Little Fish Swim School Started As High School Project, Thrives As Business Owners Grow Up

By Lindley Estes
The Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg, Va.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) A swim business that began in a high school entrepreneurship class 10 years ago, now provides lessons to 3,000 families per year. Servicing swimmers ages 6 months through adulthood, the “Little Fish Swim School” is not so “Little” anymore.

The Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg, Va.

Almost a decade ago, Spotsylvania County sisters Keri Rayford, then 17, and Rochelle Preut, then 19, were high school students starting a company to see if they would sink or swim in business.

Now, their own children are headed to school. And the sisters’ business, Little Fish Swimming, has opened its second location.

In 2007, Rayford and Preut started the school in a backyard pool after working for other swim instructors in the area. They were frustrated with large class sizes and lack of individual attention to their students.

“We were both swimmers growing up and taught swim lessons,” Rayford said. “We thought, we could do this better and developed a system that focuses on individual progress.”

A year later they moved the operation to the pool at Saint Michael the Archangel High School, opening an administration office there.

“It was an awesome opportunity to do what we love to do,” Preut said. “We are passionate about swimming. We care a deeper level; we care about each swimmer.”

In May, they added a second location at the Jeff Rouse Swim and Sport Center in Stafford. They also recently added swim parties to the list of services offered by Little Fish, to grow the business.

Aaron Rayford, Keri’s husband, is the marketing director and general manager of the business.

“It’s a huge step forward,” Aaron Rayford said. They’re now able to serve clients in Stafford who would have otherwise needed to drive to Spotsylania.

All three attended Fredericksburg Christian School and built out their business plan in the school’s entrepreneur class and were helped by their father, local developer Mike Jones.

“The best time to start for us was high school,” said Keri Rayford. “There was less risk involved. We could attempt it at a low cost and not have to worry about mortgages.”

Each class has about four swimmers, which Preut said may swim at different levels because they let students advance at their own pace.

Their business now provides lessons to 3,000 families per year for swimmers ages 6 months through adulthood. That number is growing with the new location.

They hope their success can be a model to their own children.

Keri and Aaron, now 26 and 27 respectively, have four children.

Rochelle, now 28, also has four children.

Not only have their children–minus one 5-month-old–learned to swim, they hope to pass on an entrepreneurial spirit.

“They come to work with us in their Little Fish shirts and I think it shows them, success is how hard you work,” Aaron

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