Shrewsbury-based Swimtime wins ‘Digital Transformation’ award at bfa HSBC British Franchise Awards

Swimtime, the children’s learn to swim franchise based in Shrewsbury, has won the ‘Digital Transformation’ award at the recent bfa HSBC British Franchise Awards run by the British Franchise Association and sponsored by HSBC Bank.

Founded in 1998, Swimtime teaches 20,000 children to swim across the UK every week. Children progress through their ‘Learn to Swim’ programme, the first to be endorsed by the ISSA (International Swim School Association.

Swimtime currently has 19 franchisees operating in 31 territories across the country.

Entry to the awards was via written submission and an optional video entry. Finalists were then interviewed by a panel of industry expert judges.

In the ‘Digital Transformation’ award, judges were looking for a business that had invested in digital development, services or systems that would deliver long-term sustained benefits to their network. Judges were keen to understand the change journey, implementation, and direct benefit to the performance of their business and the franchisee network. They were looking for a brand that not only had a bold vision but that is now reaping the rewards of successful project execution and delivery. Swimtime ticked all the boxes for judges.

Described by many as the ‘Oscars’ of the franchising world, the bfa HSBC British Franchise Awards were held at a glittering black-tie event at the Vox hotel in Birmingham, which was attended by over 400 of the biggest names in the UK franchising industry.

On winning the award, managing director Rachel Brooks from Swimtime said: “It feels absolutely amazing. Our team has worked so hard. To have this recognition for everything we’ve achieved is incredible. It’s been a long hard journey.”

Director Theo Millward concurred: “We are elated. The team has worked incredibly hard. Rachel spearheaded a lot of the project, doing some amazing work. It’s truly incredible that we not only came through COVID but transformed the business digitally and have come out with this success. The digital transformation of Swimtime has been a milestone that has changed the course of this iconic national brand forever. As a network and family of passionate business owners, we are proud of what we have achieved.”

Speaking on the night, Pip Wilkins, CEO of the British Franchising Association said: “Huge congratulations to Swimtime for winning tonight’s “Digital Transformation” award. Rachel and Theo have obviously worked very hard to bring Swimtime into the 21st Century digitally and their efforts have been rightfully recognised tonight.’

She continued: “As the oldest franchise association in the United Kingdom, we work hard to maintain the standards of ethical franchising in this country. Franchising contributes over £17 billion to the country’s GDP and provides employment to over 700,000 people.  Franchise operations are perfectly built to withstand the rigours of even the harshest financial storms, relying as they do on following tried and tested business models. We send congratulations to all our winners and thank them for upholding the standards of the association and being such outstanding examples of the best that franchising has to offer.”

Gillian Morris, Head of Franchising, HSBC, said: ‘Choosing a winner from the many entries we received this year was not easy, but it gives us at HSBC a great insight into the health and prosperity of franchise businesses in the UK. They are strong, innovative, brave and resilient and we applaud them for their hard work and achievements. Tonight, we were treated to the crème de la crème of the British franchise industry and we could not be prouder to sponsor these awards. We wish them all well for 2023 and look forward to meeting new franchisors and franchisees at the awards next year.”