B-fit, the first women-only gym chain in Turkey, which empowers women by selling franchises to women entrepreneurs only, is also attracting investment in overseas franchises as its business grows larger.
It is currently aiming to have a total of 300 branches by the end of 2012.
B-fit is a 100-percent Turkish brand and a workout program designed for women to get slim through 30-minute workout sessions in which the exercise changes every 30 seconds while the women exercising follow the instructor. Women of all ages come to work out at the sessions which professional trainers with college degrees in the field conduct. Also, each participant’s pulse is measured every 10 minutes during the session to make sure everything is going well.
The founder of the business, Bedriye Hülya, told Sunday’s Zaman she attended a similar workout program in the US while studying psychology in New York. She also studied circuit training, after which she decided to start her own business in the field. Hülya said she researched the machines and their functions and talked to almost every single machine producer in the US before she started her business. She had already moved back to Turkey and, after two years of going back and forth between the US and Turkey to develop the right machines for her b-fit program, she finally started her business in 2006 in the western province of İzmir.
Hülya was cited as an example of one of Turkey’s great entrepreneurs by US Vice President Joe Biden when he spoke at the Second Global Entrepreneurship Summit in İstanbul during his visit to Turkey in December. She was also chosen as one of Turkey’s best entrepreneurs by endeavor.org in 2009.
The gym saw a lot of participation from the women of İzmir, which is also Hülya’s hometown. In the course of a year, Hülya had opened two more gyms in İzmir and one in İstanbul. The business got a lot of attention after Hülya gave a newspaper interview, with women demanding a franchise license. B-fit opened another 10 gyms in 2007, another 15 in 2008, another 30 in 2009 and another 52 in 2010 throughout the country, in addition to branches in Northern Cyprus as well as a branch in Germany. Although the numbers for 2011 have not yet been released, Hülya said it should be well over 52 branches. She added that the company’s target is to have open 300 b-fit gyms in total by the end of the year. The main areas where b-fit would like to sell franchises are the Black Sea and central Anatolian regions. The company also plans to increase the number of branches abroad, especially in Central Asia and the Middle East, in the coming years to give women a chance to empower themselves in developing countries.
Hülya noted b-fit is a great opportunity for women to start their own business and calls the company’s policy to only sell franchises to women positive discrimination. She said even though it may be difficult for women to adapt to a work environment since they are not used to it and may be easily de-motivated by the challenges that come with the job, women are very creative, pay attention to small details and understand each other very well. She added that working with only women is the main driver of the company’s success and rapid growth.
Company procedures require that women who plan to open a franchise gym be ambitious and friendly. These women must also be in need -- this doesn’t necessarily mean financial need, but they have a need for success, fulfillment or achievement. They must be solution-oriented individuals rather than problem-oriented. A franchise costs TL 60,000, which covers the costs of machines, brand rights and furniture. Hülya says franchisees must give 4 percent of their earnings to b-fit and recommends they implement company rules well in order to be successful in the business. The company requires franchisees to offer a seminar once a month about nutrition and healthy eating, in addition to organizing member activities such as going out to dinners, events, movies and the theater. B-fit sends out inspectors to branches and also checks on them by sending out secret customers.
B-fit chose a clear apple on a green background as its symbol for promoting a healthy lifestyle. So far, the company has 80,000 members who have lost 50 tons of weight. Fifty percent of their members are working women, 30 percent are housewives while 20 percent are students. The monthly fee for membership varies between TL 50 and TL 150, depending on the location of the gym, and it provides an additional 20 percent discount to students.