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She Competed On The U.S. Olympic Swim Team Before Becoming This Brand's Top Franchisee. Here's Her Winning Business Strategy. Cammile Adams knows enthusiasm, expertise and common sense go a long way.

By Kim Kavin Edited by Frances Dodds

This story appears in the September 2023 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Courtesy of SafeSplash Swim School

Cammile Adams was on the world's biggest platform — then went to one of the smallest. It was 2016, she was 24, and she'd just served in her second Olympics as the women's swim team captain. Then she started a new career as an elementary school teacher. "There's nothing more humbling than showing up the day after you finish the Olympics, and you walk into a fifth-grade classroom, and they don't care who you are," she says.

After two years of that, she realized she wanted to teach the thing she did best: swimming. A fellow Olympian introduced her to SafeSplash Swim School, a franchise that had six locations for sale in Adams' hometown of Houston. She and her husband, Rad Brannan, bought them all. They've since opened a new one, with another coming next year — helping make them the brand's top franchisees. "I'm so lucky and blessed that I found my dream job before I was 30," Adams says.

Here, she shares her franchisee success strategies.

Related: Exploring Expansion Strategies for Franchise Success, From Goals to Growth

1. Shadow the experts.

Adams was the boss, but acted like the student — shadowing the franchise's existing general manager for nearly nine months to learn the business. She also shadowed other franchisees. "Have some cash to go spend a week with a successful franchisee," she advises. "The more collaborative you can be, and the more open you are to seeing how people do things — it really does make you more successful."

2. Think like your customers.

Adams is a mom, and her customers are moms. So how do moms think about swim schools? "Mom is not going to pass one swim school to go to another unless her friend told her the farther one is amazing," Adams says. So she's maximizing on proximity by leaning heavily into hyperlocal, neighborhood-based marketing — and when choosing sites for her new locations, she built near new housing.

Related: 7 Things You Need to Know Before Becoming a Franchise Owner

3. Excite your staff.

If you want to offer a quality service, you need a quality staff. Adams enjoys empowering the high-schoolers and college students she hires — treating them not just as workers, but as learners on a new career journey. "It's really inspiring for them to see that I've found what I love to do at such a young age, and that they don't have to work the 9-to-5," she says.

The Franchisor's Take

What makes Adams a success?

Connections, says Chris Harkness, president of SafeSplash's parent company Streamline Brands. Yes, she has the business fundamentals down, but she also focuses heavily on people — giving constant feedback to SafeSplash's leadership team, engaging with other franchisees, and being ever-present in her community by sponsoring a swim team and local charitable endeavors. "She keeps her school at the forefront in her community," he says, "and that attracts customers."

Related: He Got Bored With Retirement. Now He's Selling $18 Million Annually.

Kim Kavin was an editorial staffer at newspapers and magazines for a decade before going full-time freelance in 2003. She has written for The Washington Post, NBC’s ThinkThe Hill and more about the need to protect independent contractor careers. She co-founded the grassroots, nonpartisan, self-funded group Fight For Freelancers.

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