The pool and spa industry isn't always considered a crucible of business thought, but perhaps it ought to be. Many fine entrepreneurs have sprung from the ranks of pool and spa companies, and they have much to teach the coming generations about making it in a free enterprise system.
To that end, Stewart Vernon, founder and CEO of America's Swimming Pool Company, has offered his experience building a successful service chain to students at the Stetson School of Business and Economics at Mercer University. This fall term, Vernon taught a class on entrepreneurship to some of the best and brightest future business leaders in the Middle Georgia area.
Vernon is no stranger to the classroom. For the past 10 years, he has been a part of a lecture series at his alma mater, College of Charleston. "I graduated from College of Charleston in 2002 and alongside my diploma is the notes from the entrepreneurship class I took. The class had a lot of impact on me," Vernon says. "This is a perfect time for students to be able to hear from local business owners. This class offers students the ability to experience a world they wouldn't normally be able to observe."
The course examines the "real world" aspects of business. Each week, Vernon brought in different businesses and entrepreneurs to discuss their journey and business story. Students are also able to work directly with a local business to understand what it takes to run a successful operation.
In his own story, Vernon discusses his entrepreneurial journey from selling baseball cards as a young boy to owning a car washing business by age 15, to starting a swimming pool company at 22.
"When I started my business as a senior in college," he says, "the most powerful tool I had was motivation and an entrepreneurial spirit."
Over the past 15 years, Vernon has built that small swimming pool company into a franchise operation that spans 22 states and more than 200 cities nationwide. His plan is to triple in size over the next four years.