As Pig Beach in the Bahamas proves, the flat-snouted, thick-bodied mammals it's named after can, indeed, swim.

So perhaps it's not that much of a stretch that Stu Gelbord went from selling pork products to selling swimming lessons.

"It's a very natural progression," he said, not joking.

Then again, when you're 66 and investing $100,000-plus in retirement savings to bring a new business to the Philadelphia area, there's more worry than laughter.

"Instead of thinking about retirement, I used my retirement fund to kind of fund my future," said Gelbord, of Jamison, Bucks County.

His wife, Marisa Gillen, 59, took the franchise plunge with him. Gelbord is president and treasurer of their British Swim School of Greater Philadelphia; Gillen is vice president and secretary, along with her ad-sales job at the Bucks County Herald in Lahaska.

Philadelphia was an expansion territory long sought by the owner of Florida-based British Swim School, Rita Goldberg. A competitive swimmer whose Olympic aspirations were cut short by an injury, she started British Swim School in England in 1981, expanding to the United States in 1992, a year after she moved to Florida.

She thought she "would be more than happy" if she grew to 10 to 15 franchises, Goldberg said from corporate offices in Fort Lauderdale. By 2015, British Swim School had 44 franchises in 14 states, and $6.82 million in revenue. The closest one to Philadelphia is in Pittsburgh, opened since fall. A Cherry Hill franchise deal was just signed.

Though expanding to this region has been a top priority, "the problem with franchising is you . . . have to wait for the right person to come along," Goldberg said.

She was impressed by Gelbord's vast business experience, energy level, curiosity, and family support.

What hooked him on British Swim School was a buy-in cheaper than many franchises - $100,000 to $125,000 versus $250,000. That's largely because British Swim School doesn't build its own pools - although it is working on a prototype. Currently, it contracts with fitness centers, hotel chains, and rehabilitation centers to use theirs.

"The shared-space strategy has long been used by other very successful franchisers trying to avoid the real estate investment and reduce the cost of entry," said Lane Fisher, of Fisher Zucker L.L.C., a Philadelphia law firm specializing in franchising. "Since they became popular, many athletic coaches and trainers provide services in an existing gym, or public field, such as Platoon Fitness and Fit4Mom. In the education space, this concept is used by in-home tutoring franchises."

Franchises catering to children are expected to be hot in 2016, Fisher said.

Like so many recent franchisees, Gelbord became one after being downsized. That followed a long career in the food business, at Hatfield Quality Meats and as vice president of sales for a $100 million family-owned pork processor in Lancaster.

He learned of British Swim School in April through a business coach.

"I'm a swimmer," Gelbord said, estimating he logs 1 1/2 to 2 miles a week in the pool. "It caught my love."

So did British Swim School's primary emphasis on water safety and survival. Once children master that, they are taught stroke technique.

So did British Swim School's primary emphasis on water safety and survival. Once children master that, they are taught stroke technique.

With its emphasis on "survival of the littlest," the school will prepare students for future team participation and also teach adults, but puts its emphasis on individual children's lessons, with classes no bigger than eight swimmers.

Gelbord's original plan was to move to Florida and open a franchise there - until he and Gillen were off the plane about 20 minutes on a trip to meet company officials in May.

Gelbord's original plan was to move to Florida and open a franchise there - until he and Gillen were off the plane about 20 minutes on a trip to meet company officials in May.

"It's so hot in May," Gelbord said. "Marisa said, 'We're not moving to Florida.' So Plan B was the opportunity to do this in Philadelphia."

They bought the rights to two franchise territories covering portions of Lower and Central Bucks and Eastern Montgomery Counties, home to about 65,000 children under the age of 10.

Lessons are offered once a week for $99 a month. They started Dec. 1 at the pool at Homewood Suites by Hilton in Warrington. Others will be added in January at Bucks Physical Therapy in Richboro, Gelbord said.

His goal is to be operating eight to 10 pools, and he expects revenues to reach $1 million in two to three years.

215-854-2466@dmastrull