Krystal Guilhemotonia began her pool industry career the same way many get their start in a family business: She started working for her dad, Brian Goettlich, off the books when he was running Aqua Creek Products from their family’s dining room table. Aqua Creek, based in Missoula, Montana, manufactures lifts and other accessibility products for swimming pools and hot tubs. She didn’t stay off the books for long, though, and was the fourth hire, helping her dad with bookkeeping. Little did they know the company was about to explode.
Just as Guilhemotonia graduated from the University of Montana School of Business, the ADA laws for pool accessibility were enacted. “We went from being a small company serving backyard and therapy pool customers to designing and building pool lifts for commercial pools worldwide,” she says — a dramatic change that happened almost overnight. “We went from 16 to 65 people in mere weeks,” she says. “I started managing people two, or in some cases, three times, my age.”
Once the ADA boom began to settle, Guilhemotonia started preparing to take over the business, with her father handing over new responsibilities each year. In 2020, she became CEO just two months before COVID lockdowns began. “It was a real test right out the gate, operating a company through unprecedented times,” she says. “I am stronger for it and a better leader; it was a true challenge managing fears, expectations and product delays. Looking back, I am so proud of my team and the support they showed me.”
It’s not lost on Guilhemotonia the impact that swimming pools and, particularly, Aqua Creek’s accessibility products can make. She says she hopes to offer more types of accessible equipment, plus aquatic therapy and aquatic exercise equipment, in the future, as both her young nephew and her husband’s grandmother go to the pool weekly for aquatic therapy: “It’s the only place where their bodies can relax, where the aches and pain get relief. I would love to see our manufacturing capacity increase. Every piece of equipment we make has the potential to help our society be more inclusive.”