Diana Goodwin: Diving into Business
Diana Goodwin is the Founder and CEO of AquaMobile. AquaMobile was founded in 2012 and has six full time employees and 2000 swim instructors across Canada and The United States. Diana describes her company as "Uber for swim lessons." And as the company websites touts: "Your Pool. Our Instructors. Peace of Mind.”
Q: Tell us about yourself and how you want to position yourself in the world.
Growing up in Toronto, sports played a large role in my life. I worked as a swim instructor, played competitive soccer, and I was also a sprinter. I played varsity sports at The University of Toronto and participated in competitive sports well into my twenties. A lot of my personal and professional confidence can be attributed to my time playing sports. Yes, I mastered specific skills – but the confidence I gained has permeated throughout so many aspects of my life. I know there are many people who have had similar experiences with various sports and activities and I'm passionate about bringing that confidence out in others. Through the company I've built, AquaMobile, I believe I can achieve that. Above all, I'm here to make a positive impact on as many lives as possible.
Q: What was your first real experience with sports?
I didn't always love swimming – in fact, I was the kid sitting at the edge of the community pool and shivering during my scheduled swimming lesson, refusing to dip my toe in the water. Another parent kindly recommended to my mom that she try private swimming lessons for me. And after my first one-on-one lesson with Dawn, my private swim instructor, I quickly developed a love for the water.
Q: Tell us about your career path.
I completed my undergraduate degree in commerce and finance at The University of Toronto. My entrepreneurial spirit emerged when I started a side business called Swim for Life Aquatics. When I began my first full time role as a consultant at Bain and Company, I didn't have time to teach, so I hired instructors. But as time went on, I wasn’t feeling personally and professionally fulfilled at Bain and I knew I wanted more. One day, a friend and I were brainstorming business ideas and I had a "eureka" moment - the concept for AquaMobile was born. I left Bain after three years and completed a one-year MBA at Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management. In that year, and through the courses I enrolled in, I was focused on creating a business plan for AquaMobile. After graduating from Kellogg, I was a full-time entrepreneur and business owner.
Q: Is there one thing that stands out from your time at Kellogg?
Besides the great network I still tap into often, one piece of advice that Professor Andrew Razeghi shared has stuck with me: FOCUS. Do one thing - and do it really, really well.
Q: You are known for "bootstrapping" and navigating and building your business on your own - tell us more about this approach.
I was determined to launch AquaMobile in a low cost way, especially as it is a concept and a company that does not have high up front capital costs. I was resourceful – I sought out grants where possible and researched cost-effective options for our technology platform. And as the business has grown, I've reinvested the profits to ensure growth. Not all companies can leverage this approach – but for me and for AquaMobile, the right circumstances fell into place and it's been a great experience.
Q: Tell us about your team and its diversity.
We are a strong and passionate group. As it happens, we are a team of mostly women – both the core team and our instructors. While I do believe the make-up of our team has been an asset and has helped drive our growth, most importantly, we are all open to learning and growing. Like most start-ups, we fully appreciate and embrace the need to be flexible, especially as our business is seasonal. Regardless of gender, I look to hire people who are humble, who work hard, and who want to grow. And because instructors are going into our clients' homes, they need to make people feel comfortable.
As a leader, I am focused on nurturing my team members and empowering them to make decisions. Mistakes are part of the process and we all learn from them. Especially with a wide network of instructors across Canada and the U.S., I am highly focused on ensuring my interactions with my employees have a personal touch – we not only work together, but we share personal stories about ourselves to stay emotionally connected.
Q: How did the idea of AquaMobile emerge? And how did it grow from a passion project to a profitable cross-border business?
Water wasn't love at first sight for me and it was clear the one-on-one format was a breakthrough for me. I knew there were others who were similar to me and there was an unmet need out there.
AquaMobile started as a "side gig" – something I was passionate about, especially compared to my consulting job that was not fulfilling. But when I knew I wanted to grow it into something bigger, I didn't quit my day job immediately. I knew I needed a clear and defined path in order to be successful. If you are like I was, and you're working a full time job but have a passion project or business you want to pursue, set aside time to think through it carefully and thoroughly; solicit feedback from others; and ensure you are asking the right questions. Take your time to get it right. And even then there will be bumps along the way. But embrace the bumps and learn from them.
I am also always conscious of thinking big. Before I launched AquaMobile, I knew I needed to change my thinking – I had to stop looking at my business through a Greater Toronto Area (GTA) lens and start seeing it as an international enterprise. I made sure to adopt and implement a tech platform and brand that that said: I'm not local, I'm global!
Q: What's the best piece of advice you've received so far?
Focus. I always come back to this simple yet powerful guiding principle.
Q: And last but not least, what does MovetheDial really mean to you?
To me it means everyone, regardless of gender, using their unique abilities to to help women in tech reach their full potential. In my case, I've experienced open doors as I look to grow AquaMobile. People going out of their way to make introductions that will help move the dial for my career and for AquaMobile.
Guest writer: Jori Lichtman