According to research from the British Franchise Association (bfa), the number of franchisee-owned businesses stood at 44,200 in 2015, with 97% of those businesses reporting profitability.

With franchise-owned businesses offering such good prospects, it’s no surprise that more and more entrepreneurs are taking on a franchise to achieve their goal of business ownership.

Nevertheless, if you’d told Yvonne Gorrod a year ago that she’d own and run a gym franchise within 12 months, she would not have believed you.

Today, however, Yvonne is the General Manager and proud owner of Fitness Space, Norwich. Having opened its doors on 14 August 2017, it’s still a new venture for Yvonne, who found her entrepreneurial streak after a long career in education.

Qualifying as a teacher in 1988, Yvonne taught modern languages for 28 years and, until last year, was Head of German at a large secondary school. The ever-increasing demands of teaching had, however, been chipping away at Yvonne’s enjoyment of and enthusiasm for the profession. The stress of the job had taken its toll on Yvonne’s physical and mental well-being, and over a long period she’d gained a significant amount of weight.

Yvonne comments: “Looking back, I realise that for a long time all my focus and energy had been not on my life or on me but on a job, the demands of which were growing and increasingly outside of my control.”

Deciding to tackle her health and her happiness, Yvonne embarked on a programme of exercise and weight-loss. As she reaped the rewards of her efforts and began to put herself first, Yvonne started to explore alternatives to teaching and decided that she would like to be her own boss.

Acknowledging that she had no prior experience or knowledge of running a business, Yvonne quickly concluded that investing in a franchise would be her best route to self-employment. After some initial research online, Yvonne and her husband, Andrew, visited The National Franchise Exhibition in October 2016, with the aim of finding out more about franchising and the brands being showcased.

Yvonne comments: “As I walked into the NEC that day, I honestly didn’t know what sort of business opportunity I was looking for. I went in with some capital in the bank, an open mind and my husband’s advice to think about things I was interested in. At the time, my main interest was exercise.”

After exploring the exhibition hall, Yvonne and Andrew got into conversation with the team at the Fitness Space stand. Fitness Space is a UK-based boutique fitness operator, offering members a results-driven, bespoke service that combines a dedicated coach and connectivity through a Fitness Space smartphone app.

Chris Wright, Managing Director of Fitness Space, remembers that conversation with Yvonne well. He comments: “What started out as a tentative chat quickly developed into a focussed discussion, as we learned about Yvonne’s story and what it was she wanted to achieve from a business. Her clear desire to help others and the determination and passion she’d demonstrated with her own journey to fitness established a clear affinity with our brand and vision.

“Yvonne’s case serves to illustrate how valuable those initial face-to-face conversations can be for establishing for both sides whether there is a human fit, and not just a business fit, for a franchise partnership.”

By December 2016, just two months after visiting The National Franchise Exhibition, Yvonne had resigned from her teaching position and in early 2017 she became a Fitness Space franchisee.

Yvonne’s initial training took place in February and March, as she learned about the Fitness Space business model and operations in more detail, and the search for suitable premises commenced.

Yvonne comments: “Finding a site for the studio proved to be one of the biggest challenges to opening my franchise. Fitness Space have resources dedicated to helping with this and, though in the end we took on premises which Andrew and I found, the team at Fitness Space were key in helping us negotiate the lease and of course in getting the space fitted out with equipment and branding.”

While the studio was being furbished, Yvonne worked closely with Fitness Space on the pre-sales part of the business strategy, attracting member sign-ups before the studio was completed, ensuring that there would be an income-stream as soon as the franchise opened. On the 14 August 2017, Fitness Space in Norwich opened its doors to those early-bird members.

Yvonne comments: “My family and friends are very proud of the fact that I have opened up and am operating my own business. For me, the journey as a business owner continues to evolve, and every day presents new challenges and learning opportunities.

“I truly value the support network offered by fellow Fitness Space franchisees who have been operating for a while and who can share their experience and expertise. This is another feature of franchising which just would not have been available had I have gone it alone in business. This, combined with Fitness Space’s continued support mean I look forward to growing my own successful business.”

Chris Wright of Fitness Space comments: “We view our franchisees as our partners. It’s our job to nurture them and empower them to run their own business. We look forward to what the future holds for Yvonne, the Norwich site and its members.”

If you are interested in following in Yvonne’s footsteps, visit The National Franchise Exhibition on 13 & 14 October where Fitness Space will be revealing their fresh new branding on stand G60. Taking place at the NEC, Birmingham, the event is the perfect opportunity to find out everything you need to know about the lucrative franchise industry. Book your free ticket online to save £15 on the door.

For more information on all aspects of the event and to book tickets please visit FranchiseInfo.co.uk

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