Forty years in the water
Ellen Howard on diving into the deep end while still in high school
We’re a family, and we bring that family flavour to everything we do.”
This year, Forest Hill resident Ellen Howard and her husband Rick celebrate 40 years in business. Together the pair coowns and co-directs three separate businesses — Zodiac Swim School, Zodiac Day Camp and Camp Tamarack.
Before becoming the impressive entrepreneur she is today, Howard attended Forest Hill Collegiate. Unsurprisingly, she was the type who squeezed a lot of experience into her high school years.
“I was on the swim team, and I was a prefect,” she says. “I also had jobs, so school wasn’t the be all end all, but I liked school, I was involved in a lot of things,” she says.
Howard started taking swimming lessons at the age of four and always loved to swim. In high school she joined the swim team and the world of competitive swimming.
“I wasn’t a fast swimmer, but I was a beautiful swimmer. I just wanted to be doing something that I loved,” she explains.
Although she loved to compete, Howard found she also loved the administrative side of swimming and ended up managing the boys’ team in high school and the varsity girls’ swim team at the University of Toronto in her first year there.
While still in Grade 12 at Forest Hill Collegiate, Howard started the Zodiac Swim School in her spare time.
“I had taught swimming working for someone else and thought I could do it better,” she says.
So with 30 minutes of pool time here and there, 10 students and a neighbourhood plastered with flyers, the Zodiac Swim School was born.
The Zodiac Swim School and Day Camp grew organically over the years, and eventually the Howards were able to leave their respective careers to attend to the business full-time.
Roughly 11 years ago, Howard and her husband continued their growth and purchased Camp Tamarack, a summer campsite in Muskoka, just outside of Bracebridge, Ont.
“We wanted to have something we owned,” says Howard. “We felt that investing in a space was the best way to have something which could grow in value.”
Camp Tamarack’s 1,100 acres has been home to many memories for the both the children who attend every summer and for the Howard family themselves.
“Our daughter met her husband as staff her very first summer working at Tamarack, and last year we had their wedding at the camp,” says the proud mom.
“We love what we do, and we feel we make a great impact,” says Howard. “It’s really about helping provide an amazing experience that allows kids and staff to grow and learn life skills. We’re a family, and we bring that family flavour to everything we do.”
Howard started swimming competitively in high school