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Karina Reinhardt used to be a swimming teacher years ago and had been a lifeguard at school and university. So while she was on maternity leave and was looking at setting up a business which she could build up to work around her children, she was excited to come across the Turtle Tots baby swimming franchise on the workingmums.co.uk website.
“I was reading a magazine in the library while my daughter was sleeping and saw the workingmums.co.uk website advertised there. Later at about 2am I was feeding her and looking at my phone and I looked up the site. I got onto the franchise pages and Turtle Tots just jumped out at me. I lay awake all night thinking about it. I was so excited,” she says.
Karina, who used to swim competitively at national level at school, emailed Turtle Tots at 4am and they got back to her the next day. She says they were very good at responding to her questions and she talked to them via Skype. Over the summer she went on a series of baby and preschool training and aqua yoga courses in Bristol and did some teacher training in Scotland where she is based.
Karina, whose husband was recently made redundant, is a scientist by background and for the last five years has been a client manager at a contract research organisation dealing with pharmaceutical companies, universities and other organisations.
She had her second child in January and says when she returned to work after having her son three years ago there was no option to work flexibly and so her son had to go to nursery four days a week and spent one day a week with Karina’s parents-in-law. With two children working full-time would mean her salary would only pay for childcare, and so she was inspired to find something that she enjoyed and which would mean she could spend more time with her children.
At the moment Karina is focusing on building up the business to allow her to make it her primary income, whilst not having to put her children into full-time childcare. She already has four classes running and is planning another 4-6 starting in November. Each class last half an hour and the focus is on every class being progressive and teaching children a new skill.
Karina says: “Swimming can be quite daunting for new mums. We teach something new each week and I tell the parents what we are aiming for. It’s not just about splashing about in the water but the focus is always on everyone having a great time. You can see the skills being learnt and it is very much baby-centred. If they are not happy to do something we will not do it. It is supposed to be fun and build a lifelong love of the water. You don’t do that by force.”
There’s also a lot of singing involved. “If you would have asked me five years ago in the corporate world if I would sing in public I would have said no, but I sing to my own children and this is about mums and dads focusing on their children,” she says.
There is also a lot of administration and marketing to do, although Karina is lucky that with two small children she knows the places in Edinburgh that mums and dads bring their children, to display leaflets, and many of the parents who come to her have come via classes she does with her own children or word of mouth. “People from classes I do put me in touch with other parents and it went from there. There’s a very supportive community of women starting their own businesses in Edinburgh and in terms of mums meeting other mums, it’s like a small village,” she says.