Client Spotlight: How Debbie Koenig Quadrupled Her Business By Focusing on Private Swimming Lessons for Adults

Debbie Koenig is a entrepreneur who has dramatically expanded her swim school business in the San Francisco Bay Area by focusing on one segment of the market – private swimming lessons for adults.Debbie Koenig, Debbies Swim School, Swim School Business, private swimming lessons for adults, swim business, swimming business,

As she explains below, when Debbie was four years old, she watched her younger sister crawl into a pool. Debbie jumped in and pulled her sister out and was inspired by the experience to devote her life to training others how to swim.

Her interview answers provide a good lesson – when there is a larger and more significant purpose behind the business, it is much easier to grow it. In Debbie’s case, she’s on a mission to prevent accidental drowning deaths motivated by almost losing her sister to drowning, and that is so much more powerful than simply trying to increase your bottom line.

As you can imagine, it has been personally very satisfying working with Debbie as a client, given how wonderful her work is.

Debbie’s business also focuses in particular on training adults with lifelong fear of the water (aquaphobia), which is a good lesson for other businesses in finding a niche, even within the already-narrow world of swim school instruction.

With Debbie’s Swim School going through its major expansion right now, with new locations and staff being added over the next few months, I thought it would be instructive to check in with her to see what lessons she has to share.

How Debbie Koenig Quadrupled Her Swim School Business


John Corcoran (JC): Tell us about the work you currently do and your target customer/audience.

Debbie Koenig, Founder of Debbie’s Swim School (DK): Debbie’s Swim School was founded in 1992 and we teach all levels of swimmers around the San Francisco Bay Area. We specialize in everything from basic stroke mechanics to advanced life-saving techniques.

We have students ranging in age from 6 months to 95 years old.  It’s never too late to learn to swim.

Our target customers are Aquaphobic adults and young children. Our mission is to raise awareness to prevent drowning through community outreach programs and swim lessons.

JC: How did you get into your current line of work? Was there something that inspired you when you were younger to seek it out?

DK: When I was four years old I watched my baby sister crawl into a pool. To this day I remember jumping in and pulling her out. Her eyes were opened wide and she threw up all over me, gasping for air. I knew from that time forward I wanted to teach people how to swim.

I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I would have watched her drown. Unfortunately 10 children in the US die every day due to drowning. This unfortunate tragedy is completely preventable.

JC: What are some of the coolest “perks” you’ve gotten out of your line of work and/or your business?

DK: Watching clients go from having paralyzing aquaphobia to enjoying such activities as snorkeling, swimming in the hotel pool for the first time, and participating in a triathlons!

Surprising their significant other or family by showing off their new swimming skill! I receive post cards thanking me from around the world stating “It’s the first time I was able to use the hotel pool on vacation, Thank you!”

People literally jump for joy when they learn how to swim, and nothing is better than knowing you helped them to achieve that. I smile knowing that my business makes a difference, and it literally saves lives. If we help to prevent even one drowning all of our work is worthwhile.

This past year we made the front page in the Benicia Herald for our Water Safety Day and Drowning Prevention efforts, I was interviewed on CBS for the Pool Safely Campaign, we have given aquatic safety presentations in several community centers and schools in Solano and Benicia Counties, we have participated in the 4th of July Parade & Veterans Parade.

Our staff has quadrupled, and so have our locations!

JC: What famous or not-so-famous role models or icons have you looked up to, particularly for inspiration as you have built your business/career?

DK: Mario Vittonne is a Maritime safety expert and Chief Warrant Officer for the Coast Guard. Pete Dequincy is amazing at training and teaching rescue techniques to staff. William Longfellow, the creator of the American Red Cross Aquatics program. Also the author Stephen Covey for inspirational insights, and motivation and Michael Gerber for his business organizational strategies.

JC: If you could go back in time, what advice do you wish you could give your younger self about entrepreneurship and starting and building a new business?

DK: Use every resource out there! Ask questions and do your research. Delegate and invest in quality products, which represent your business. Contact your industry associations and be open to new ideas and suggestions.

JC: What one thing has been the biggest factor in why you have been successful?

