Aquabatix is a synchronized swimming team that takes their sport everywhere from live events to the big screen. They tagged us in a post on Insta a while ago, and when we made a synchronized-swimmer-printed suit this season… we knew we had to get together!
We talked with Aquabatix co-founder, Adele Carlsen, about the business she built alongside her lifelong friend and teammate, Katie Fried.
Why did you start Aquabatix?
The idea for Aquabatix came about in 2006 when my business partner, Katie Fried, and I realized that there was a gap in the market for synchronized swimming as an entertainment and art form.
We are both former competitive synchronized swimmers, who were often asked to perform at live events or model in water for photographic and film shoots, and we realised no one was doing this professionally, such as working with clients from the initial brief to delivery and marketing the idea.
At the time I was working as a synchronized swimming coach and choreographer and Katie had gone into event management, so combining our skills and experience was the perfect mix for Aquabatix.
We were inspired by the Hollywood Esther Williams musicals from the 1950s but wanted to fuse it together with the modern sport of synchronized swimming. We wanted to include the athletic power and acrobatic ability to create exciting performances for people who have never seen water entertainment live and up close before.
Aquabatix is renowned for its innovation. We don’t just perform the standard synchronized swimming routines, we are always wanting to create new and different forms of water entertainment, such as performing underwater in glass tanks and open water. We worked with a Turner prize nominee, Janice Kerbel, last year to create a contemporary water piece for the arts world.
Another reason we set up Aquabatix was that we both wanted to continue working with our passion that we have been involved in since we were eight years old. We have won national titles together, competed for our country together and now we are winning awards and working with major global brands across the world with our company together. We occasionally get to do really fun things too! We attend film premieres that Aquabatix has appeared in, or meet music bands and actors that Aquabatix has worked with or perform in front of. We have even performed in front of the British Royal family!
We also offer a pathway for those training in synchronized swimming, another route than just the competitive approach. They get to perform under less pressure, in exotic locations or use their highly trained skills underwater in a movie. Whilst we always work hard on our performances to reach our high expectation of delivery, we have lots of fun too. We have many former Olympic athletes perform for us.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to turn their passion into a business?
Be prepared for a lot of hard work, unsociable hours, and a huge learning curve! Both Katie and I love what we do but had no experience in setting up and running a business.
We found a brilliant business mentor called Louisa Moger, who was running a course for women in small businesses back in 2014 and she has thankfully worked with us ever since! Louisa made us really open our eyes to the business side and that this may be our passion, but what was the point unless it was making a profit.
I think it is also important to ask and take advice from experts in specific areas. No one can be an expert in everything, and running your own small company, you have to manage everything from basic admin to financial accounting, social media, marketing as well as management.
What I can say though is that it’s worth it. However tough it can get, if you can stick with it, it can be brilliant and far more rewarding than working for someone else!
Katie is a Mum as well, so even though it can be hard having to work on family vacations sometimes, it does allow her the flexibility to work around important family times as well.
What sets synchronized swimming apart from other sports?
We have to hold our breath whilst exercising and that’s really insane! Seriously though, I think the fact that it is so dominated by women, as athletes, coaches and on the administrative side that it is really self-empowering as a woman to be involved in this sport. Men do participate now in most competitions and it’s exciting to see that grow but with sport overall being so dominated by men, especially in coaching, the media and sport director positions, it’s a brilliant pathway to enable women not only to achieve their athletic ability, but also to encourage them into sporting leadership roles. It also encourages girls into fitness and to understand that having muscular fit bodies, that they can do incredible things with that many people can’t, is something to be proud of, appreciate, show them off in stunning swimwear and for others to aspire to. It gives the athletes the tools to work as a team and how differences in individuals working within the team is a good thing. Working so many hours as a team day in and day out, it helps everyone recognise when team mates are having a hard day and to pull together to support people in those moments.
It’s visually captivating, so in the Olympics it is always one of the first sports to sell out and people are just so intrigued to watch it and find out about it because it’s very different to just running from one end of the track to the other or throwing a ball around. In the past many people would put the sport down, normally male journalists, and focus in on the makeup or smiles, having never tried it the sport. Anyone who just tries to stay afloat in water knows how hard that is in itself. In the last ten years most now respect it as being one of the most physically demanding Olympic sports out there. These aren’t just women floating around looking pretty, which so many used to describe us as. Elite synchronized swimmers are some of the fittest athletes in the world.
And of course, it can be a sport or an art form which we have tried to capitalize on.
What makes each of you #AerieREAL?
We are real women who have become successful in our passion through hard work, innovation, ambition and work closely with other women who inspire us all over the globe as part of the Aquabatix family.