This month GetSetGo!’s founders Alina Cooper and Claire Harrison attended the shortlist stage of the Lloyds Banking British Excellence Awards as finalists in the ‘New Business of the Year’ category. After meeting the judging panel to present their case, we asked them both what their reflections on the first 18 months of GetSetGo! Family Club in Putney have taught them.
How has the journey to launching the club been?
C: It’s been longer than you might think! The concept for the brand has been with me ever since I myself became a parent, but bringing the final product to the high street has been a long and eventful road, given we never could have predicted a global pandemic! Now that we’ve been open since last April and hosting our amazing community of customers is our daily focus, it all feels worthwhile.
A: Although Claire and I have both been in the sports and leisure industry for most of our adult lives, it’s been completely different creating our own concept and making it happen. It’s been incredibly gratifying to pick and choose what we think are the best bits of what we know and create something entirely unique for families.
What is the biggest lesson that you’ve learnt?
A: The devil is in the detail! To do things properly, you need lots of planning, flexibility and teamwork. Not everything always goes to plan but we’ve stuck to our guns on the things that matter. Like creating a pool with UV treated water (means that less chlorine is needed) and with walls made from recycled CDs! That’s not your average build, but it represents our commitment to sustainability and creating behaviour change. Part of doing things well also comes from listening to customers and making small changes to operations that have a big impact on their enjoyment or ease of use when at the club.
C: Definitely it’s all about teamwork, we’ve been through blood, sweat and tears in the process; designing, funding and delivering a new business. We secured funding just before lockdown, coped with hibernating the business until restrictions finally allowed us to open then had to adapt to the new norms around social distancing and covid safety. I’ve spent countless nights away from my husband and children, so being able to share the highs and lows (and the occasional glass of wine) with Alina as my co-founder is an essential part of being an entrepreneur.
What are you most proud of?
A: When we reached 90,000 swim lessons delivered it was a great milestone! It has such meaning to be teaching kids a life skill that could significantly impact their future safety and enjoyment of water. Childrens development is core to our programme and we love seeing little ones grow in confidence after they’ve been coming to our classes – helping get them ready for starting school!
C: How can I pick one thing?! We were so honoured to make the final of the New Business of The Year award as it feels amazing to get some external recognition on top of that from our incredibly loyal customers. I also get a personal kick every time I see a fellow mum finally getting a bit of down-time for herself in our coworking space, cafe or even taking part in a class. It was the parenting struggle that inspired the whole concept.
What is your favourite place in the club?
C: As a lifelong swimmer it has to be the pool! It has a calming energy every time I enter the space, even when there are lots of enthusiastic little splashers in there.
A: It has to be our snug, adjacent to the club’s cafe. It reminds me of a hotel lobby – we put so much effort into the design and creating spaces worthy of being a retreat for grown-ups’ as well as appealing to kids. This Christmas we’ll be hosting Santa’s Grotto in the snug and before then we’ll be turning the club into a stage to host West-End performers from Baby Broadway later this month.
What are you most excited about for GetSetGo!?
C: This Winter we’re launching ‘Get Set to Giveback’ our own charitable programme collaborating with schools in support of their physical activity programme. I can’t wait to get that up and running, especially after a period where so much has been restricted by the pandemic. Helping families get active together is such an important part of our ethos and something we are very passionate about.
A: We’re really lucky to have a talented and committed team of employees at the club, many of whom are starting out on their careers. It’s a privilege to get to watch them grow with us as the business evolves from one club to being a nationally recognised brand.
What next for the brand?
A: Taking the brand to more locations! We have ambitious growth plans and can’t wait to open the next club in London then venture further out to more locations. We’ll soon be in a position to reveal some detail about club number 2 so watch this space!
C: As the brand evolves we’re continually adding to our programme. We recently held a focus group with parents and understood what types of activities they’re most interested in for their child’s development. We’re crafting and designing new products, some of which are launching this Autumn in Putney.
What does ‘time for you’ look like for you personally?
C: Trying to get time for me is always challenging, especially as I now split my time between working in London and home life in Manchester. There are, however two things that I always make time for; Time with my family is something that I cherish, whether that be switching off my phone and simply reading to my children or escaping to our ‘happy place’ in Wales for some paddle-boarding, hikes and pub lunches.For me, whilst working in London during the week, I find it all too easy to work even longer days, so I make sure that I keep one evening to catch up with friends or book in some reflexology which I find resets my balance and clears my busy mind!
A: Juggling work and home life is a challenge we are all too familiar with. For me, it is essential to find time to truly switch off and enjoy time with my family and friends. Spending time with my husband and children is always top of the agenda and usually consists of getting outside into nature. From bike rides, to walks to scooting, some fresh air and quality time really helps me reset. I also really value ‘me time’ and whilst I find it hard to prioritise it, I equally understand the importance of a little self-care. When the kids are in bed, I love to spend my time playing netball, going for a run or enjoying dinner and drinks with my hubby and friends.