Discover the water
through play with
the Fibby Swimming
Gerben is co-founder of Fibby, a swimming aid for children from 2 years old. It's a super innovative product that comes with a learning app, because with Fibby, children adopt a natural swimming position. That's because the floating part is on the back, instead of around the arms. This provides freedom of movement, which encourages movement and helps develop children's water skills. Fibby sells directly to consumers, so that anyone can learn to swim.
Why did you start Fibby?
A family member of Hugo, my co-founder, once found a swim aid in the form of a backpack in Spain. It was the only aid children wanted to wear there because traditional straps would cut and get in the way. This product has fallen into oblivion and is actually no longer available anywhere. The idea was left hanging for about eight years. However, four years ago, Hugo started Fibby when he realized that drowning among children is the third cause of death after malaria and malnutrition and he sought more fulfillment in his work. A meeting with an industrial designer and the Dutch Don't Drown Foundation, which created a self-reliance methodology, brought everything to a head.
At that time, I was living with my family in Australia. My daughter was about 2 years old and was already learning to swim there, which is very common, but they usually start much later in the rest of the world. Children are attracted to water early in their lives. I already knew that you could train 2-year-olds to independently get out of the water, and when I saw his invention upon my return and he asked me to go on this adventure with him, I thought, "Let's do this!"
With Fibby, we focus on water safety and having fun. By having fun, learning happens naturally. Fibby is actually a kind of balance bike. With a balance bike, you also playfully practice balance, steering, braking and easily make the transition to real cycling.
"Fibby is the balance bike of swimming."
How did your family react to the idea?
People in my environment are very used to swim floaties. There isn't really a product like this on the market. You have floaties or swimming aids... My surroundings saw the huge opportunity, the innovation and how cool the product is. And the product is patented, so all the conditions were right. We started and made Fibby commonplace. Many people know it now and kids really see Fibby as a friend.
"We see that children who have been members of the Fibby Swim Club sometimes skip a third of the lessons for their swimming diploma."
“We see that children who have been members of the Fibby Swim Club sometimes skip a third of the lessons for their swimming diploma. ”
The Swim Club
Fibby is used a lot in swimming pools, but we also started the Swim Club. Together with educational institute Calo Windesheim, we created a swimming program. We see that children with Fibby develop water skills faster in a playful way than children without Fibby. The traditional way consists of swimming back and forth many times, which is super boring and not very fun. We see that children who have been members of the Fibby Swim Club sometimes skip a third of the lessons for their swimming diploma.
We recently started our own Fibby Swim Club. It's a swimming school where children from the age of two can start. Swimming pleasure is central at the Swim Club. A group of young children end up in a swimming pool that has been transformed into a water playground. Everyone gets a Fibby and can jump in the water. By playing, children develop many water skills without even knowing that they are actually getting lessons. Simply by having fun, they learn. Parents can enroll a child for eight classes, of which six take place in a swimming pool. The other two take place outside in a lake or in the sea.
"Kids really see Fibby as their friend."
How did you get your first customer?
For Fibby, we did a crowdfunding campaign. We sold Fibbys in more than 50 countries. We registered the Swim Club on websites that feature "activities with kids," sought out the press, reached out to our network, handed out flyers at schools, and ran advertisements. However, word-of-mouth advertising works best. People who come find the Swim Club really great and also bring friends. We encourage this, because swimming together is more fun. And learning also goes faster because children learn from each other.
"Thousands of boxes were delivered in front of my house."
What problems did you encounter?
The development of hardware is difficult, especially because it is a safety product that must go through a rigorous certification process. Setting up logistics was a challenge as well, as suddenly thousands of boxes were outside my door.
We faced other challenges such as stocking inventory, logistical issues, and sales of a seasonal product fluctuates. That's why we set up the Swim Club, which has been a great success.
Our goal is to become a sort of swim-scouting group, where children can keep coming and earn distinctions to sew onto their Fibby. Eventually, the children will be able to swim confidently without having had explicit training. It's really cool.
How does Vev help?
The Swim Club has been hugely beneficial with Vev's help. We have dozens of members who can come twice a week, and in total, they can come up to eight times. It quickly becomes complex to manage when you multiply everything. We must organize the club remotely, as the trainers and researchers are in the pool with the children. We only need to know who is coming.
“The reminder and self-service features are brilliant. ”
Vev takes care of everything for us, including confirmations, reminders, and the ability to choose or cancel another time. We are spared from getting involved. The entire Swim Club's organization happens automatically in the background, and I am like a remote lifeguard. It saves us an enormous amount of time and helps us keep everything organized.
Setting up your own branding for the booking system is just amazing. We always pay a lot of attention to our look and feel and invest heavily in branding and brand strategy. Vev seamlessly integrates with our existing branding and feels almost the same. People probably don't even realize they're on a different site.
We also use the calendar subscription function. All trainers and researchers have Vev in their phone calendars, and each new appointment is automatically added there. This way, they don't have to use the appointment tool and can see exactly who is coming.
A punch card functionality would really help, though. We currently keep track of how many times someone has come by hand, and it would be really nice to have some sort of automated record keeping.
We want to prevent drowning
We're partnering with the Dutch Don't Drown Foundation and Calo Windesheim to organize swimming projects in multiple countries in Asia, Africa, South America, and Europe. We train trainers who can then teach other children how to swim. Drowning is the third leading cause of death among children after malnutrition and malaria.
Our goal, in conjunction with education, is to start 200 Fibby Swim Clubs worldwide. This way, children can learn to swim, and students have a springboard to become entrepreneurs.
Many people simply can't swim. Fibby is currently geared towards children, but we're also working on a Fibby for adults. It uses the same technology but more in the form of a backpack that also functions as a flotation device.
You're seeing more and more people swimming in open water, and it's just a waterproof, floatable backpack. In Basel, people are already using such backpacks for their daily commute. It also works wonders for people with disabilities or who are recovering from injury.
“Many people simply can't swim. ”
What's your best advice for entrepreneurs?
Do things at the beginning that don't scale. We were doing things without knowing if they would work in the future. But every customer matters. Eventually, you can start stacking those customers on top of each other. Getting your first customer can be a real challenge, but once they arrive, you often find something that works. Then, see if there is room for growth.