Swim for Good
Swim for Good is a social enterprise that supports people to overcome social, mental and physical barriers preventing them from participating in open water swimming and creates opportunities for training and employment.
Founder and Head Coach Colin Campbell is a qualified swim teacher, lifeguard, open water swim coach and champion for wild swimming.
We had a chat with Colin to find out more about his social enterprise journey.
What inspired you to start-up Swim for Good?
I’ve always been drawn to businesses and organisations that have a social purpose, long before I’d even known what a social enterprise was, so it was far from a whim. After a career in journalism, I’d spent the past five years working with some social business, while at the same time I’d also turned a hobby into an income by training to be a swim teacher and open water swim coach. It soon became obvious to me that teaching people to swim or coaching them in open water delivered genuine impact, and I became increasingly passionate and vocal about the social, mental and physical benefits of open water swimming. Speaking to Firstport and understanding the range of support they provide to start-up entrepreneurs gave me the impetus to turn my solo coaching business into a social enterprise.
What did you find most challenging in setting up?
Probably a lack of time, cash and confidence. Trying to maintain my coaching offering, while growing the business through marketing, partnerships, research and training is not easy. Doing so while also working is doubly difficult. Being on furlough during lockdown, and then being made redundant actually helped in a way, though it did little for my peace of mind.
I didn’t have huge set-up costs, but the Firstport funding was hugely helpful in enabling me to purchase additional safety equipment and employer’s insurance, as well as other items, that meant I could grow the business.
Confidence… well, it’s just a case of throwing yourself out there and getting on with it. I was very nervous that either I’d be rubbish at coaching or there’d be a lack of demand. Thankfully, neither has proved true!
What are your plans for the future of your social enterprise?
There are a few different pathways available to me right now, but the most important thing is working with additional coaches and volunteers to build a solid team. I’m also very keen to explore partnerships with other outdoor recreation organisations. Lastly, with green prescribing being rolled out by some healthcare professionals, I am very keen to see open water swimming similarly recognised for its tremendous social, mental and physical health benefits.
Any tips for other social entrepreneurs?
Good branding is important. I was lucky in that the name came obviously, while a good friend helped with the logo. It’s worth spending resource to get it right. That said, DO NOT use that as an excuse for not starting out! Remember, everything can be changed further down the line and it’s better to learn from mistakes and build up experience, knowledge and contacts as opposed to ‘waiting for the right moment’ and letting opportunities pass you by.
I also believe in collaboration rather than competition. If there are others in your field, I do think it’s better to have open and honest dialogue. By working together to grow your sector overall, you actually increase the size of your market. That’s better for everyone.
Treat your clients and customers with genuine courtesy and warmth. PR and marketing are good, but nothing is as effective as a personal recommendation. It is also a joy when a new customer says that you’d been recommended to them. Must be doing something right!
Also, keep an eye on costs, and get used to talking about numbers. It’s important your customers get value but you need to earn a living! Most people will understand that. It also helps you understand what product or service is worth delivering, what works, what’s ineffective, and so on.
Would you like to add anything else?
I realise I have much to learn about growing a business, and much still to learn about swimming and coaching. So I think taking the time to continue learning is important, to never rest up and think you know enough. I’ve no idea what the future holds for Swim for Good, but I think open water swimming will continue to grow as a sport and pastime, and more people will understand its benefits. I’m massively grateful to Firstport for the start-up support and confidence boost to grow my business into something that is, even in its first year, having a significant impact upon many people’s lives.
Find out more about open water swim coaching or get in touch with Colin on the Swim for Good website.
You can read Swim for Good’s full impact report online.
Looking for help with your social enterprise’s branding and marketing? Check out the Just Enterprise Branding and Marketing workshop – a great starting place for entrepreneurs!