Texas, the hotbed of pool/spa service consolidation, has gained another competitor. Austin-based Poolie recently received private-equity backing to help it expand through the state.
“Our goal is to be the biggest service company in Texas,” said Leslie Elliott, the company’s CEO. “It’ll take some time to get there.”
This is the second company to make such an announcement this fall. Dallas-based Gold Medal Pools recently brought on a second private equity backer and now seeks to expand outside the Lone Star State. (To learn more, see "PSN Asks Josh Sandler About Taking His Swimming Pool Company National".)
Poolie was founded in 2021 by Elliot, who had decided to start a small business after running revenue and operations teams for a skilled trades platform in Austin. She decided to enter the industry after purchasing a pool of her own. “We were one of many people who put a pool in in 2021 with Covid and were kind of astonished how hard it was to find good service,” she said. “We had a brand-new pool that was having consistent issues. [It seemed like] a space where I felt like there could be better service delivery and better customer service.”
She began by acquiring a small Austin-area service firm that managed approximately 150 pools with three technicians. It has since grown to a 1,200-plus-customer company.
In her first 18 months, Elliott said, she worked in every position except repair tech. “I really got my hands dirty and feel like I got a good understanding of the different levers and opportunities in the business,” she said.
Where Poolie had focused on Austin, it plans to venture into other parts of Texas with its private-equity backing. It plans to do this organically as well as through acquisition, Elliott said. Most immediately, it is exploring the San Antonio and Waco areas. There, the company is building a management team and plans to grow organically. Shortly after, it expects to enter the Dallas and Houston markets through acquisition.
“Many of us agree that Texas is a good place to do business,” said Jim Sharpe, Head of Partner and Propel Strategy for Poolie’s private-equity investor, Unity Partners.
Poolie currently employs approximately 40. As it acquires others, employee incentive plans will give staffers a stake in the company.
“As the equity value of the business grows, all of them have a stake in that growth,” Sharpe said.
Sharpe said Unity Partners chose to invest in the pool/spa industry because it seeks opportunities in fragmented service industries. “We look across industries where people are the main asset of the business and where there’s a high level of fragmentation, and where bringing businesses together can bring better [results],” he said.
He believes there’s plenty of room for more players in the market. “There are certainly many [consolidators] in the service industry,” Sharp said. “But we believe the pool service space is pretty early on in terms of growth and maturity.”