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An attractive business

Fitness franchises

There are plenty of opportunities to make a healthy living from the fitness industry or yield a handsome sum from beauty – it’s all in following the franchise model. Report by Annie Blinkhorn

Wanting to feel and look good is nothing new, but it’s also a preoccupation that is on the rise and has lead to a boom in the sales of services and products devoted to wellbeing. Today, the UK health and fitness industry is worth an estimated £3.9billion, with an increase of 1.5 per cent in value since early 2012, proving that this sector is still expanding despite the economic slowdown. That’s before you consider the beauty industry – it is worth a staggering £15billion in this country alone.

As with any business type, there’s a thriving franchise to match. With health and fitness in particular, satisfied customers have seen the results and wish to invest as a consequence. Fiona Egan, founder of innovative fitness franchise sásta, can relate to this: “My weight has been a lifelong challenge for me ... I felt that there had to be another way, so I sold my accountancy practice and started to research.”

Her research led to the development of sásta (from the Irish word for satisfaction) and its fitness pod – around which the franchise model is built. Says Fiona: “sásta makes it easy for the client and provides the motivation to ensure success. The product has developed from feedback from our clients. It is so exciting to see people getting results. People just feel happier in themselves because they are achieving what they thought they never would.”

Gym franchises also offer a steady income in the form of regular membership fees, plus many of the new-style fitness centres are relatively low maintenance, having low staffing costs and secure, 24-hour access for members – conditions that suit both client and business owner.

Sharon Bassett, founder of A-Star Sports, is an advocate for this sector: “The health and fitness industry is a very rewarding environment to be in both personally and professionally, especially when working with children. Increased physical activity not only improves overall fitness, but is essential for all round well-being and the development of key life skills, which is why such businesses can still thrive in challenging economic times.”

The beauty industry, too, shows no sign of slowing down, with men and women both taking advantage of regular treatments. Despite the squeeze on household budgets, many people continue such treatments as they are considered affordable luxuries – necessities, even – making this a secure and profitable sector.

Here, four franchisees share their success stories...

A-Star Sports

Kyle Taylor, 24, is about to start running A-Star Sports in Northwich, Knutsford and Runcorn. Kyle has worked in the sports industry as a children’s sports coach for four years and delivered coaching under the A-Star Sports brand since its launch in 2011.

What appealed to you about working in the fitness sector?

Sport was my favourite subject throughout school. I performed well – particularly in team sports – and it had such a positive impact on my health, wellbeing and confidence that I continued my involvement by coaching local football leagues. It was only when I reached my 20s and found myself working in what was, for me, an uninspiring role in retail that I began to seriously look at turning my hobby into a career.

Why did you choose A-Star Sports?

A friend of the family introduced me to the co-founders of A-Star Sports, Gary and Sharon Bassett, as her children attended weekly classes with them in the local Chester area. Around the same time, my niece attended a party run by Gary and absolutely loved it! I then had the opportunity to take part in some structured multi-sports classes, saw how rewarding it is to work with children and was offered a coaching post.

What inspired you to become a franchisee?

Having gained a few years of experience coaching children with A-Star Sports, becoming a franchisee is the most logical step. I’ve seen first-hand how successful A-Star Sports franchises can be, and the positive progression towards being a business owner and a creator of jobs locally is a challenge that really inspires me.

How has business been in the current economic climate?

Despite the current economic climate, business is good. The Chester team, which I’m currently part of, has over 60 weekly classes, 12 weeks of holiday clubs and more than 250 parties every year. Families have expressed a high level of interest in my new area and are supporting me in sourcing a growing number of venues – I’ve already delivered dozens of parties there. I really believe that parents will always invest in high-quality activities for their children.

What are your goals for the future?

To grow the business well in order to create more rewarding jobs like mine and to raise awareness of a wider variety of physical activities and sports to engage children and families. It’s incredibly worrying that the latest statistics reveal one in three children leaving primary school are overweight or obese. Making sport fun and offering creative ways to keep active is a positive step towards addressing issues like this.

What advice would you give to anyone considering a franchise in this sector?

Try to get as much experience as you can working within fitness and coaching, even in a voluntary capacity. This will ensure that you can make positive, informed decisions towards a career that you can be really passionate about.


Louise Marie Jordan previously worked for a major organization within the beauty industry, which she left after nine years. Louise then ran her own business as a sole trader for 13 years before becoming Guinot franchisee for Darlington.

What attracted you to franchising?

I have been a beauty therapist for 23 years and decided that it would be great to have the support of a major company behind the salon.

