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Meet Alli Jo Houck of Alli Jo’s Swim School

Today we’d like to introduce you to Alli Jo Houck.

Alli Jo, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I have taught swim lessons for 19 years, but up until 6 years ago, I only viewed it as a summer gig.
In 2012 I was working in management for GilaRut, a beauty salon in Hillcrest. The owner, Keri, is an empowering and savvy entrepreneur. When she learned about my history and love of teaching kids to swim, she asked if I would teach her son and some of his friends after I got off work. I would change out of my all black salon clothes into a bathing suit and flip-flops in the salon bathroom and head out!

After our two-week session was over, those families happily referred their friends to me, and more people wanted swim lessons. This continued for several months and really started to get out of hand in all the right ways! Keri and I sat down for lunch one day and had a very definitive conversation about my future. I was welcome to stay with the salon, but if I wanted to pursue being an entrepreneur, she would fully support me and refer everyone she knew. I love that about entrepreneurs, we take delight out of helping someone get their start because we know how hard it can be! In June 2012, I officially started Alli Jo’s Swim School and I haven’t looked back!

For the first 4 years, I didn’t have a pool of my own, so I traveled all around beautiful San Diego County teaching in private pools. I’d go as far north as Temecula and down to Otay Ranch in the same day because I knew that is what it took to build the word-of-mouth that I needed to gain momentum. In 2016, my husband and I bought our dream home in the Mount Helix area with the perfect teaching pool! Our model changed from a traveling swim school to a swim school in our home. This cut out my travel time, but also allowed me to set an atmosphere and heat the pool to 90 degrees so kids are most comfortable.

I studied Business at San Diego State with a degree in Marketing. Every year when I do my taxes the line item for Marketing expenses is $0. And it makes me laugh! We get all of our business from happy families referring their friends. It’s all word of mouth and I LOVE that. San Diego is the perfect city to have a long swim lessons season and it’s been a serious joy to get the next generation water-safe.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I got some great advice when I first started my business. Someone told me “It takes a solid 3 years to turn a profit. So, cut yourself some slack, lay a good foundation, and do the hard work”. It shifted my expectations in those first 3 years to focus on the hustle instead of the profits. It came with many long, tiring days. I’d often come home and fall asleep before eating dinner.

I think there’s a perception that entrepreneurs have lots of freedom. My experience in those beginning years was the opposite. On my weekends, I was doing administrative tasks and lining up my next sessions of swim lessons. I would book so far out that I couldn’t do the spontaneous road trips with girlfriends or the family trip to Alaska. I think the hit to the personal life can be a struggle, and in recent years I have reached a much better balance.

Last July, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I found a lump while feeding my then one-year-old. This was, of course, devastating personally, but also professionally. I had a very full roster that went into late October.

Thankfully, my mom who has taught swim lessons for 40 years offered to take over my classes for me. In light of building a business on word of mouth, we have a very loyal and trusting client base. I was so pleasantly surprised by the response from our families. They loved my mom DJ and trusted her to teach their kids! They brought me meal and flowers, and I can’t tell you how many handmade cards I got from kids in the mail! What should have been a massive blow to the business has actually made me appreciate what I do even more.

I help kids walk through major fear in learning to swim, guiding them to a place of powerful breakthrough and enjoyment of the water. I have walked through so much fear this last year with my health, and I am at a place of enjoying and cherishing life infinitely more than I knew was possible.

Please tell us about Alli Jo’s Swim School.
Alli Jo’s Swim School teaches private and group swims lessons in our pool near Mount Helix. These lessons are taught in two-week sessions. It’s best to think of it as a swim boot-camp. Classes are every day (Monday-Thursday) for two weeks, so 8 total lessons. We get incredible results with this structure and our training methods.

Many of our clients come to us from swim schools where they’ve been enrolled for many months or years with little progress. For many reasons, the once a week class structure just doesn’t seem to work for preschool-aged children. Our business model is to give you massive results in two weeks, and hope that you tell your friends and family. And if you have more children, that you’ll trust us to teach them too! I’ve been called “the Mary Poppins of the pool” and it’s a badge I wear proudly!

I think we are most proud of our unique approach to teaching the safety and skills that every parent wants their children to learn. We have games, tricks and terminology that we adjust for every different child’s personality. After teaching thousands of children, we’ve seen it all!

This month we are announcing that we have trained and have brought on-board two new instructors! And we are adding surf lessons as an option for older kids! This is a big deal for us and we are so stoked about it.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
Perhaps a little more self-care along the way! I could have taken care of myself a little more. I am just starting to understand how important that is! For years I felt an urgency and responsibility to say “yes” to every client… To always “make it work”. I’ve begun to understand balance and the need for rest to a greater degree.


  • Private Swim Lessons $640/session (30-minute lessons)
  • Group Swim Lessons $320/session (45-minute lessons, 4 students)

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