“As a child, I always imagined myself wearing a power suit and going to an office and doing ‘business things,’ but I had no idea what that entailed,” recalls Rishona Hyman, Founder of Aqua Essence.

Though she boasts a Master’s degree in social work, Rishona has worn a different kind of business suit for her job since 1995—a swim suit.

“To this day, I’ve never even taken a business class,” she laughs.

On a mission to instill confidence in the water for people of all ages, Rishona founded Aqua Essence—Manitoba’s leading swim school.

She’s always been drawn to the water—synchronized swimming, water polo, and lifeguarding are all a part of her repertoire. As a university student, Rishona worked for a local company as a swim instructor. It was her father who realized they hadn’t been taking off taxes and that Rishona would have to shell out an unexpected lump sum from a student-sized wallet. He encouraged her to continue to teach swimming, but do it on her own.

So, she did.

Figuring it out as she went, Rishona started her own swim class gig that fall with 35 students. By the following spring, her class size doubled and she hired her first employee.

Once she completed her Master’s degree, friends and family assumed she would be done with swimming.

“That was never a part of the plan,” says Rishona. “It’s a job I love to do. I love swimming, I love teaching, and I love kids.”

Fast forward 21 years later, Rishona is opening Aqua Essence’s very own swimming facility next month (November, 2022)—8,000 square feet dedicated to teaching swimming and water safety. The facility will be home to one of only three stainless-steel pools in Canada, coming all the way from the Czech Republic.

Though joyous about this momentous occasion, reaching these heights wasn’t an easy road for Rishona.

“I am feeling all the emotions in the book. It’s been an uphill battle and took a lot of people to make this happen,” Rishona says.

left photo: RIshona Hyman selfie wearing a hard hat. Right photo: Rishona selfie with her husband


Quote: "I considered just throwing it all in and accepting this was the end of Aqua Essence"

The new facility has been a dream of Rishona’s for years, and she started putting immense effort toward bringing it to life in 2019.

Shortly thereafter, the pandemic hit.

Aqua Essence was entirely dependent on government rules, causing them to have to ‘sit out’ more than most industries—classes needed to take place in a pool (mostly with children, a population that were unable to be vaccinated for longer than most), they couldn’t switch over to Zoom like many businesses could.

“It was a really hard time. I didn’t know what to do, how I was going to come out of it, or when it would end. I didn’t have an income. I considered just throwing it all in and accepting this was the end of Aqua Essence,” recalls Rishona.


Rishona had tried out a few business groups in the past, but couldn’t find the right fit. It wasn’t until 2018, when one of her employee’s mother, Adriana De Luca of Tiber River Naturals (also a TEC member), recommended that she join TEC.

“The business groups I attended in the past always felt like boys’ clubs,” recalls Rishona. “With TEC, I have never once felt out of place and the 1-1 time with my Chair, Joanne Sigurdson, is unlike any coaching program I have experienced—it really holds you accountable.”

As Rishona was navigating these trying times during the pandemic, many of her TEC group members were experiencing moments of significant growth. However, this didn’t stop them from lifting Rishona up in any way they could.

Though surprising, Rishona found life-changing business support through her TEC group in the strangest of places:

  1. A fellow group member worked in public relations and managed to book Rishona in for numerous media appearances to talk about the pandemic experience on business, giving her and Aqua Essence added exposure through the trying times.
  2. Another fellow group member was an accountant, who would send Rishona and the group frequent emails about the latest government subsidies, grants, and eligibility, keeping Rishona’s finances afloat as she weathered the storm.
  3. Another fellow group member who was in the window industry had connections to some hotels in the area. Because private swimming lessons were still not allowed in city pools, Rishona was able to host her classes at the hotel pools.
  4. Rishona’s Chair, Joanne Sigurdson, had recruited a new accounting firm for her group during the pandemic. At the time, Rishona also needed a new accountant, so she switched to this new firm. Not long after, they found an extra $20,000 available for Aqua Essence that had prior been overlooked.

“The help came from the most unexpected places,” says Rishona. “I never would have thought someone who sold windows could help my business in such a big way.”

With the help of her TEC group and her natural business-savviness, Rishona was able to make it through the worst of the pandemic and is finally living her dream of opening Aqua Essence’s very own facility.

“TEC is not only about what you’re getting, but just as much as it is about what you’re giving.”

Rishona with family


The one regret Rishona has about TEC? That she didn’t join earlier in her career.

“The first decade of being an entrepreneur was very lonely, especially in such a small and unique industry. My friend Amanda Buhse of Coal and Canary joined TEC at a much younger age, and I wish I had done the same so not to miss out on so much opportunity early in my career,” she admits.

In terms of her leadership style, TEC has taught her to be more vulnerable.

“For a long time, I was really afraid to tell anyone about my plans for Aqua Essence,” confesses Rishona. “From TEC, I learned to communicate better with my leadership team and share my ideas and dreams, even if I feel protective about them.”

Now, whenever Rishona is asked about what advice she would give young entrepreneurs, she always shares these two pieces of wisdom:

  1. Take out a loan.
  2. Join a business coaching group.

“To me, the ROI of TEC is…. Surprising. You never know what someone has to offer you or the connections you might make.”

People engaged in the passionate pursuit of business excellence and leadership often wrestle with questions surrounding meaning, value, and potential. To determine their best course of action, leaders like Rishona are attracted to TEC to learn more about themselves and the world around them.

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