Why did you choose to invest in a Guinot franchise in particular?

I’ve worked with Guinot, as well as others, and so I knew that they offer the best treatments and products on the market today, delivering optimum results.

How have you found running your franchise so far?

It’s been a really good experience. Guinot have brought expert business advice to the table and the business is growing. Knowing you have the support of a really good team of professionals behind you makes all the difference. Describe what it is like to work as a Guinot franchisee. I really look forward to coming to work. The day is very full on; as a working beauty therapist, there is the client contact as well as running the salon. The salon is very busy with lots of people coming and going, which provides a great atmosphere to work in. Before you know it the day has gone! It has been a whirlwind year for me and I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

What are your plans for the future?

I want to build and grow the salon to its maximum capacity and, who knows, maybe a second salon!

Would you recommend franchising in the beauty industry to others?

Definitely! The support of a franchisor is amazing, in terms of both the professional look of the salon and the team behind you. I believe this is the future of the industry and a way to raise standards in the profession. Clients absolutely love the salon and its atmosphere.

Anytime Fitness

After he graduated from university, Tom Norbury worked in sales and marketing but always wanted to run his own business. He considered a couple of start-up concepts, but had doubts about achieving success by setting up in business alone. Tom began to research franchising and eventually decided to purchase an Anytime Fitness franchise in Basingstoke.

Why did you decide to go into franchising with Anytime Fitness?

I researched all the main franchise operators and then came across Anytime Fitness which, straight from the beginning, sounded attractive. I knew the fitness industry was very much a growth sector and that there had been an influx of budget-style operators opening with considerable success. Anytime Fitness fitted exactly where I wanted to be in the market – convenient, affordable and with the unique selling point of 24/7 fitness. I felt that its presence in the market was needed and would be well received.

How was it in the beginning?

The support we received from the Anytime Fitness head office was superb, so it felt very much as though a lot of the stresses that an independent gym operator would feel during a launch were minimised and that we were part of a large, structured operation with lots of industry experience. The franchise corporate training was really thorough and intensive, which benefitted me tremendously.

Describe a typical day.

I decided to be hands-on and run the business as a club manager on a day-to-day basis as well, because I wanted to know the business first-hand and understand what my customers are like and what makes them tick. If you wanted a less hands-on approach, the technology utilised in Anytime Fitness clubs is such that owners can run their franchises from anywhere in the world. Franchisees have a digital bird’s-eye view on every aspect of their business and can look on the club CCTV to make sure their sales teams are doing what they should be. My typical day involves having a meeting with my sales team and then getting out promoting the business, speaking to our members – who are ultimately our biggest sales-people – booking club tours, maintaining a high standard of cleanliness and signing people up to memberships.

Has business been affected by the economic climate?

I believe that more and more people in the UK are aware of the huge importance of leading a healthy lifestyle. Anytime Fitness stands in the middle of the market for price but, crucially, is centred on convenience – being member-centric and taking the things out of health clubs that aren’t needed to stay fit, such as saunas or steam rooms. In a tough economic climate people want an affordable service, but still want to have a rewarding experience and to be valued as a customer. This is exactly what Anytime Fitness offers.

What advice would you have for others considering investing in a franchise?

Research the sector well, speak to existing franchisees to understand their experiences, review the franchise contract with a solicitor and your family and, once you have exhausted every aspect of the business plan, go for it!


Ireland’s sásta franchise offers a fast and sustainable way of losing weight, toning and keeping fit. The sásta fitness pod is an Irish-designed and manufactured treadmill-based exercise machine which utilises vacuum technology and is solely available via sásta studios. sásta Athlone franchise owner, Noel McTiernan, saw the potential in this successful fitness franchise when his wife Tara lost 12lbs in around a dozen 45-minute sessions.

What attracted you to franchising?

I wanted to get out of the job I was in and was thinking about starting something up on my own. When my wife got such great results with sásta, it was a no-brainer.

Why did you choose sásta fitness?

I really do believe that sásta is going to be massive, that’s why I invested in it. People are seeing the results not in months, but in weeks. I am really into my sport and saw an improvement in my fitness performance. I’m marketing the business to fit people who want to get fitter as well as people looking to lose weight. Clients complete the body sculpting toning programme with their 30 minutes on the sásta fitness pod, achieving results equivalent to four times regular exercise. It’s a hard work-out and people do need to stick to the programme to see results.

How has business been so far?

It is going very well at the moment. It’s just about getting the word out about what we do here in order to get people through the door. I think the price of the whole programme is very reasonable at the moment – for such an effective programme, it is incredibly good value for money right now.

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