From Backyard to Boxgrove
In 2004, Kerri Russell heard about a program offered through the City of Markham called the Summer Company program. This program created young entrepreneurs and inspired youth to build their own businesses. At the time, Kerri worked as a swim instructor at a community pool when she jumped at the opportunity and began to create a business plan for backyard swim instruction. Kerri, who had been working as a swim instructor at a community pool, jumped at the opportunity and began work on creating a business plan for backyard swim instruction at a small ratio.
She would call it Russell Aquatics Swim School.
Kerri’s goal was to teach up to 50 students. She was over the moon when the number of students continued to surpass that goal. When she reached 150 students, she knew she was on to something. The following summer, families were once again eager for lessons in the Russell family pool. This time, they also referred friends and family. Numbers continued to increase. Kerri’s younger sister, Kristi and best friend, Drie eventually joined the team. In the backyard days, Alan Russell, father of Kerri and Kristi made guest appearances as he barbecued dinner while lessons proceeded in the pool. Alan is now known as the Russell Aquatics front desk extraordinaire. It truly is a family affair.
Each summer, the business continued to grow – both in the number of students and the number of employees.
Kerri and Kristi hired new instructors to travel to students’ homes. This experience offered the same individualized, small ratio lesson from the convenience of family backyards. As word continued to spread, Kerri and Kristi decided to to offer lessons year-round.
In 2008, Russell Aquatics started to rent space from a Toronto hotel. They began to offer lessons, even in the colder months when backyard pools were closed. They continued renting space from Saturday to Mondays for two years with families travelling from far and wide for the Russell Aquatics experience. In 2010, Russell Aquatics moved to a Markham hotel and lessons were once again offered year-round. Russell Aquatics became a full-time swim school offering lessons from Sunday to Thursday.
Kerri, Kristi and their team of instructors worked hard to deliver the finest swim instruction to more and more families. As the demand grew, it became apparent that it was time to take the next step and open their own location. On March 31, 2018, Kerri and Kristi Russell opened their first custom-built swim school in Markham, Ontario. With the support of family, friends, an excellent team and a supportive community, Russell Aquatics Swim School officially opened its doors. Swimming lessons were now offered to students of all ages, every day of the week.
Despite the immense growth of the business, Kerri and Kristi continue to believe it is imperative to maintain small classes as well as the small business feel that they built their success on.
Students that started in the backyard are now instructors. Backyard lessons are still a hit every summer. Class sizes remain at a small ratio and Alan Russell greets families from the front desk. Everyone is treated like family. From the ground up, Russell Aquatics continues to be built on hard work and passion and we strive to show that in every lesson that we deliver. We can’t wait to see what the future holds!