DK: Having a strong sense of determination, fulfillment, and enjoyment. Every day I wake up and ask myself “What can I do today to help the Swim School become more successful?” I don’t take “No” for an answer I figure out what I need to change in order hear “Yes.”

JC: What are the biggest challenges you face in your business today?

DK: Risk. Everyone needs to be properly trained and on target. In my business if you are not, someone could die.

Finding qualified and goal-driven teachers who are responsible can be challenging. I look for genuine caring and motivated staff. These are qualities that cannot be taught; they must be within the staff member. So far I have been very blessed with my Aquatic Team. As we continue to grow I know finding such talented and motivated staff will be one of my greatest challenges.

It’s difficult not to become overwhelmed at times. With a business expansion there are so many intricate parts. It is necessary to delegate, prioritize, and strategize.

JC: What advice do you have for solopreneurs or small business owners who are seeking to grow their business larger?

DK: Hire quality staff, systematize, strategize, and use your small business resources. Accept that you will make mistakes and know that it’s a part of learning and a part of growth.

Network and learn the importance of it. Know your target audience and seek them out. But most of all, keep a good relationship with each customer and do something different that another business doesn’t offer, and excel at it!

JC: How do you see your market changing in the years ahead? What challenges keep you up at night? What opportunities do you see on the horizon?

JC: I see a tremendous amount of opportunities on the horizon, and that’s also what keeps me up at night. I ask myself how do I achieve my full business growth potential? What needs to get done, and by who? How do I develop and implement all of these systems?

These questions as well as answers and new innovative ideas never stop in my mind. That’s also one of the best things about owning your own business. You can put your ideas and imagination to work. I love watching my business grow and expand. It is an amazing and satisfying feeling to know I created this all with one simple idea and that it makes a positive difference in people’s lives.

JC: Thanks to Debbie for giving such an insightful interview. You can learn more about Debbie’s Swim School or connect with her at Debbie’s Swim School.  




  1. Might be almost close to impossible to find well-informed visitors on this content, in addition you seem like you fully grasp which you’re preaching about! Excellent

  2. I like this post, enjoyed this one regards for putting up.

  3. I seriously love your website.. Pleasant colors & theme. Did you build this site yourself? Please reply back as I’m hoping to create my own site and would love to learn where you got this from or just what the theme is named. Many thanks!|

  4. I constantly spent my half an hour to read this website’s articles all the time along with a cup of coffee.|

  5. naturally like your web site but you need to take a look at the spelling on quite a few of your posts. Several of them are rife with spelling issues and I find it very bothersome to tell the truth on the other hand I will definitely come again again.|

  6. It certainly is near unthinkable to see well-updated parties on this niche, even though you look like you comprehend the things that you’re writing about! Regards

  7. Concentration Technique #1: Stretch your limits

  8. Valuable information. Fortunate me I discovered your web site by accident, and I am shocked why this coincidence didn’t happened in advance! I bookmarked it.|

  9. It’s very straightforward to find out any topic on web as compared to books, as I found this article at this web page.|

  10. I believe {that you|that you simply|that yoou

  11. My Partner And I merely want to tell you that I am fresh to wordpress blogging and really admired your article. Probably I am inclined to remember your site post . You indeed have fabulous article content. Love it for expressing with us your web post.

  12. I do agree with all the ideas you have introduced in your post. They’re very convincing and can definitely work. Nonetheless, the posts are too brief for beginners. May you please prolong them a bit from subsequent time? Thank you for the post.|

  13. What a material of un-ambiguity and preserveness of valuable experience regarding unpredicted feelings.|

  14. Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you relied on the video to make your point. You obviously know what youre talking about, why waste your intelligence on just posting videos to your site when you could be giving us something enlightening to read?|

  15. It truly is nearly extremely difficult to see well-updated visitors on this area, in addition you look like you comprehend the things you’re posting on! Thank You

  16. whoah this weblog is fantastic i really like studying your posts.
    Keep up the great work! You realize, a lot of persons are searching round for this information, you can help them greatly.

  17. Might be mostly close to impossible to see well-advised americans on this issue, even though you come across as like you understand the things that you’re indicating! Thanks A Lot

Speak Your Mind