Great Figures in Business

Entrepreneurial and astute businessman and Master Franchisor of Ladies Workout Express, Chris Donaldson is one of a handful of entrepreneurial businessmen in Northern Ireland that holds a Master Franchisor title and is taking the fitness industry in Ireland by storm.

Chris swapped the boardroom of a retail furniture company to set up his empire in ladies only gyms; he has literally invested his money into achieving the figures of his dreams! He is rapidly expanding his Ladies Workout Express business across Ireland and the UK and in the short time of 12 months he has established a founding gym in Lisburn, Co Antrim, which reached break even in six months and to date he has opened 15 franchises.

The company is set to open new fitness centres this year in Ballyclare, KillCullen, and Lemington Spa, making Ladies Workout Express one of the fastest growing gym operators in Ireland.

'We have recently opened a Ladies Workout Express gym in Bangor, which had 400 appointments in its first week and has reached break even turnover in three months and with a further three in Dublin and one in Preston that has just opened,' Chris comments.

'The franchise system is fine-tuned with 20 years of experience behind it and over 1,000 outlets globally. Franchisees who are most successful replicate the proven system with dedication and commitment. Our Ladies Workout Express gyms in the UK and Ireland are a demonstration of successful growth and development.'

A recent Mintel report states that the health and fitness industry in Ireland grew by 135% between 1997 and 2003 and is predicted to grow by another 35% by 2007.

According to Chris the key drivers in the fitness industry are the increase in disposable income and the realisation that exercise is a smart lifestyle choice. Yet the industry has yet to reach its full potential.

The great idea about this blueprint business plan is that it's a new concept for women. Traditional gyms don't offer a comfortable environment or support that women require. The ethos of the Ladies Workout Express is based on the highly endorsed method of circuit training with a 24-station circuit of hydraulic equipment and aerobic stations that is completed over a 30-minute time frame.

Due to this unique and much sought after concept, Ladies Workout Express has a 75% membership renewal rate so as long as the business is managed properly the business will boom.

Chris explains: 'Most individuals who are purchasing a franchise are trying to escape the rat race and are setting up their own business as a second career.' Having an invaluable background in business for 25 years, Chris left Donaldson & Lyttle to investigate the options of being a franchise holder and ended up buying the Master Franchise rights when he discovered the massive potential.

For an investment of €17,500 franchisees receive a five-day training course in Florida covering all aspects of the business model, followed by a further week with the UK team in their own gym becoming competent with the operational method. There is ongoing support with a free refresher course in Florida, newsletter, regional training and an annual conference.

Those individuals that have more capital, for around €58,000 you can buy a turnkey package, which includes the complete fit out of your gym from the carpets, computers to the gym equipment. Chris explains: 'This is a very satisfying and financially rewarding business that helps promote the entrepreneurial spirit in Ireland.'