Small Business Q&A: Atlanta Swim Academy

The summer swimming season, which includes a safety focus, starts on the Memorial Day weekend.

On any given day you could find a group of water-wrinkled preschoolers enjoying swim lessons in the 88-degree saline children's pool at the on the corner of Lower Roswell and Johnson Ferry roads.

The family-owned, 13,000-square-foot indoor aquatic center offers three heated pools to customers looking to learn, practice or just have fun in the water, as well as WiFi-ready viewing and waiting areas that double as rented party spaces.

Next weekend, neighborhood pools or, as they are known in competitive swimming circles, "farms" will open.

Brad Grzelka, Atlanta Swim Academy's vice president, is the son of business founders Ron and Barbara Grzelka. He grew up at the academy.

Grzelka is often asked about water safety.

"Kids should always be under adult supervision. Safety is a child knowing how to swim, and learning how to swim is water safety," he said. "I consider teaching swimming as teaching a life skill."

The London Summer Olympics start July 27, which likely means a surge in the swim industry, Grzelka said.

"When kids watch the Olympic swim competitions, they want to be like the winners. They want to be like Michael Phelps," Grzelka said.

The academy's swimming supply store already stocks child and adult sizes of official London Olympics T-shirts, swimsuits and goggles.

The academy has 30 employees, an even mix of full- and part-timers, making payroll the biggest expense for the business.

"We pay our instructors and coaches more than industry norm, and we expect more than average from them," Grzelka said. "All of our staff are expected to do things right."

Grzelka started working at the business when he was 14 as head of service for life support equipment for the family's scuba diving company. He held that responsibility until after he graduated from with a business administration degree.

He has directed the day-to-day operation of the business for 10 years with occasional consultation from his retired father.

Grzelka and his wife are expecting more than the start of the outdoor swim season Memorial Day weekend. Their second child is due Saturday. He is all smiles with anticipation.

Q. What's the best thing about your job?
A. I get to be around water all day. Every day.

Q. What is the best thing about East Cobb?
A. I was born and raised two miles from this business. I live close now. East Cobb has great people, and I like the atmosphere—no high-rise buildings, lots of beautiful trees. It's a safe place to live.

Q. Why did you choose to open your business in East Cobb?
A. My father chose this location because we live in the area.

Q. Why did you pick this kind of business?
A. Well, my father already was an entrepreneur; he had other businesses before Atlanta Swim Academy. Our family liked to swim and scuba-dive, and my father thought it would be good to combine both passions and started a new venture that had dive supplies and a pool.

Five years ago, we sold the scuba part of the business and used the building space to put in the Junior Olympic pool so that we could start a swim team.

Q. What are some of the services you offer that people may not know about?
A. We have a year-round youth swim team. This year we have 225 to 250 members. We expect to have a waiting list for next season. We want to keep quality over quantity on our team. The majority of swim teams in the U.S. don't own their own pools, which gives us the advantage of offering flexibility when it comes to practices.

We also offer summer kids' camp that runs 9 to 5, Monday through Friday. And swim lessons from 8 to 8, seven days a week, for 10-month-olds to adults. We also do American Red Cross training.

Q. When did you start your business?
A. My parents started it 26 years ago.

Q. How did your business get started?
A. Dad's passion for water.

Q. Do you have advice for anyone who'd like to start a small business in this area?
A. Do your homework. Know the competition. Study the demographics. Start small and build. And, last but not least, (he smiles) patience. It doesn't happen overnight. You have to adjust and change all the time.

Q. Is there anything else you'd like our readers to know?
A. I'd like to thank all of our customers in East Cobb and beyond, who we've known over the past 26 years, for helping us grow to where we are today. We're looking forward to the next 26 years.

Brad Grzelka, vice president
Atlanta Swim Academy
732 Johnson Ferry Rd., next to

Rob Maynard May 21, 2012 at 11:43 AM
This is a wonderful facility. They taught our daughter to swim and instilled confidence in her around the water. Don't think twice about using Atlanta Swim Academy.


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