What would you say if your son or daughter wanted to make a career out of teaching swimming lessons?
Would you be excited or disappointed? Now what would you say if your son or daughter wanted to be an entrepreneur, and be a leader and role model to hundreds of staff and students? What if he or she wanted to teach people how to save lives? What about teaching people a life-skill? Well, Rishona Hyman is that daughter and she’s doing it all and killing it!
Rishona Hyman has always loved teaching swimming lessons. It is her passion. She started teaching swimming lessons twenty-one years ago and started Aqua Essence Swim Academy fifteen years ago. This was during a time when “private swimming lessons” were really few and far between and were really flying under the radar. Rishona has changed the way people view private lessons and swimming. Rishona prides herself on providing positive and quality programs to her students. She has small teacher/student ratios and tailors to individual learning styles so that each student is “seen” and given the attention they deserve.
“I truly believe that swimming lessons should be a priority. It is a life skill and more than that there is so much goodness that can come from a swimming lesson. I am motivated to change the way we, as a society, view swimming and first aid/CPR. The benefits on poverty, injury prevention, fitness and overall health are incredible.”
Aqua Essence Swim Academy has evolved from swimming lessons to now include triathlon training, a swim club, CPR, first aid and even babysitting courses. This is a far cry from the start of Rishona’s business – her self-created part-time job. Becoming an entrepreneur and making a business out of her passion was a bit of a “learn as you go” process. She is a self-taught entrepreneur who has had to figure it along the way. “I am a leap of faith person” – she believed in herself and her goals and just knew it would have a way of working itself out.
As a female entrepreneur, Rishona admits that sometimes people don’t take her seriously – maybe because she’s a woman, maybe it’s because of her business’s industry – maybe a bit of both. She says that people tend to think that this is just a “hobby” for her. That is so far from the truth. Although she loves it, it’s beyond a full-time gig. Imagine running swimming lessons, CPR, first aid and babysitting courses (planning, programming, hiring, registration, finances, website maintenance, marketing) for hundreds of students across ten City of Winnipeg swimming pools, multiple private pools and even a hotel! Not to mention managing and inspiring a staff of 40 plus (many of whom are students!!). They run courses seven days a week and twelve hours a day! This doesn’t sound like a very relaxing “hobby!”
With a mostly young staff, Rishona has proven to be a great employer by taking time to know each individual and motivate each one. “I really try to have an open-door policy and really want to get to know them as people. I feel that once you know someone and know what makes them tick and share stories you can then motivate them. It is definitely getting harder to motivate but I just keep trying. I also believe that motivation comes from within and that we can try to motivate people but you need to know what does it for them. One way, I try to motivate them is by continuously adding a growing what we do and giving them opportunities to try new things and have a new experience. For example, we teach babysitting courses, so anyone that wants to do this needs to take some additional training adding to their skills and abilities, they also get a compensation increase for having more certifications. Teaching courses like babysitting, first aid or CPR gives my staff a great opportunity to go out into the community, teach out of the water and share their leadership skills while passing on valuable knowledge.”
On top of it all, Rishona is a wife and mother of 2 young children. So how does she do it? She admits to being very fortunate to have a great husband. Like every working mother, Rishona struggles to find balance. With her family, she has made a pact to not be on her phone in the evening until her children are in bed. She wants to be present with her kids and “devote my attention to them.” This isn’t always the easiest especially when she is potentially “on call” until lessons end at 9pm. In addition to making quality time for her family, she also sees the benefit to taking time for herself. She realizes that is a role model to her children, staff and students. As a result, she does much to stay in shape and live a healthy lifestyle. In addition to swimming (not shocking!), Rishona also goes to 9-Round boxing and kickboxing five times a week, “Saikels” and rides her bike often. Like most female entrepreneurs with families, the question is when does she sleep?
With such a busy schedule why does she do it ALL? “I am inspired by my staff and our families and students. I love the connections and relationships to people throughout the city. I love peoples’ stories. I still get excited knowing we have made a difference in someone’s life. I love hearing how happy people are. These stories and the people inspire me to keep growing and adapting. Swimming has so many lifelong benefits that I just get excited when I see it working and benefiting someone.”
“I love what I do so much! I love that I have been able to continue to do what I love the most, teaching people to swim and be safe in and around water including first aid.”
So what are Rishona’s words of wisdom for female entrepreneurs? “”I can do hard things!” I would tell someone to make sure that they really passionate about what they want to do. You don’t have to think of everything right away but you need to be an excellent problem solver as inevitably problems will arise. And to always like to treat people as you would like be treated.”
If you are interested in learning more about Aqua Essence Swim Academy and the terrific programming they offer, please visit them online at https://www.aquaessence.ca.