Black people have for many years dominated various sporting disciplines, with the exception of swimming. There’s a common joke among Black people in particular that ‘Blacks can’t swim’. Paulana Lamonier set out to change that narrative by founding a company called Black People Will Swim. And it all began with a single Tweet about her inspiration to do so.
She subsequently posted on Twitter that she wants to teach 30 people how to swim. The response was overwhelming, she noted. She got over 100 responses from black folks who expressed interest, leading to the start of her small business. Lamonier founded her business from her savings amounting to $5,000.
In addition, she also raised about $136,000 from different grants, including a $10,000 grant from Adidas and a $25,000 grant from American Express. In addition, she was able to raise nearly $8,500 in a crowdfunding campaign in 2020 and 2021.
Lamonier started her coaching class with 60 black people in 2021, surpassing her original goal of 30. The following year, she admitted a hundred students to her class.
According to her, the business brought in $16,000 and $19,000 in 2020 and 2021 respectively. Despite the profitability of her business, the Haitian-American says her running a swimming pool business is tedious. It costs her $720 per week to rent the pool, in addition to paying each of her four instructors $18 an hour and $25 an hour for her aquatics director. As founder she earns just about a $1,000 per month.
Lamonier focuses on black swimmers because she wants to smash an age-old stereotype that Black people can’t, or simply don’t swim although her swimming lessons are open to everyone. The seeming lack of black interest stems from the lack of access to swimming facilities during segregation in the US coupled with racist policies.
“We had a student who said she couldn’t swim because her bones are too dense. And I realized, ‘OK, if she’s taking that as her truth, how many other people actually believe that they can’t?’” Lamonier says. From there, she realized the company’s mission: “Smashing the stereotype that Black people don’t swim.”
Swimming has always been part of Lamonier. She started learning how to swim when she was 12 years old. She didn’t take it seriously until she got to CUNY York College in Queens, New York, where she had to relearn how to swim. Eventually, she became the captain of her college swim team.
According to Lamonier, her goal is to build the first black-owned swimming facility on Long Island and make them available to all.
“I want Black People Will Swim to be one of the first Black-owned swimming facilities on Long Island,” she says. “And not only for Black people but for Black and brown people to see for themselves that it’s possible.”