Forty years in the wa­ter

Ellen Howard on div­ing into the deep end while still in high school

Village Post - - Currents - By Darcy Stre­it­en­feld

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

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