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Swimtime's "life jacket" - The genesis of FranScape

This is the story of a fresh start derived from an untimely, unexpected end. This is a success designed by a shift of perspective. It provides the right answer to "what can we do now?" - Use what you have!


In 2016, Swimtime, one of the UK’s largest swim school franchisors, teaching 20,000 children to swim every week, was bought by new owners. While business ran well, it came with issues that needed to be solved. They inherited an analogue business with outdated data gathering policies.


After thorough market research, they concluded that none of the existing solutions would do the trick. So, they made an entirely new, custom one instead. The system was so well-designed that it led to a drastic turnover rise (£400k to £1.2m in 2 years). And just as things were going from good to great for Swimtime, COVID-19 hit. It hit hard.


Taking the role of a grim reaper, it completely drowned Swimtime's business. Revenues fell to zero and business had to be shut down entirely. But they wouldn't be the Gold Winners at UK Business Awards '21 if that was truly the end of this story.


Enter FranScape


While Swimtime met with an unexpected end, it made space for a beautiful turn of events to take place. Because in just a few weeks, Swimtime received a number of requests for the usage of their custom data management system. This request shed a light on the seemingly endless dark tunnel they got drawn into.


They were in possession of the product in demand, they just had to offer it. And so FranScape was born in April 2020. They reverse engineered the platform into a multi-tenant SaaS and started anew with everything else: branding, sales, finance structures, etc.


The initial goal was simple - to keep their heads above the water. Less than a year later, FranScape has transacted over £1m, while serving over 10 networks with a full sales pipeline for the following 9 months.


There was no time for thorough planning, yet they did develop a structure to their approach:


- They ensured there was a clear labour division through daily virtual meetings with the tech team.This helped everyone included feel like an equally important part of the process.
- FranScape adopted the "move fast and break things" methodology.
- Communication with clients was honest and open, and a key pricing strategy was not to charge until the solution was live and working. This openness fostered a culture of trust and respect between clients and FranScape staff.

Quality was unquestionable: to date, FranScape have secured a 5 star Capterra score based on client reviews. And they've become a British Franchise Association (BFA) approved Supplier. Their UKBA submission contained proof of partnerships with:


* The BFA Approved Franchise Association (AFA)
* Quality Franchise Association (QFA)
* Encouraging Women in Franchising (EWIF)
* Institute of Children’s Activity Providers (ICAP)


But the real shocker is: by the end of 2022, FranScape will have a larger monthly revenue than Swimtime. To put that into context: Swimtime will be 25 years old; FranScape will be just 2.


With this marvellous initiative and the dedicated work of Theo Millward and his team, FranScape won the Gold Award at UKBA '21 in the Best New Business category. And it was very much deserved!


So we've decided to connect with Theo once more and ask him how are things now, a year after winning.


Catching up with Theo Millwall


How did you gain the trust of your customers?


For us gaining trust is really simple: just be honest. In businesses, especially young ones, things do go wrong from time to time. We have a clear value in our team that we will be honest with each other and our clients.


Own the mistake, talk about it openly, solve it together and be just upfront. This way our customers are more likely to believe us and trust our solution. When you combine this with frequent communication it goes a long way to building trust.


Why did you decide to apply for the UK Business Awards?


Because we want to win! Here at FranScape we have huge ambitions, we really do want to be the very best. We do not fear competition, we embrace it.


The UK Business Awards gives us a chance to benchmark our performance against our peers and get great feedback. If we don’t make the grade, we can understand why and learn from others to improve. For us, that is a healthy part of ambition.


How would you describe your experience at our awards? Did you learn or gain something from it?


We love Awards International. So many awards programs feel like a fix. Linked to Sponsors, or who does business with who. In the end, these events see everyone lose as we feel it crushes innovation. Awards International just do it right. We know, as a small company, we have just as much chance as a bigger one.


We get sight of the judging criteria beforehand, we know the judges are selected at random and they cannot confer with each other for the scores. This builds great trust and confidence in the impartiality of the Awards International process.


How's FranScape doing now? What are your plans for the future?


The last 12 months have been a whirlwind. Our company has doubled in size and we are already considering entering the US market as we have a major lead there. Like all start-ups, it has not been easy. We had some growing pains, particularly as we found the limits of our technology when the business grew faster than we expected.


Nevertheless, we have a lot of fun, we love our product, our clients and we truly believe in where we are going as a brand. I don’t think this will be the last time FranScape enters the UK Business Awards!


This story was featured in depth in our latest UKBA eBook. Download it for free to get access to all the details and 3 other award-winning initiatives.


If you have a success story behind you, why don't you share it and get external recognition from independent experts? Enter our UK Business Awards here!