When Lisa Armitage and her family left Michigan, they did so with the goal of finding another Midwest city that would be good for raising a family as well as opening a franchise swim school like the one they enjoyed in their Detroit suburb.

So Armitage, her husband Steve, and their children Katherine, 12, Charlie, 9, and Benjamin, 7, landed in Dublin in the summer of 2013.

Less than a year later, the couple opened Goldfish Swim School in March 2014 at 6175 Shamrock Court in Dublin.

Two more franchise locations would follow: 765 Brooksedge Boulevard in Westerville in 2016, and 7838 Green Meadows Drive North in Lewis Center in 2018.

Now, Armitage's entrepre-neurial efforts are being recognized by the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, which named her the 2019 Business Person of the Year.

For Armitage, the distinction was the culmination of multiple things coming together as the Dublin Goldfish Swim School celebrates its five-year anniversary.

"It was a complete surprise," she said. "I was very excited."

The chamber selected Armitage from among 16 nominations, said Jenny Amorose, chamber chief operating officer. Armitage was chosen because of her community dedication and her passion for water safety education, Amorose said.

Armitage's path to the franchise business began when her three children attended Goldfish Swim School outside Detroit.

She said her husband, Steve, swam in high school and comes from a family of swimmers.

"We really had the love of water in our family," Armitage said.

The couple decided they wanted their kids to learn how to be safe in the water, and they got to know the owners of the Goldfish school in Michigan.

Eventually, Armitage said, she told her husband they should open their own location. He was traveling for work, while she was staying at home with the kids, and they wanted to make a change, she said.

Cities in Michigan already had Goldfish franchises, so the couple looked outward for another place to call home and open their own swim school.

One of the things Armitage said she likes most about Goldfish Swim Schools is the focus on safety.

"That's No. 1," she said.

Armitage also offers free water safety presentations to community groups.

The flexibility for families also is a plus, she said. Class sign-ups can be done mid-month, as can class cancellations. Make-up days also can be scheduled if families can't make certain days.

Class sizes are small -- no more than four participants -- allowing for ample individual attention, Armitage said. They have a duration of no more than 30 minutes, so kids don't lose focus.

The water is kept at 90 degrees so kids are comfortable, and the pool is 4-feet deep so kids won't become intimidated. A bench is built into the perimeter of the pool so kids can sit in the water instead of outside the pool.

Instructors also are trained through the school's corporate office and go through paid training, ongoing workshops and clinics, Armitage said, which ensures the curriculum is the same across instructors.

Kids can begin swimming in classes with their parents at about 4 months old through 3 years old, at which point they can participate in group classes. These classes don't have an age limit, but the maximum student age tends to be about 12 or 13 years old, Armitage said.

Goldfish Swim School's small class size allows individualized attention and learning plans for the kids, said Ally Woerndle, a Dublin resident who enrolled her 3-year-old daughter, Charlotte, in the school's swim classes.

Her daughter initially had been learning how to swim at the Dublin Community Recreation Center, Woerndle said, but moved to the Goldfish swim school for more one-on-one attention.

Upper Arlington resident Tiara Palm said she enrolled her 9-year-old daughter, Lindsay, in the Goldfish school about two years ago when she realized she couldn't accompany her older friends into the deeper part of a neighbor's pool.

Lindsay made a lot of progress quickly, Palm said, and now she doesn't worry about her swimming in the deep end of that neighbor's pool.

"She's just confident in the water now, which I love," she said.

ssole@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSarah