During the summer, FRANCHISEBIZ had the pleasure to discuss with Edouard Texte, the Spanish master franchise partner of the french fitness leading brand Fitness Park. It is just an amazing franchise story that we are happy to share with you today!
Hi Edouard ! Can you introduce yourself to our readers and explain why you decided to join the Fitness Park brand?
Yes, of course. This won’t make me feel any younger! Back in the early days I was a racing driver, which occupied a significant part of my childhood. I pursued sports studies and lived in Asia among other places.
My DNA was high-level sports but when I ended my career in 2007, I went back to France and didn’t know which field to turn to. I had a strong desire to start a business but not knowing exactly what kind, I started working in insurance for AXA while also obtaining an insurance BTS degree.
Alongside this, I started looking for a franchise with a very simple objective. I wanted a concept without inventory management, a small payroll and without perishable goods. I was really looking for a profit center with significant growth potential. I decided to join Fitness Park, after meeting them at the franchise fair in Paris, even though at the time there were very few clubs in France.
Having lived in the United States which is a market ahead in many sectors including fitness, I noticed that self-service clubs with extensive opening hours and high-quality equipment were considered the norm. There was this emergence in France and I realised that there was real potential in this area. .
At that time, I had quite limited capital, I was 22 years old and did not have a high school diploma. I first looked for a city in the provinces with a lower cost of real estate and I also knew I wanted to be based in the South of France. Eventually I found funding after having been rejected by 7 banks and opened my first club in Nîmes.. The club was successful from the get-go a real hit, confirming my impression that the product had enormous potential. A year and a half later I opened a second club in Montpellier, then a third in the same city.
Very quickly I thought about the future, wanted to grow and thought that international expansion could be a very good option. It was a desire I had even since I was very young, perhaps inspired by my travels and various life experiences, who knows ? I thought that the Fitness Park brand and concept could develop outside of France.
My relationships with the franchisor were very good. I regularly found new candidates and new young franchisees eager to learn about the job, the processes and etc. The trigger to expand further was a pivotal meeting with my current partner and friend Stéphane Miras, also a Fitness Park franchisee who was successful in the Paris region. Over lunch we discussed the options for international development and after just 2 hours, we agreed to approach the Spanish market. We partnered 50/50 in 2018 and bought the Master franchise for Spain from Fitness Park.
Impressive! Could you tell us how the start-up in Spain went and what your role involves as Fitness Park’s Master Franchisee?
With my partner we managed to borrow sufficient funds and opened the first club in Madrid in June 2020 and …it was a hit. Yes, you read correctly ! In Spain, fitness activity was considered “essential” and we were not too disturbed by the COVID restrictions as we had them in France. Immediately afterwards, we opened in the Barcelona inner city and then, the phone didn’t stop ringing!
What do you mean ?
Many French business leaders contacted us, most of them Fitness Park franchisees from France, who are mostly friends I have known for years. You can imagine the scenario: the Fitness Park franchisees who called us were under restrictions and confined in France. They saw the success we were enjoying in Spain and thought ‘we want to come with you!’. As master franchisees we have created premium initial support for our franchise investors. It’s a turnkey concept! Really, a complete turnkey. We search for and select commercial premises, negotiate leases, present projects to Spanish banking partners, help them recruit their club director (who we train) and we even take care of the launch.
Our investors just need to come and cut the ribbon at their club’s opening and share a glass of champagne with us!
From the start, we wanted to set up this central organization to best support development, with a focus on digital tools and CRM for business support. Today, we have about thirty people at the Spanish headquarters helping manage all of these essential parts of the business
Thanks to this support strategy, we have already secured about 136 clubs with franchisees in our agreements and allocated most of the areas in the Spanish territory!
Can you tell us about what will happen for Fitness Park in Spain over the next 12 months and what type of new franchisees you are looking for?
Today we have 20 clubs open and we will end the year with 33 clubs with signed leases. Next year we will likely cross the bar of 50 clubs. In the long term, we will be on pace to open 20 to 25 clubs per year. Given that we control real estate and expansion, it’s quite easy for me to project these numbers.
Secondly, we have chosen to mainly select franchisees with significant financing capabilities and for a simple reason: we have all the channels open and banks that follow us very well, notably Spanish banks. Landlords in Spain now know Fitness Park. We even have a lead on our competitors because we have created a high-end Fitness Park in Spain with large spaces and high-end equipment and services. Our average membership fee per club is high, even though we’ve only been here for 3 years. Therefore, the growth prospects are enormous.
We were in the top 20 of fitness chains in Spain last year. Then we moved into the top 10 this year. Next year we will be in the top 5.
Honestly, our goal of being number 1 is within shooting range. We didn’t come for anything else. We aim for 230 clubs in the long run throughout the territory.
What advice would you give to a candidate who would like to become a Fitness Park Master Franchisee ?
Firstly, they need to come with a substantial level of equity capital. I’m talking about €5m to €6m to lay the foundations. If you want to be very aggressive, it’s even more. Secondly, you need someone who knows the product perfectly and will be able to adjust it on the spot rather than always putting “an Italian in Italy”, for example. Of course, local strength is important but for me the nationality of the entrepreneur should not be the first selection criterion. We are the living proof (smiles).
All successful global brands need to adapt in their target countries. The French McDonald’s is not the American McDonald’s, as is the same for Starbucks and many others.
Being a franchisee and a Master Franchisee are not the same thing, they’re really two jobs that have almost nothing in common.
From my point of view, it’s essential to know the product well before exporting it. You need to know how to surround yourself with the right people and be capable of setting up an organization, implementing solid and efficient processes. You should also know how to evolve the product to establish yourself in the targeted market and have the necessary capital for the initial investment. Finally it’s a very valuable skill to be comfortable handling unforeseen events!
What qualities do you particularly appreciate in franchisees and what type of candidates are you looking for?
People who already have experience in entrepreneurship. That’s very important for us. At Fitness Park Spain, we selected franchisees knowing very well that they were in the same mindset as us. This allows us to deploy very quickly. Something else we value highly is franchisees that have the enthusiasm to bring in innovations that exceed customer expectations.
Is there anything that in your opinion sets you apart from other franchise models?
Yes, for me, we always want to go further in our model, meaning that when I say our franchisees are supported, it’s really the case. This is what we wanted to implement from the start. We have opened in the largest shopping centres in Spain.
We wanted them to experience something unique that goes beyond simply having a great profit centre. For some, it was their first international entrepreneurial experience. So we wanted our franchisees to say, “Ah, it’s great, it works. They took care of everything and moreover, they made me Enjoy the experience”.
By doing this, you create growth by generating trust. We are ambitious and on track to succeed in the challenge we set ourselves. We strive to remain agile with the aim of evolving the concept and continuously adapting it to a demanding clientele.
That’s very impressive Edouard, congratulations again on this wonderful success. We were delighted to meet you and will follow with interest the next openings of Fitness Park in Spain!
With pleasure and if you come back to Barcelona, don’t hesitate to contact me.
FRANCHISEBIZ support Fitness Park in their international franchise development by identifying new potential master franchisees. To arrange an informal chat with our team about their opportunities, please contact us today.
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