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2019 Rhode Island & New England Woman-Owned Small Business of the Year- Pods Swimming

In 2007, Susan Pascale-Frechette founded Pods Swimming School. What began as a nomadic swim school has now grown to an 11,900 square foot aquatics center housing two pools, a six-lane lap pool, and a 20 by 40-foot teaching pool. Since founding Pods, Susan has found success while displaying ingenuity and demonstrating potential for future growth.

Although founded in 2007, Susan’s journey towards building Pods began at the age of sixteen. “I would never have envisioned that my first job working at the Budlong pool in Cranston, Rhode Island would have blossomed into building a swim school,” said Susan. “The drive to build the Pods Swimming Aquatics Center was my desire to create a stable environment and a home for the families enrolled in Pods. My vision was to offer a complete program under one roof,” she added.  

In 2007, Pods was the first school in Rhode Island to become a member of the United States Swim School Association (USSSA). Professional development and training from USSSA-an ongoing process-ensures that Pods is teaching state-of-the-art swimming technique at developmentally appropriate levels. USSSA training offered Pods a solid curriculum and interest in Pods Swimming began growing. To keep up with demand it was necessary for Pods to expand and in its fourth year of operation Susan began searching for more pool space.

Susan began showing up on the door steps of every pool in the state. Due to their own existing programing, most aquatic facilities were unable to rent to Pods. Susan was fortunate enough to locate fourteen pools that agreed to allow Pods to rent time. Most facilities had restrictions: families were not allowed to change in their locker rooms, they were not allowed to park in the parking lot in which the building was located. Despite all of these obstacles, families and staff did not waver in their support of the program and Pods Swimming continued to grow.

When the program reached 500 swimmers, Susan began looking into the option of building Pods its own facility. Was it a viable option? Because Pods Swimming was unique concept in New England, it required some original thinking, posing many questions, and seemingly deal-breaking obstacles.

In June of 2016, Susan would combine her own equity that she had saved from teaching swim lessons with a SBA 504 loan from BDC Capital to begin construction on the first privately-owned aquatics center in Rhode Island. Exactly one year later Susan would open the doors to the Pods new brick-and-mortar home.

Since Pods early days, Susan has led the business to incredible heights. In 2007 Pods started operations with four employees; 11 years later, it employees 37, accommodates 1,734 swimmers and is also the home for local swim teams and triathletes. In that time, sales, profits, and net worth have all grown exponentially, a fact that Susan attributes to her upbringing, “My parents and grandparents instilled in me the values of honestly, sacrifice, discipline, tenacity and humility. This award represents these virtues and I am hoping to pass them along to my own family and to my Pods family. My own foundation given to me by my family what has made me and my program successful. To them and to those
women working hard to bring their entrepreneurial vision to fruition, and to the SBA who supports us, I am forever grateful.”

For her entrepreneurial excellence, the U.S. Small Business Administration is pleased to honor Susan Pascale-Frechette, Owner and Founder of Pods Swimming, as the 2019 Rhode Island and New England Woman-Owned  Small Business

Company Name: 
Pods Swimming
East Providence, RI