Home Adidas sales Paulana Lamonier’s Black People Will Swim Aims to Break Stereotypes

Paulana Lamonier’s Black People Will Swim Aims to Break Stereotypes

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In 2019, a tweet sparked Paulana Lamonier’s small business debut.

When she tweeted that she wanted to teach 30 black people to swim on Long Island, New York, the response was overwhelming: she received hundreds of requests for lessons from all over the country. There are still people on the waiting list, she said.

From there, the Haitian-American company, Black People Will Swim, was born. The name is both a call to action and a call for more inclusion in swimming, Lamonier says.

Paulana Lamonier, founder of Black People Will Swim

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Within a few years, the 31-year-old was able to raise enough money to secure a swimming pool, hire swimming coaches and start teaching students.

In the summer of 2021, Lamonier taught 60 black people to swim, far exceeding her goal of 30. And in 2022, she says there were about 100 students in the program.

A passion for swimming

Lamonier’s mother signed her up for swimming lessons when she was around 12, but she didn’t take them seriously at first.

“Throughout my growing years, I really didn’t keep swimming. I kind of lost it,” she says. “So when I got to college, I had to learn to swim again.”

And she did. While attending CUNY York College in Queens, New York, where she studied journalism, Lamonier joined the swim team and eventually became captain.

While attending CUNY York College in Queens, New York, where she studied journalism, Paulana Lamonier joined the swim team and eventually became the captain.

Courtesy of Paulana Lamonier

After graduating in 2013, Lamonier knew she wanted to keep swimming. She began working at the local Jamaica YMCA in Queens where she learned the basics of teaching swimming, including how to develop lesson plans for students.

Lamonier worked there for about four years until she stopped focusing on growing her journalism career as a freelance social media strategist. However, she still gave private swimming lessons on the side to earn extra money.

“It would probably be like $100 for four one-hour lessons,” she says. “It’s a flight.”

Grow your business

Although Lamonier is no stranger to swimming lessons, starting a small business has come with a new set of challenges.

In the beginning, one of the most difficult obstacles was having a swimming pool. Lamonier tried local colleges and universities, but many had been converted into Covid-19 vaccination sites. Eventually someone who owned a private pool reached out and agreed to rent it out.

Although Black People Will Swim officially launched in January 2020, it was unable to start running swimming lessons until July 2021, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Black People Will Swim by Paulana Lamonier accepts students ages two and up of all levels.

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There was also the issue of funding. Lamonier used about $5,000 of his savings to start the business, which involved setting up an LLC and hiring a business coach and creative director.

Since then, she’s raised nearly $136,000 through various grants, including a $10,000 grant from Adidas and a $25,000 grant from American Express, both of which are aimed at supporting female founders creating change. in the sport.

Lamonier was also able to raise around $8,500 in 2020 and 2021 through an online crowdfunding campaign.

The company made about $16,000 in sales in 2021 and about $19,000 in 2022.

Lamonier admits that running a swimming school “is quite expensive”. It costs $45 per hour, or about $720 per week, to rent the pool. In addition, she pays her four instructors $18 per hour and her aquatic director $25 per hour.

After expenses, she is able to afford around $500 to $1,000 a month.

It charges between $160 and $210 for six-week swim packages and accepts students two years and older of all skill levels.

Breaking the stereotype that black people don’t swim

Although classes are open to anyone, Lamonier focuses specifically on teaching black people to combat an age-old stereotype that black people can’t or just can’t swim.

The harmful stereotype stems from a historical and systemic lack of access to swimming facilities during periods of segregation in the United States dating back to the early 20th century.

Racist policies and violence committed by white Americans across the country have often prevented black Americans from accessing public swimming pools and recreational spaces, writes historian Jeff Wiltse in his book “Contested Waters: A Social History of Swimming Pools in America”.

Paulana Lamonier founded her New York-based company, Black People Will Swim, to challenge a harmful stereotype.

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Although racial segregation is now illegal, the resulting stereotypes continue to impact the black community, and swimming is a prime example.

“We had one of our students who said she couldn’t swim because her bones were too dense. And I realized, ‘OK, if she takes that as her truth, how many other people think ‘They can’t swim?'” said Lamonier. From there, she carried out the company’s mission: “Breaking the stereotype that black people can’t swim.”

Lamonier wants to help students of all ages unlearn this type of thinking. Her goal is to eventually open her own swimming pool on Long Island, and she is applying for more small business grants.

“I want Black People Will Swim to be one of the first black-owned swimming facilities on Long Island,” she says. “And not just for black people, but for black people and brown people to see each other and see that it’s possible.”

“This pool would be for us, by us.”

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