When the ROI isn’t about dollars earned, but lives saved

Last year Opus Magnum featured posts by Larissa Rodriguez, a healthcare marketing executive in her final year of the Evening MBA program. Between working full-time and completing her remaining course requirements, Larissa spent her last months as a student tackling another goal in her life: learning how to swim.

Now a devoted swimmer and an Evening MBA alumna, Larissa is using the skills she learned at St. Thomas as founder of Swimmunity, an online community and resource for other adults wanting to learn how to swim.

“A year ago, at the age of 40, I finally made the decision to learn how to swim,” she said. “It was really hard to find the information I needed because most learn-to-swim programs focus their marketing almost exclusively on the child segment of the market. This lack of information or support for the adult learner poses a real barrier during the decision-making process.”

Recognizing an opportunity to make a difference by creating a website geared at the adult swim student, Larissa spent part of this summer coming up with the concept and design for her business plan.

“I used information I learned in every class I took at St. Thomas,” she said. “From identifying the problem and doing some market research, to going through the legal process of setting up an LLC, my education definitely made the process easier. It also helped me figure out cost-effective ways to promote the site.”

The outcome is Swimmunity™, an interactive web-based community that features information useful to an adult beginner, such as how to find a swim lesson provider. The site stresses the importance of water safety, because even strong swimmers can get into trouble and drown. Each day in the U.S., an average of 10 unintentional drownings occur, and 70 percent of those drownings are adults. According to the CDC, between 35 and 50 percent of all U.S. adults do not know how to swim and that percentage exceeds 60 percent for some minority populations.

“While I had been kicking the idea around for this website for a little while, it wasn't until I came across an article about six drownings and two near-drownings on Minnesota lakes over one weekend that made me realize this was too important not to do,” Larissa said. “The ROI of Swimmunity™ isn’t money. It’s about saving lives.”