Ladies Workout Express:
Express Fitness Comes to Ireland

Ladies Workout Express is expanding across Ireland following the appointment of Chris Donaldson and Julie Watt as Master Franchisees. Rachel Spaul discovers what punches it pulls for franchisees.

THE first Ladies Workout Express centre in Lisburn demonstrates the levels of success franchisees can achieve as owners of a 30-minute ladies only franchise.

Within just four months the centre has attracted 220 members, which is just 30 away from break-even. Some of the UK-based franchisees have over 600 members after three years.

Centre owner Julie Watt says this business is win-win for franchisees: 'It's not an empty sell. You are selling a 'feel-good' factor that changes people's lives, which is very rewarding.' As an experienced personal trainer, she invested in the Master Franchise with Chris Donaldson to 'reach out to women' who wouldn't normally visit a gym.

Although an interest in fitness and the ability to motivate others are important skills, Julie assures that franchisees do not need to be personal trainers: 'The beauty of this business is that you don't need business or fitness experience. It's a very straight-forward business model and the machines are simple and effective.'

County Kildare franchisee Karen Kelly opened her ladies-only 30-minute workout centre in May, following a long and varied career that included network marketing. 'Franchising is great because you are your own boss, but have the support of an established company,' she reasons. 'I have three children and can see the appeal of an exercise programme that takes just 30 minutes. In addition, the equipment is very flexible and can be adjusted to suit individual fitness levels.'

Linda Barrett, Galway franchisee, agrees: 'A 30-minute workout is a big attraction. Many of my members have never been to a gym before, so the fact that the equipment is suited to all ages and fitness levels is excellent.'

Ladies Workout Express is part of Lady of America, the US health and fitness centres franchise group, so franchisees benefit from being part of a worldwide organisation with more than 20 years of experience and 1,000 franchisees. The US-based, five-day training course includes product knowledge, hands-on experience and manuals. Ongoing support includes pre-opening membership sales, site selection, lease negotiation, staff training, marketing materials and day-to-day guidance.

'Everything I've asked for, the company has provided,' Karen praises. 'We stay in regular contact via email and receive ideas for promotions. The support is perfect, anytime I need anything Chris is on hand.'

Linda adds: 'Another aspect of the training is that they send someone from the US a week before opening to re-train you in sales and to help with pre-sales. I found this really beneficial as the first week can be quite daunting and it's important to have someone there with the knowledge and experience to give you a helping hand.'

Early on, franchisees are hands-on managing the day-to-day running of the business. Chris furthers: 'As your business grows you can employ a club manager leaving you free to concentrate on developing the business. This is a ground floor opportunity to join a business on a growth curve.'