Mumpreneur profile: Turtle Tots

Sep 25, 2012 by

Mumpreneur profile: Turtle Tots

Turtle Tots is a unique swimming programme, which begins during pregnancy with aqua yoga, and continues once the baby’s born with specialist baby and toddler classes. Caroline and Gaby sell licences and train people to run their own Turtle Tots businesses.

Your Name: Caroline Sparks & Gaby Lixton
Age range:
40 and 39
Children’s ages:
9 and 7, 9 and 7 and 7 months

Business Name: Turtle Tots
Business website:
Twitter ID: @Turtle_Tots
Facebook Page:

What are the key features of the products or services that your business offers:

Turtle Tots is an innovative and unique swimming programme, which begins during pregnancy with aqua-natal yoga (Turtle Tums), and continues once the baby is born with specialist baby and toddler swimming classes. We sell Turtle Tots licences to people who want to run their own Turtle Tots swimming business.  Running a Turtle Tots swimming business is lucrative, rewarding and works well around a family because of its flexibility.

Why should customers and clients use your services?

Many of our licencees have chosen us as opposed to our franchisor competition because they love the flexibility that the licence model gives them. Our model is great for helping mums back to work because they don’t need full time expensive childcare and it fits around the family.

The Turtle Tots programme is unique. It starts with Turtle Tums aqua-natal yoga classes for mums-to-be. These classes allow the mums to exercise in a relaxing and supportive environment, and teach them how to introduce their baby to water. Personal trainers have endorsed our programme. Every movement mum makes in the water with her baby also contributes to her post-natal fitness.

Each licencee donates 1% of their revenue to a chosen charity and most of our licencees are mums with young children who have a great empathy with their customers. It means that customers receive a fantastic level of personal service.

When & how did you start up in business?

We founded Turtle Tots in 2011. Gaby and I both have corporate backgrounds but after we had children we started our own businesses: Gaby was one of the first franchisees for a well known baby swimming company and ran the Oxfordshire and Berkshire franchises for four years, teaching over 1000 babies a week with a team of teachers and administrators. In 2008 Gaby sold the franchises for 15 times what she had paid for them, and moved to Bristol with her young family.

Caroline worked for Virgin Media in various marketing and communications roles for 12 years. After having her second child Caroline wanted a more flexible job and started her own exhibition business called Little Monster. For five years Caroline organised baby and toddler exhibitions across the South West. Each exhibition attracted around 60 exhibitors and over 1000 visitors but after five years Caroline needed a new challenge and having decided to sell Little Monster last year, was approached by Gaby about launching Turtle Tots Ltd. Caroline was able to sell her Little Monster business quickly, and joined Gaby to launch Turtle Tots Ltd.

How did you decide what business to go into, and what was your motivation?

Our backgrounds led us to Turtle Tots. Our motivation was and is to offer a truly flexible licence model to entrepreneurial people and grow our brand throughout the UK.

What were the most challenging aspects to setting up?

I think finance is a huge challenge for anyone starting a business. There is always much to spend money on initially and it’s easy to get carried away. It’s important to identify what is a priority and what is a “nice to have”. We found it also really important to have processes in place to support the business.

What has been your biggest business achievement?

Our biggest achievement to date has been being listed in the StartUps100. Launched in 2008, the Startups 100 was the first and original round-up of the top 100 start-ups in the UK and previous winners have gone on to phenomenal successes. We are very proud to be included in this prestigious list of top new 100 UK companies.

Have, or do you do anything out of the ordinary to benefit your business?

We take any and every opportunity to promote our business as this will benefit us AND our licencees. For example, Caroline was featured in an article in Good Housekeeping magazine recently, in an article about the colour of the clothes you wear, but ensured that Turtle Tots was mentioned in the editorial!

What stage is your business at now & what are your plans for the future?

To date we have 16 licencees across the UK and we are exceeding our original business plan. We aim to be a national brand within three years and are also planning to launch internationally.

How do you manage to juggle your business with family life? Has it been challenging?

For Gaby and I this is probably one of our biggest challenges. Between us we have 5 children, and Gaby’s son Henry is just 7 months old.  Luckily our families are very supportive and help with childcare when necessary, but it can be fraught when

How has online networking, specifically with other mums, benefited your business?

We use social media to network and have found this an excellent way to raise brand awareness and make useful contacts. We use Linked In, Facebook and Twitter.

What resources do you NOT have now that might make your life easier?


What advice would you give another mum considering starting her own business?

Starting a new business is a huge, life-changing, exciting and terrifying thing to do! It can also be incredibly satisfying, rewarding and fun! We could easily talk for hours about the advantages of starting a business – but perhaps the best advice is don’t keep talking (or reading) about it – JUST DO IT! Otherwise you will look back and wish you had given it a go!

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