Where it all began...
21 years, 5 months, and 19 days ago. We didn’t know it at the time, but the foundation for what would one day be our business began over 20 years ago when we met on the pool deck.
Our names are Kaley Maksymyk and Krista Morden, and we are the Co-Founders and Co-Owners of the H2O Academy. We were born and raised in Winnipeg and attended school in northwest Winnipeg before each graduating with 2 degrees from the University of Manitoba. We didn’t know it at the time, but the foundation for what would one day be our business began when we met over 20 years ago on the pool deck as former high-performance artistic (synchronized) swimming athletes.
As proud Team Manitoba teammates we competed across Canada and retired from sport in 2004. In 2010 our passion for swimming brought us back to the pool as coaches when we were hired as High Performance Coaches for Team Manitoba at the 2011 Canada Winter Games. After strategically designing our training program and speaking with other aquatic sport coaches, we quickly noticed that many youths coming from traditional swimming lessons lacked basic foundational skills and confidence needed to develop specific sport skills. We realized there was nothing in Winnipeg that provided technical, balanced, and creative programming, so we created the H2O Academy.
In 2013 during our spare time outside of our full-time careers, we began researching and developing what would one day become AQUA-Lit™ Curriculum©, the exclusive document we authored and use for all certification, education, and assessment at the H2O Academy. It provides an innovative approach to swimming lessons and represents faster results, better quality, and superior instruction and assessment methods compared with traditional swimming lessons. We are the first and only swim school in Manitoba that has our own proprietary curriculum which creates progressive results that are enhanced with a low student-to-teacher ratio and a unique evaluation system based on an improvement scale rather than passing and failing. It is the only program in Manitoba that is truly rooted in physical literacy, a worldwide concept that is being led by Canada. The H2O approach to learning allows students to stay in swimming lessons, therefore learning to swim, instead of dropping out because they’ve failed too many times or are bored… because swimming is an essential life skill!
With our curriculum set, we needed a pool to conduct lessons. We contacted the City of Winnipeg and were told numerous times that they were not accepting any more private companies in their pools. The Winnipeg Winter Club believed in our concept and allowed us to operate 2 days per week in their pool with our first classes beginning in September 2015. We were the only certified teachers and both of us had to be there every Tuesday and Saturday, so we had to get creative with our career schedules in arranging shifts and using up holiday days so we could build our business. In 2015, we were both able to leave our full-time careers to run H2O full-time. Kaley was a Policy Analyst with the Manitoba Government where she worked with public, private, and First Nations schools on healthy school policy and funding, and Krista was a Respiratory Therapist at the St. Boniface Hospital where she specialized in cardiac, surgical, and neonatal intensive care. Our business grew exponentially each year and we now employ a faculty of 13 teachers and have massive class waiting lists.
In 2016, we were invited by the International Physical Literacy Society to speak about our innovative learn to swim program at the 2017 International Physical Literacy Conference in Toronto which hosted over 300 delegates from around the world. During our presentation, the City of Toronto recognized our expertise as trailblazers in terms of having the first true learn to swim physical literacy program in the world. In the fall of 2018, the Women Business Owners of Manitoba hosted the 26th annual Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Awards. We were honoured to be one of 100 businesses that were nominated and so grateful to be one of the 20 finalists who won! Since winning this prestigious award, we were invited to be a panelist on the Women Business Owners of Manitoba Business Panel. We were also invited to speak at Winnipeg Synchro’s 70th anniversary event to share our journey, the club where we met.
We are passionate about providing Manitobans with the opportunity to learn the essential life skill of swimming in a fun, innovative, and efficient way. We are proud to provide employment for many students, young adults, and parents. Not many people get to work alongside a best friend every day, never mind start a business together and we both feel very lucky and privileged to have that!