn’t want going back to a high-stress 9-5 job after having children. They were looking for something lucrative and rewarding and that’s Turtle Tots.
My business partner Gaby was a highly experienced swimming teacher for several years herself when she saw a gap in the market for a new type of baby swim class – an exciting brand with excellent customer service. We broke down the UK into territories and we’ve marketed it from there. Mostly our reputation spreads by word of mouth.
• What does your typical day look like?
We’ve just got back from a trade mission to China and this morning we had a Skype meeting with a lady in Dubai who is interested in becoming a licensee – we don’t have any such thing as a ‘typical’ day’ really, that’s part of what makes it so exciting.
We’re always in contact with our licensees, whether that be at our annual conferences, by email or social media. We offer all kinds of support to them, from advising them on how to grow their business to
offering advice on how to incorporate a child with disabilities into a class
. We have a private Facebook group as well, which provides our licensees with a community of like-minded people to reach out to for advice and support
• What have been your biggest challenges so far?
Our biggest challenge initially was cash-flow. We had to decide what was most important and at what point – you have to ask yourself, is now the time to invest in branded swimming gear, or to hire more staff?
We have recently gone from four to seven staff members and we’re hiring two more people in January, which has obviously increased our overheads. But it has to be done to take our business to the next level, we’re looking at the bigger picture and investing in ourselves. The trick is to expand at a sensible rate that your business can stretch to.
• What have been your biggest successes so far?
We enter a lot of awards and most recently we were shortlisted for the HP Go Global Awards. While we didn’t win, it was fantastic to be recognised by a well-known company such as HP, and we did win a trade mission to China where we gained some invaluable learning and networking opportunities