A member of the New York Athletic Club, where he played water polo in the 2010s, Jamal Motlagh is not merely treading water when it comes to swimming.
When he was in high school, Motlagh used to leave his Coronado home every morning at 4:30 a.m. and ride his bike to the city’s municipal pool to for swimming and water polo practice.
That diligence paid off in strokes.
A 2002 graduate of Coronado High, he later played water polo at Princeton University and was a team co-captain his senior year in 2005. After graduating with a degree in politics and Middle Eastern studies, Motlagh spent a year playing professional water polo in Barcelona.
Motlagh moved home to Coronado in 2020 and in April, the longtime entrepreneur began his latest venture, opening a local swim teaching business in Rancho Penasquitos.
Motlagh runs British Swim School, the nation’s leading “learn to swim” franchise company, with his wife, Eva Szymanski managing daily operations.
The school is run out of the pool inside 24 Hour Fitness at 10025 Carmel Mountain Road in the Plaza Rancho Penasquitos.
The venture is not the first for Motlagh, a Harvard Business School graduate who among his various past endeavors is co-founding New York-based Acustom Apparel, a menswear brand using 3D body scanners to create custom clothing and chief brand officer for Clever Leaves (formerly known as Northern Swan), a private equity holding company.
“I’ve run and started businesses in the past and it’s been an up-and-down experience,” Motlagh said.
Motlagh said that he was searching for a franchise business to run because he feels startups tend to be riskier, with major investment in time and capital. He said he looked at a wide variety of businesses for franchising possibilities, including tree trimming, pest elimination and painting parking lines, but none felt right.
He said he was looking for a franchise business that would meet his needs, and British Swim School fit him like the perfect pair of swim goggles.
“I’m sure I could run around chasing after 60 mosquitos but being in a pool and teaching people is familiar to me,” he said.
Founded by Rita Goldberg and launched in England in 1981, British Swim School expanded to the United States and Canada and through franchising has grown to more than 300 locations. The company, acquired by Buzz Franchise Brands in early 2019, has been revolutionary in the development of an aquatics program focused on water acclimation and survival, Motlagh said.
He said he purchased the franchise heading into 2023. British Swim School’s first lesson under Motlagh’s watch was April 11.
“With my rich history in swimming and water polo, I thought it was just a personal thing and that I wouldn’t be coaching,” he said. “But as I delved into it and found out about backyard child drownings in kids under five, I started falling in love with the idea of going back to my pool roots. Managing a small business that I feel comfortable in and do well, it made sense.”
British Swim School offers a variety of swim lessons for children as young as 3 months and adults of all ages. Instructors teach water acclimation, water safety and survival skills as well as swim stroke development.
While adult supervision is always the No. 1 safety measure, research shows that participation in formal swim programs can reduce the risk of drowning by 88% among children who are most at risk for deaths caused by drowning. San Diego County has reported an average of more than 35 drowning deaths every year since 2017, Motlagh said.
“We have the incredible opportunity to help prevent drownings and save lives,” Motlagh said. “We’re also looking forward to having an opportunity to become a deeper part of this community.”
British Swim School
SAN DIEGO FRANCHISE OWNER: Jamal Motlagh
HEADQUARTERS: Rancho Penasquitos
BUSINESS: Sports education
CONTACT: 619-837-2741 or firstname.lastname@example.org
SOCIAL IMPACT:Owner Jamal Motlagh said British Swim School hopes to partnerwith local schools to share water safety tips and will be teaming up with the nonprofit Hope Floats to help give swim lessons to those who can’t afford it.
NOTABLE: Owner Motlagh was once a pro water polo player for a team in Barcelona.