It may be surprising to learn the owner of Goldfish Swim School in St. Charles was a pre-med student just a few years ago.
At 26, Alex Tyler’s mission is to teach kids about water safety and how to swim. He knows too many people avoid the water because they can’t swim. “And that’s a bummer,” he said.
Tyler practically grew up in the water, swimming competitively at age 3 and later at Northwestern University.
“When I was a kid, my mom would drop me off at the pool at 8 in the morning and pick me up at 8 p.m. It was a lot of fun,” he said.
Goldfish Swim School started in Tyler’s hometown of Birmingham, Michigan. His father was the landlord of the first school, which opened in 2007. When Tyler was a senior in college, he began the process to buy his own school.
“I looked for land, a building, a bank loan. I learned a lot. I really liked the aspect of managing a practice,” he said.
Tyler said he handled most of the preliminary work via email “because it was pretty funny when they met me person and saw how young I was.”
Tyler’s parents supported his drastic career shift.
“I had a freak-out moment in my mind, but – looking back now – it was not a waste of time,” he said. “The struggle was finding out what I wanted to do. Once I knew, I just pursued my passion. I don’t possess a secret power. It’s just work.”
St. Charles was on Tyler’s short list of places to open a swim school.
“I knew it was needed here. What I really enjoyed was the personality and feel of the community. I knew it would be successful because there were a lot families here,” he said.
Goldfish is unique, Tyler said, because its sole purpose is to teach kids to swim.
“It’s not an aquatic center. Parents can watch the entire time. We make the pool warm for the kids, and it’s safe and welcoming,” he said.
Water safety is a cornerstone of Tyler’s teachings.
“A lot of people don’t know that drowning is the leading cause of death in children 14 and younger. When parents take home their babies from the hospital, they receive information on choking and SIDS. While those are important, I’m working on a new parent brochure that talks about water safety,” he said.
Becky Holloman, a lifeguard-certified teacher and front-desk employee at Goldfish, nominated Tyler for the Kane County Chronicle’s Best Under 40 honor.
Two years younger than Tyler, she said, “It’s amazing to see this vision done with such passion. That’s really inspiring. He spreads that knowledge to help others.”
Earlier this year, Tyler packed up Goldfish T-shirts and swim goggles for his second mission trip to Belize to teach children how to swim.
“They’re on an island surrounded by water, but no one was in the water. They needed to learn how to save their own life,” he said.
Tyler worked to establish the Pauly D Foundation with the parents of Paulino F. DelleGrazie, a 4-year-old St. Charles boy who drowned in June 2014 — two days before he was to begin swimming lessons at Goldfish.
“It affected us very deeply. I reached out to his parents to see if there was something we could do to help,” he said.
The St. Charles resident said that when it comes to water safety, “People need to be proactive, not reactive, because you don’t get a second chance.”
About the award
Through Tuesday the Kane County Chronicle is recognizing 12 area professionals younger than age 40 who have made significant contributions to their profession, company and community. To read the Best Under 40 profiles online, visit www.kcchronicle.com/bestunder40/2015.