After growing her business 1000% in the first year, this entrepreneur decided to dive head first into her dream
Shannon Hamrick’s love for the water was born in an Arabian desert.
When she was just 6 years old, her family moved to Saudi Arabia where she and her sister, Amber, found themselves in a new country, learning a new language, and with little to do.
“Pools are everywhere in Saudi,” Shannon says. “It was the only thing to do as a kid.”
So she took to the water, subsequently falling in love with swimming and relishing the freedom it gave her.
A few years later, her family returned to the States, settling in Virginia, where Shannon dove into competitive swimming, ultimately landing herself a spot on the U.S. Air Force Academy swim team.
“Swimming was a good outlet from the intensity of the academy. I swam competitively, but I’m not competitive. I can only remember one meet — one — where I wanted to win,” Shannon says with a smile.
Eventually her service in the U.S. Air Force took her to Mountain Home. And when her service came to end, she relocated to Boise and began teaching swimming part-time at the YMCA — first to adults, then to kids.
As demand grew, it was clear the opportunity was more than just a part-time job, so Shannon decided it was time to take the plunge: she started Flow Aquatics Swim School.
Immediately she had eight sign-ups. The problem? She had nowhere for them to swim. Shannon had no pool of her own and time and space at the public pools was nearly impossible to come by.
Her solution? Buy a house in the burbs and put in an endless pool — a self-enclosed pool, which generates a current that allows the swimmer to swim in place — in the basement.
It worked. Enrollment grew from eight students to 100 students in the first year. To keep up, Shannon’s mom and sister even moved to Boise to help teach the classes, which, by now, focused exclusively on children.
“Our continued biggest challenge is finding space to teach,” Shannon says.
To supplement their basement pool, Flow rented space in the YMCA and then at a hotel pool. Eventually they settled into a second location across town at Boise Water Sports (a dive instruction pool), making it more convenient for a whole new band of swimmers.
Business was good, but having the staff divided between two locations was a challenge. To solve it, Shannon merged both locations into a freshly constructed pool at the Wings Center in Boise.
“We wanted more capacity and for our staff to be together,” said Hamrick. “We now have room for about 900–1,000 swimmers a year.”
Today, hundreds of students of varying abilities pass through Flow Aquatics each year. They not only improve their water skills, they improve their water comfort.
“Our technique teaches you to be one with the water,” Shannon says, explaining that her methods are based on a popular swim training method called Total Immersion, an approach popular with triathletes because it is a smarter, not harder, way to move through the water.
“It’s about having grace in the water. We want to get a swimmer to a quiet and effortless place when they move their bodies through the water,” she says.
As Shannon expands her staff, she is not just looking for another coach, but for members of their family.
“It’s about the mind-body connection and getting grounded in the water,” she says. “Our coaches need to be masters at taking a physical challenge — learning to swim — into the mental challenge of being comfortable in the water.”
Flow isn’t just a verb for Shannon, it’s the essence of her company. It’s an acronym that reminds Flow coaches that their mission is to teach swimmers: “Fundamentals of Learning to be One with the Water.”
This mission will allow her to reach nearly 800 students this year, a 9900% growth from her start in that basement back in 2004.
“I get great joy of out of coaching people to achieve more than they thought was possible.”
Note: Dive in, learn to swim at flowaquatics.com.
Jeff Reynolds contributed to this story.