On March 20, 2021, Goldfish Swim School – Birmingham celebrates 15 years!

15 years of teaching children the life-saving skill of swimming. 15 years of the Golden Experience. 15 years of high fives, smiles and ribbons. And 15 years of making MAJOR waves – not only in Birmingham, Michigan, but in the lives of hundreds of thousands of families across North America.

From the humble beginnings of our founders and our growing network of franchisees to the hardworking instructors and team members across all 110+ schools and our dedicated and loyal members – we thank you for your support in helping grow Goldfish Swim School from this single location to an award-winning swim school franchise as we continue to strive toward our mission of helping all children become safer in and around the water!

Humble Beginnings – Where It All Begin

Family of six smiles in a pool

Chris and Jenny McCuiston were high school sweethearts at Seaholm High School in Birmingham. Both standout athletes – Jenny a competitive swimmer and Chris a baseball all-star – they went on to compete at separate colleges.

Jenny qualified for the Olympic Trials – twice – and Chris was drafted by the Detroit Tigers. After college, they both moved back to their hometown, got married and started successful careers – Chris in finance, Jenny as a preschool teacher, while teaching swim lessons after school.

Jenny quickly built up a wait list for her lessons at the local country club. It was then that Jenny realized there was a major demand for quality swim instructions – and with her degree in early childhood development and passion for swimming, combined with Chris’ business acumen, she realized she had a Golden opportunity in front of her. After two years of research, drawing up blueprints and business plans in their basement, and a lot of hard work, they decided to dive in!

Never did they imagine what started as a small business in Birmingham teaching 500 kids each year to swim would balloon in a premiere franchise operation spanning 110-plus locations across 30 states and Canada, teaching nearly 150,000 children life-saving swim skills each week. Their dedication to making a difference in the lives of children and their community started a ripple that has become the next wave in swim lessons! Because of their commitment to water safety, culture and community, Goldfish quickly became much more than a business that teaches swim lessons. 

The Goldfish Family – Creating Opportunity & Changing Lives

Goldfish employee speaking on phone while another employee checks the computer

Over 15 years, the Goldfish family has grown into just that, a family creating life changing opportunities.

Members from Goldfish Swim School – Birmingham have grown up to become instructors and lifeguards. Instructors and lifeguards have turned part-time jobs into full-on careers – becoming general managers, lifelong members of the Franchise Support Team, and even franchisees!

Goldfish employees smile while answering phone and checking computer

Katie Lee was once an original Swim Force Coach. Now, she is one of the operating owners of 13+ Goldfish Swim Schools across North America, including the very first franchise location in Farmington Hills, MI.

Dana Schuchardt was once coached by co-founder Jenny! While swimming competitively in high school, she also taught lessons at Goldfish Swim School – Birmingham. After college and starting a career in California, Dana quickly realized she missed the Goldfish Family, and her passion for swimming and making a difference in the lives of children. Dana became one of the youngest Goldfish owners at the age of 28, got married, welcomed her beautiful daughter, and is now preparing to open her second Goldfish Swim School in Gilbert, AZ!

Mark Sheppell also went from Goldfish Swim School – Birmingham Instructor to Owner – seeing a need for swim lessons for the children in Atlanta, now operating not one, not two, but three Goldfish Swim Schools in Georgia! Seeing how family-oriented Goldfish is, Mark’s cousin Will Lebiedz – who also happens to have been the very first General Manager at Goldfish Birmingham opened Goldfish Swim School – Shoreline in 2019 – helping bring world class water safety to the West Coast!

Adam Palka fell in love with Goldfish when he was an instructor at Goldfish Birmingham in 2010. Now an Associate Developer on the Tech Team at the Franchise Support Office, Adam takes great pride in helping Goldfish continue to grow and keeping the Golden Experience going, even outside of the school. According to Adam, the reason he loves Goldfish is “waking up every day and knowing I’m doing something that I love. I also love seeing the smiling kids at the schools and knowing that we are making a difference in their lives.” 

Adam joins other Birmingham alum, including Training & Development Manager Nikki Thomas, Senior Operations Consultant Gareth Gabriel and New School Opening Consultant Josh Reyes as Goldfish Family for life, making waves and careers following their passion to help make the children of our communities safer in and around the water.

Our Members – Our Mission

Students smile while sitting poolside

It’s our loyal members and community who continue to choose Goldfish who bring us our greatest joy, and allow us the opportunity to live out our mission of teaching water safety, and who allow Goldfish to continue to grow, teach and raise awareness far beyond our midwestern roots.

Goldfish moms and dads have seen the smiles on their children’s faces, the pride, confidence and life skills their children have learned. It is their stories that answer the why behind what we do.

We said it earlier, and we’ll say it again – Goldfish Swim School is more than a business! We are a family. Your family is part of our family. And together, we are all water safety advocates. As drowning remains the number one cause of unintentional injury-related death among children ages 1-4, we are here in Birmingham, MI and beyond, to make a difference and ultimately get the world one step closer to reducing the number of accidental childhood drownings.

The stories, reasons and reviews from our members touch our heart and keep us focused on our mission at hand, and are just a few examples of why Goldfish Birmingham has gone from a small local business to a franchise on a mission to change the world:

  • Christen K: My son has been attending lessons at Goldfish Birmingham for about a month and he’s made incredible progress. Six weeks ago he was terrified of being in water after a near drowning experience and he just swam independently and floated on his own today.
  • Lauren S: This is the best program. My grandchildren look forward to their classes each week. Totally professional and the program continues to stay current. My grandchildren learn more than just how to swim safely. They learn so much more!
  • Alexis B: Our family has always loved coming to swim lessons at Goldfish Birmingham! Your staff and instructors are always so friendly and make everyone feel comfortable and have fun while learning one of the most important life skills we can teach children.
  • Samantha N: In a matter of just a few months, my daughter went from not being able to swim to becoming a confident swimmer, using multiple methods. Her stamina has increased and she loves the freestyle. Great, small groups and all the instructors and staff are awesome!
  • Lisa G: We’ve tried other swim programs, but they can’t hold a candle to Goldfish Birmingham! From the fantastic curriculum to the enthusiastic coaches, my kids have excelled beyond my wildest ideas. I knew from the start safety was a priority, as there are always lifeguards and shift managers walking the deck, and I have never felt pressured to increase the number of days they attend as other programs have. (Perhaps they just know their program is so great, one day a week is all you need!) I would never send my kids elsewhere.

Goldfish Swim School Birmingham created an inviting and safe place where kids overcome their fears, learn to swim and respect the water – all while having fun. Chris and Jenny are so swimcerely thankful to the hundreds of thousands of families that trust each Goldfish Swim School to teach their children each week to swim and be safer in and around the water.

We Thank You – Here’s to the Next 15 Years!

Goldfish employees smile and hold orange balloons while standing poolside

What started as one swim school has grown into something truly FINTASTIC. The number of lives saved and the number of lives changed is immeasurable. After 15 years, the team at Goldfish Swim School – Birmingham continues to make waves with every new member enrolled, every high five, ribbon and star student, every water safety presentation given and every new Goldfish Swim School opening. 

So today, we celebrate Chris and Jenny, the entire Goldfish Swim School – Birmingham Team, every Goldfish member, community, team member and franchisee – we celebrate the lives saved and the lives changed, and we celebrate the next 15 years to come!