Business owner Laura of Aqua Stars Academy of Swimming turned to Folk2Folk to help her achieve her business goal of owning her own pool after years of renting a facility, allowing her to set up her own leisure site in Devon.
After 15 years in business running swimming pools that provided classes for children, babies and adults, Laura was forced to find alternative premises due to outgrowing the existing pool.
After acquiring a plot of land in Devon and gaining planning permission the next stage was to find the finance to build the swimming pool facility. With 15 years of business track record Laura thought her local bank would be happy to lend her the funds.
“I spoke to four banks that all turned me down despite me owning the land and having 15 years’ experience running my business. They all wanted me to show detailed forecasts and revenue projections despite my extensive business plans and client list that I had to put on hold.”
It was in August 2012 that Laura acquired planning permission and it took a further nine months before she could start building because of the banks saying no to her business plans.
“It was my husband that told me about Folk2Folk as it was mentioned to him at his work. We went down to the Launceston branch thinking it would be a waste of time and another rejection but the staff were interested in the business idea and after speaking to them about my plans and property, I had a decision three days later and the funds two weeks after that. We were amazed how quick and simple it was compared to the experience we had gone through with the banks.”
Aqua Stars Academy of Swimming initially borrowed £250,000 to begin the build, all of which was done by Laura’s father. A further £200,000 was then used to finish off the pool, café, kitchen and other bits of pool machinery such as the bio-mass boiler.
“Without Folk2Folk I think we would still be waiting for a bank to say yes.”
Since opening in September 2015, Aqua Stars is now fully booked, helping 900 children a week plus local schools to learn to swim. Laura was also able to bring her previous staff with her and create new jobs in the area. These new roles include a full-time chef, 3 full-time staff as well as 5 part-time staff for roles such as lifeguards. The business is also used by 12 local schools, adult aqua Zumba classes as well as a community meeting place for young families that use the pool for baby swimming.
Laura is keen to open the pool up to the public in the future as well as expanding the additional facilities to include a farm shop, play areas inside and outside as well as further landscaping the grounds.