So here we are at the end of 2014, just where did the year go?
I'm sure it was only last week I was wishing everyone at Water Babies and WaterBumps Happy New Year and packing away my Christmas jumper resplendent with deer antlers, red noses and fake snow.
The team have asked me to round off this year's blogs with 'My Favourite Moment of 2014.' Where to start?
- We surpassed 40,000 babies and toddlers taught each week, (over 41,000 now) and within that number one of our wonderful franchisees became the first to teach 2,000 little ones a week; two fantastic achievements.
- We were successful in a range of competitions, culminating in us winning the South West Region's, HSBC Global Connections award, so acknowledging us as one of the top 10 companies across all sectors in the UK out of an original entry list of over 1600.
- We were a finalist in the British Franchise Association's Franchisor of the Year Awards 2014, building on our 2nd place the previous year.
- Our fab and loyal clients continued to show their support for us nominating and voting for us across scores and score of local, regional and national awards.
- It was a big year at the What's On 4 awards - Nationally we won Best National Baby & Toddler Development Activity and Best National Pre-Schooler Development Activity. Regionally, Wes Nisbet won Most Outstanding Activity Leader (South); Michelle Freeman won Most Outstanding Activity Leader (East), and Wendy Lambie was Highly Commended for the Most Outstanding Activity Leader for the Under 5s N Ireland & Scotland (June 2014).
- Ireland NE won three awards this year, Best Mum & Baby Activity at the Maternity & Infant Awards (October 2013). At the Whats on 4 Little Ones, they won Best National Baby & Pre - Schooler Development Activity (0-5 years ) and Claire Hogan was the Winner of the Most Outstanding Activity Leader for Children (June 2014).
- Water Babies franchises were successful as well, the Bucks and Beds franchise won the KalliKids Best Baby and Toddler Activity award (0-2 years). Water Babies Liverpool won for the 3rd year Family Go live, Best Baby & Toddler Activity and Shropshire Midwest won Highly Commended in the Shropshire Businesses for Children Awards (March 2014)... All in all a year of wonderful accolades, the volume of which made us feel very humble.
- WaterBumps went live in Bristol just after the summer with our first wave of pregnant ladies benefitting from the amazing feeling of the nurturing effects of gentle water-based classes. I'll never forget seeing a pool full of mums and mums-to- be floating effortlessly on their backs, their tummies raised out of the water with their babies moving rhythmically in time to the gently lapping pool - quite magical! We are all so, so, so excited about the positive difference WaterBumps will make to so many pregnancies in the future!
- Water Babies International really took off (sorry couldn't resist the pun!), this year seeing us build on our 5 year success in Ireland with Water Babies starting in Amsterdam (The Netherlands), Wellington (New Zealand) and Toronto (Canada). It will be a Herculean effort to get as established as we want to be in all these countries over the coming years, but we're determined to bring the benefits of baby and toddler swimming to as many as possible, and to this end the clarion call has rung out across Water Babies with everyone now dusting off their passports...what a surprise!
When you consider that these nominations are just a snippet of a busy year, with so much taking place in 2014 it seems unfair to pick out a favourite....oh all right then!
The winner is actually not one of the nominees above - it is in fact a really special milestone moment.
At 9.00pm on June 3rd everyone across Water Babies and WaterBumps settled down in front of their TV screens to watch the groundbreaking ITV programme 'The Secret Life of Babies' which showcased a number of our amazing little swimmers.
Over the next hour almost 3 million people across the UK watched the programme and gasped in wonder at what our little ones can do and the amazing, positive effects of our classes. After the show our Water Babies offices up and down the country were inundated for days afterwards, and all forms of mainstream and social media were discussing the benefits of baby and toddler swimming.
To see the whole country not just become more aware of what we do, but to feel it as passionately as we do has to make The Secret Life of Babies the cherry on the top of the amazing cake that was 2014!
Happy Christmas everyone and here's to a fabulicsious 2015!
Paul x x