Turtle Tots

Gabrielle Lixton & Caroline Sparks


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In today’s episode, James speaks to Gabrielle Lixton and Caroline Sparks, the Co-founders, and directors of Turtle Tots. Gaby, who had previously introduced Turtle Tots in two Bristol-based pools, recognised a growing need for swim programmes tailored to children.

Both having pursued separate corporate careers before becoming parents, the two entrepreneurs joined forces after having their own children to transform Turtle Tots into a franchise business. Today, it has blossomed into a network comprising more than 50 family-owned Turtle Tots businesses spanning the UK and Ireland.

Founded in 2011, Turtle Tots is a renowned and award-winning franchise specialising in children’s swimming education. Their distinctive child-centred swimming program commences during pregnancy and extends into specialised baby and toddler classes after birth. Turtle Tots franchises offer international entrepreneurs the chance to operate their own business, establish a flexible work-life balance, and expand their income.

In a nutshell, James, Gaby & Caroline speak about:

  • Their swimming and corporate history before founding Turtle Tots
  • Gaby’s initial launch and progression of Turtles Tots
  • Insights from how they have grown organically 13 years into the business
  • Target demographics and locations of focus
  • How their franchise is going around the elephant in the room; access to swimming facilitates
  • Their biggest differentiator against the saturated UK market
  • Business philosophies, strategies, and personal habits that keep them on top


…and so much more!


It was lovely to have launched something, grown it, and actually sold it


We were very aware that in order to carry on growing, we needed to build the team.


At least they’re not closing. If they’re staying open, and they’re good facilities, then at least we can do the great work that we do in the pools.


I think we all had moments where we thought, oh my God, are we even gonna have a business at the end of this? But we did manage to keep the majority of our franchisees.


You do have to just make decisions, and sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. And then you learn from your mistakes.

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