HER BUSINESS British Swim School, with locations in FL, MD and ILTHE CONCEPT Schools that teach skills plus safety EARNINGS $2.2 million in sales last year HER STORY Rita swam competitively in Britain until she was a teen, but it didn't cross her mind to turn her hobby into a career until years later."One day I accompanied a friend to her child's swim lesson, and as soon as I saw the coach interacting with the kids, I knew that's what I wanted to do for the rest of my life," Rita remembers.

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"So I decided to rent that space to save the cost of building pools as I expanded the company."KEEP A "MOM-AND-POP" FEEL Rita ensures that each of the 13 British Swim School locations has a welcoming staff and personal touches to make nervous students—and parents—feel comfortable.

"We gear our teaching to each child's personality—we don't have a cookie-cutter approach," says Rita.

BUILD A STRONG TEAM As British Swim School expanded, Rita found herself spending more hours in the office.

FILL A NEED "When I started teaching 25 years ago, kids were taught to swim at age 5 or 6," says Rita.

"But I wanted younger children to develop swimming skills, too, which could save their life in an emergency." Rita developed a unique program that teaches children as young as 1 how to float on their backs first (rather than swim facedown).