Small Business and Franchise Success Stories

When doctors told Chuck Tripp to “hang up his running shoes” after a serious fall from a roof left him with a severely broken ankle, he wasn’t taking it laying down.

“I told them I’m not missing anything, since I never wore running shoes anyway,” he jokes.

Thankfully, he’s kept his sense of humor, even when it was touch-and-go in the ER and he was still unsure if his ankle could be saved. Two surgeries, ten screws, and one 11-inch plate later, he’s still in the game – the weight-loss franchise game that is.

From the beginning, Chuck has been confident that his new small business, Inches-A-Weigh Diet Clinic for women, would return a healthy profit in the long run. Inches-A-Weigh is dedicated to helping women lose weight and keep it off by teaching them how to make lifestyle changes with programs specifically tailored to each individual’s weight loss objectives.

Even in today’s challenging economy, the diet industry in the U.S. is still a $200 billion business. Thousands of people looking to start their own small business or buy a franchise are quickly capitalizing on this huge market as evidenced by the recent proliferation of clubs such as Curves®, Anytime Fitness®, and Planet Fitness®.

“Inches-A-Weigh is very unique from anything else that’s on the market because it combines personalized meal planning, on-site toning and firming, and customized weight loss assistance all under one roof,” Chuck explains.

This three-tiered approach to weight loss, delivered in a highly made to order fashion, is what sets Inches-A-Weigh apart from similar health-related franchises.

“No two members pay the same price because one woman who wants to lose 100 pounds is going to pay more than one who needs to lose 20 pounds,” he says.

Both Chuck and his wife continue to work full-time in other careers and purchased the Inches-A-Weigh franchise as a smart investment in their future. They were comfortable with investing their accumulated 401K savings to work and invest in themselves.

“I was looking to invest my money in this business in hopes of making my retirement that much better. That’s why Chuck chose Guidant Financial. Knowing Guidant was the recognized leader in such small business transactions, he asked them help him invest his 401K to responsibly acquire their new franchise.

“By doing it this way, I’m [investing] my own money and paying [the retirement plan] back rather than paying a bank,” he states proudly.

After starting his career in publishing right after high school, Chuck learned the business from the ground up, working at one time for TV Guide and Rupert Murdoch-owned magazines. He later worked for Rodale Press, which publishes popular health and fitness-related books and magazines.

Ultimately, Chuck went on to launch his own company about six years ago, specializing in publishing home plan/blueprint books, widely available in Barnes and Noble and Home Depot stores. At one time, his company was the largest publisher of these types of books and catalogues and business was booming. With the real estate market implosion however, came the subsequent free fall of the home plan publishing business, so his decision to venture into women’s weight loss was prophetic, to say the least.

“Two and a half years ago, the economy was rolling along, housing was extremely strong, and we just were both at a point in our lives that we felt like we were ready to take on something in addition to what we were doing. So we decided to go for it -- entrepreneurship. Just about that time is when the housing industry started bottoming out. So I guess it was a good thing because it’s allowed me to have something else in addition to the home plan publishing, since that has hemorrhaged so badly in the last year and a half,” he adds.

Giving back to their community was the other reason they chose the fitness-related franchise. They were inspired by a sister and sister-in-law -- women they knew and loved who had recently endured drastic and invasive surgeries like gastric bypass and Lap Band® to fight obesity.

“There are a lot of women dealing with health issues … going to these extremes to get rid of excess weight. My wife and I just decided we wanted to get involved in something that could give back. That’s how we ran into Inches-A-Weigh  and the more we dug into it the more we liked the business model. We both continue to do our other jobs, this is something we got into really as way of giving women a better option to get healthy,” Chuck says.

Since opening the center in February 2008, Inches-A-Weigh  has been doing extremely well, despite the tough economy. “I guess the extra stress causes people to want to lose weight and get in shape. This past June was our best month ever since we opened,” he reports. Currently, the club boasts approximately 250 members and is starting to see increased revenue streams and positive monthly cash flow.

Chuck relies heavily on direct mail as the primary source of advertising for two reasons. First, their target demographic is very specific. Secondly, since location and convenience are major drivers in customers’ decision-making, it only makes sense to target households in certain zip codes.

“I hit them hard and hit them often (with direct mail),” Chuck says emphatically.

Physician referrals are also a growing source of business, so they’ve started hosting lunches and breakfasts in doctor’s offices in the immediate area.

Chuck advises anyone thinking of buying a franchise to be meticulous in their research, looking carefully at the franchise’s background and history and talking to other franchise owners. “It’s their goal to get you on board so they’re going to sugar coat things as much as they can so you’ve got to be diligent in your research” he cautions.

“Don’t expect too much from the corporate office of any franchisee that you might be looking to open. But in the same sense don’t ignore the resources and information that they have,” he adds.

“I’ve sat back and watched a lot of other franchises that are not following the corporate model and they are struggling. They’re scratching their head as to why is this not working. It’s because they’re not working the plan the way it’s been designed.”

“Follow the system and learn from the mistakes that they’ve already made. They’ll expose their mistakes to you because they don’t want you to repeat them. But go in with your eyes wide open. Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions. If you don’t like the answer then that’s telling you something,” he advises.

Now that he’s back on his feet, Chuck is looking forward to a healthy financial future thanks to Inches-A-Weigh  and the experts at Guidant Financial.


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