What do Pleatco, Riptide and Facebook have in common?

The strange connections that got one pool gal a free vac

When Andrea Nannini of Port St. Lucie, Florida, won the 2018 Pleatco Perfect Pool Gal, it gave her the confidence to go out on her own. Nannini had started Hibiscus Pool & Spa in May 2018 while working for another pool company, but in December 2018 she took the leap into running it full time. In a perfect world, she would have built up her accounts a little more before leaving her previous job. “All I had to my name was a system vac hose I got from my mother [who also owns a pool service company],” she says, “and a vac head I had bought myself.”

In addition to being the Perfect Pool Gal, Nannini was active in industry Facebook groups, even moderating a few. When she posted a pic of a pool she was trying to clear up, a colleague took notice of her set up.

Carlos Hernandez, owner of Carlito’s Way Pool Service in Miami, saw Nannini’s contributions to industry Facebook groups, specifically the Swimming Pool Industry Workers & Pool Pros Only group. California pool man Jason Broswell started the group in May 2018, and it has more than 3,300 members today.

“The group has been a godsend for me,” Hernandez says. “It was a wealth of information — I was able to ask a lot of questions that they were there to help me with.”

Nannini and Hernandez bonded over being from south Florida, and she helped him with chemistry questions. He trusts her opinion, so when he saw she was vacuuming manually instead of using a portable vac, he figured she just preferred it. But that wasn’t it: “She took the big step going on her own and she was just going through the transition,” Hernandez says. “Financially at that moment, she couldn’t afford a vacuum.”

Nannini was going about her route and didn’t think much of the brief questions Hernandez asked her about her portable vacuum preferences. So she was shocked when she checked Facebook later that day, February 20, 2019, and saw that Hernandez had set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for Nannini to have her own Riptide.

“I flipped out and was going crazy,” she says. “I thought, I’ll probably get $50 by tomorrow; in a month, maybe I’ll have a couple hundred.”

But in less than 24 hours, the $1,800 for the Riptide had been fully funded.

“I’m getting chills — I’ve got goose bumps thinking about it,” Nannini says. “I think there were 10 to 15 people [who donated]. It wasn’t even that many people.”

Jeff Hampe owner of Hampe Pools in Largo, Florida, donated the final $300 to reach the goal. At the Everything Under the Sun pool expo in Orlando a few days later, Hampe had dinner with Dave Sargent from Riptide and persuaded him to let Nannini, who was also attending the show, take the vacuum they had in their booth home with her.  

Portable vacuums are the norm in Florida — so much so that a new customer questioned Nannini’s ability to care for her new surface without one. “When I started pulling up to her house with the Riptide, I felt so much more professional,” she says. “I was able to do my job a lot better. It cuts down the time needed for rolling up the hose, messing with valves, getting stuck on the drains, the debris you have to deal with; it’s really been a life saver.”

Fittingly, she named her Riptide ‘Carlos.’

“I’m happy it turned out the way it did,” Hernandez says. “It was a beautiful turnout. She deserves it.”

Hernandez says friends and family outside the industry were astonished that he would help a competitor. “In Miami, everybody here is like survival of the fittest — dog eat dog,” he says. “So when people see people help each other out it’s almost a weird moment for us. But there’s so much food and so much opportunity out here, everybody can eat if they do what they need to do right.”

Nannini is still getting goose bumps when she thinks about it.

“I never got to thank everybody on the GoFundMe page,” she says. “I wanted to give a personal thank you to everybody. I owe [Hernandez] a lot of gratitude.”

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