Statistics show that 70% of African-American children can't swim. Agnes Davis and her Swim Swim Swim I SAY (SSSIS) organization strives to change this.
“I started SSSIS for three reasons: One, the statistics involving people of color and drowning were very frightening --People of color are three times greater to drown than any other ethnic group, and out of nine drownings a day, six are people of color. Two, when I was learning how to swim, no one except for my sister looked like me. I wanted at least have someone of color teach people of color how to swim. And three, when I was wrongfully terminated from my job as Cardiovascular Perfusionist, a field I worked in for more than 19 years, I decided to do something I was passionate about,” explains Davis, president/CEO of SSSIS.
Her passion was to create a successful niche with swimming and to empower Harlem. SSSIS is the only female-owned Harlem/Upper Manhattan swimming company offering affordable prices.
SSSIS teaches tots, children, adults, people with a fear of water and special needs how to swim. Since SSSIS was launched, they have taught more than 200 toddlers, parents, students, and seniors to swim. Among her clients is PS 125 -The Ralph Bunche Elementary School in Harlem. For the 3rd year in a row, SSSIS taught the elementary students swimming lessons.
After losing her job, Davis took a leap of faith in launching SSSIS. “I funded the business from my savings. I was not working and it was very scary to use my savings to fund a start-up business but I believed in my vision so I did it and never looked back,” she explains. “Raising money for Swim Swim Swim I SAY is not a complicated equation. All of the funds used to pay for instructors, insurance, pool time, web designing, PR advice etc. are from the profit/monies left over from the fees we charge clients for lessons. It is a balancing act but we have been in business for over four years and that speaks volumes.”
There were some challenges Davis faced. “The two biggest challenges have been finding the right staff to fit my vision and finding a pool, in working order, that will rent to a private company,” she says. “I have overcome these challenges by being patient and following my gut instinct when it comes to hiring…and looking out outside of my area for help as well as not asking or allowing myself or someone else to tell me what they CAN’T do but WHAT THEY CAN DO for me.”
Davis has a lot planned for SSSIS. Among her long-term goals are to expand the company to more metro New York areas. She also wants SSSIS to produce an Olympic swimmer and to eventually have SSSIS’s own private pool. “The goal of having my own pool is paramount. Renting a pool or finding a pool in the community that works has been the constant problem that I deal with,” she explains. “A pool that ranges from 3 to 12 feet of depth and a minimum of 4 swimming lanes wide will change the entire game for my company. The community could receive quality swimming lessons at a reduced rate, be given flexible scheduling to accommodate more families with busy schedules and provide a very positive and professional environment that more individuals and families can learn together to swim.”
Davis, who is also a swim instructor, is also looking for people to invest in SSSIS. “One reason someone should invest in my business is it is a life-saving company. We are actually saving lives every time we get into the water with a student. How many other companies can say that and see the proof right before their eyes? That is priceless,” she points out.