Joanne is an entrepreneur, mother and carer. She created the Swimscarf to inspire more people from the Black Asian community to worry less about wet hair and more about the many benefits of swimming, irrespective of length, locs, weaves or curls! Let's dive in!
All information and links were correct at the date of original publication on
26 Aug 2022
What was the inspiration behind Swimscarf?
The inspiration behind Swimscarf was my mum who passed away in 2014.
She wore headscarves around the home a lot, and after my diagnosis of high blood pressure (measuring at around 236/90 when normal BP is 120/80). Not wanting to go down the medicated route my GP recommended that I took up swimming.
Flashback! As a child, I avoided swimming because I didn't want to get my hair wet and go through the torturous routine of washing my natural thick hair and then having to hot-comb it.
What I found when I went back to the swimming pool was mainstream swim caps didn't work for me—they'd slip off and I'd end up with wet hair. I swam regularly and I soon learned that it kept my blood pressure under control. I did wear a swim cap but continued to get frustrated with wet hair and caps that wouldn't stay on properly.
So, in 2014, I decided to design my own cap.
I needed something that would be easy to tie so it could stay on during swims, but also something that would be both stylish and comfortable for long periods of time.
After many trials, Swimscarf was born!
Who are the products aimed at?
I have a product that is perfect for both adults and children with voluminous or natural hair.
It's specifically aimed at the Afro Caribbean community because I see that they particularly avoid swimming because they don't want to get their hair wet. The chlorine used in the swimming pool often causes hair shredding and breakage.
My product is sold internationally, to men, women and children from a diverse range of backgrounds and cultures.
If you don't like the position, size or placement of the photos, grab, move, rotate or resize them until you do!
What is the biggest misconception about the product?
The biggest misconception about our product is that it's some kind of head wrap.
We've had many people assume that our Swimscarf is just a piece of material that you wrap around your head and then tie in the back. However, this could not be further from the truth!
In fact, one of our early prototypes actually did involve wrapping rubber around my head—and it didn't work at all! I tried to keep my hair dry while swimming with it, but it was a massive fail.
How did you get the business off the ground?
I started off by doing some research at the British Library to understand more about business, and then I researched on materials that I needed to make my product happen.
In a small business, you learn that having several heads is a must—from design to social media to networking.
Making videos also requires a lot of skills, so it's important to have that creativity in your blood.
What was the best advice given to you?
The best advice I have ever received came from a mentor.
He told me that nobody has your vision. That you should keep pushing on until you get to where you need to be in life, because no one else can really understand what is driving you forward.
What was the tipping point for the business?
The tipping point for our Swimscarf company was when I realised that my product wasn't just a solution to a problem—it was a way of life.
Swimmers needed options. So, I wanted to be part of the movement.
Black women have a complex relationship with their hair, so I knew that if I could get people to see how much better their lives would be with this product, then they'd want it too.
Do you feel children should be using Swimscarf?
Absolutely, I believe that children should be using these caps and they are!
The number of children swimming in the UK is at an all-time low. According to the Sport England Active People Survey, only 2% of children aged 5-15 years regularly participate in swimming.
This can be attributed to a variety of factors, including lack of access to swimming pools, cost and lack of time on the curriculum.
The Swimscarf is an easy way for parents and carers to encourage their young children to swim regularly.
It encourages them to spend more time in the water and it shows them how much fun it can be!
I am confident that if my product encourages children to swim then it's a win-win situation for everyone: parents, schools and most importantly - children!
What did you feel about the ruling against swimming hats aimed at Black athletes at Tokyo Olympics (2021)?
I was disappointed to read that swimming caps for athletes with Afro-textured hair were banned for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.
The decision, made by the IOC, will affect swimmers of all ethnicities and is based on the belief that such swim caps decrease performance.
While I am glad the committee overturned their decision, I think they showed a lack of consideration when making this choice.
Do you believe there is a lack of diversity in competitive swimming?
I think the lack of diversity in competitive swimming is a problem that the sport needs to address in order to increase representation.
Swimming is an amazing sport, and it's one that can be enjoyed by anyone who's willing to put in the time and effort. I think some people just don't know about competitive swimming because they don't see enough people from diverse backgrounds participating in it.
I think we need to do more to get people excited about competitive swimming and show them how much fun it can be—especially children who may not be exposed to opportunities like this otherwise.
It's important for everyone to have the opportunity to try something new and challenge themselves, so I think we should make sure there are no barriers preventing them from doing so!
Can the governing bodies do more to encourage Black and Asian children to swim?
The governing bodies such as Swim England could provide more funding for programs that teach Black and Asian children to swim.
They need to work with grassroot and community projects to reach marginalised adults and young people which will help to boost participation.
“Recent research found 95% of black adults and 80% of black children in England do not swim. While 79% of Asian adults and 79% of Asian children do not swim, black children are three times more likely to drown than white children.”
They could also be more inclusive of Black Asian children in their advertising and outreach efforts.
Visual communication is vital and should be in the media outlets that these communities read, watch and listen to.
In addition, they could also hire more Black Asian instructors and keep them on staff for longer periods of time.
What next for the business?
Swimscarf will continue building and expanding our offerings to make sure we can meet the needs of our customers.
We will be working on growing our brand in the industry, which means more advertising and marketing efforts.