Fitzone Builds Franchise

Sunday, April 01, 2007

FitZone for Women is setting a pace to catch up with more women in the Midwest, including those in the Kalamazoo area, where the fitness franchise got its start in 2003. Since the opening of the first FitZone women's-only gym on Drake Road in 2003, 52 additional franchise locations have been sold, and owners of the Kalamazoo-based health-club chain hopes to sell another 70 by the end of this year. Todd Sullivan, a partner in FitZone for Women Inc., said 29 of the 53 that have been sold are open and 24 are under development. Sullivan and business partners Gretchen and Hal Shannon, all from the Kalamazoo area, began franchising FitZone in 2006. ''It's a huge market, and it's growing every day, and right now all of the other franchises are either Curves for Women or a knockoff,'' Sullivan said of women-only workout facilities. About 80 percent of women in the United States don't belong to fitness centers or health clubs, said Mark Krebs, president of Chicago-based Brand-Name Franchising. He said his research indicates that is because they feel intimidated in co-ed workout settings. Ayisha Johnson, 29, of Kalamazoo, said she joined the Milham Road FitZone in September because she wanted to lose 20 pounds before her wedding, in July. Johnson refers to herself as a ''bride in training'' and said she only has about eight more pounds to lose before she reaches her goal. ''I was at a co-ed gym before, but I like FitZone because it caters to women, and this has classes where we all support and encourage each other to push a little harder,'' Johnson said. ''When you go into a co-ed gym, you can't sweat like you want to sweat.'' Krebs said he thinks co-ed gyms are becoming commodities, making it difficult for independent operators to compete. The businesses, he said, are trying to attract the same 20 percent of Americans who belong to gyms and work out regularly. ''From a marketing concept, the health-club industry is one of the hottest, because society is so focused on eating healthier and working out,'' Krebs said. ''What we see as a niche in the health-club industry is the women-only gyms.''

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1850 SE 17th Street Causeway
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