Rosemary Conley Diet & Fitness: Penny Schouten

A Franchisee of the Year winner in 2002, Penny Schouten shares her story of running the diet and fitness franchise

Name: Penny Schouten
Franchise: Rosemary Conley Diet & Fitness
Cost of start-up: £12,000

2002 was a golden year for the Rosemary Conley Diet & Fitness company. Not only did the TV star and her eponymous business scoop the prestigious Franchisor of the Year award, the company’s Horsham franchisee Penny Schouten beat off competition from 180 entrepreneurs nation-wide to land the Franchisee of the Year award.

The back-story

TV fitness guru Conley said at the awards: “Penny approaches all aspects of the business with a positive attitude and market penetration is more than double the national average. She is a terrific ambassador for Rosemary Conley Clubs and her high class averages demonstrate a strong customer loyalty.”

Glowing words indeed. But how did Penny Schouten embark upon a career as a franchisee, and what does Rosemary Conley offer others who are interested in setting up fitness classes?

“Before I joined Rosemary Conley, I was an international purchasing manager for a fashion accessory company,” says Schouten. “However, I wanted to put lifestyle first and start and family – this is what made me want to run my own franchise. I have also had a long-term interest in health and fitness and I was encouraged to take in the franchise by friends in the same business.”

The franchise

Taking on her franchise in the Sussex town of Horsham in 1995, Schouten initially met the startups costs of £12,000 by increasing her mortgage – something she is happy to say was paid back within the first year of operation.

Rosemary Conley franchisees certainly get their money’s worth for the initial fee – only half of the amount is for the actual franchise fee, with the rest covering everything from exams and insurance to music equipment and a makeover and photographic session with Conley herself.

Starting up

Schouten’s training provided her with an RSA Exercise to Music and a Nutrition Diploma, and within six months of her original application to become a franchisee, she started her first day running her own fitness club.

“I have received full support from my franchisor throughout,” insists Schouten. “Their training is fantastic and gives you the full confidence to know we are the best in the marketplace.”

Admitting that she is slightly concerned about the increased competition that her franchise faces from other fitness clubs, Schouten says that a supportive partner, family and friends are essential to get you through tough times.

Life as a franchisee

“In this job, you need people and management skills, which I gained from my last role,” she says. “You also need determination, dedication, enthusiasm, teamwork, self-motivation and a passion for the business.”

Business is certainly looking up for the Rosemary Conley formula, with over 170 franchises now set up since the company was launched back in 1993. But would Schouten ever consider leaving for pastures new?

“No, I love it,” she smiles. “I would only consider starting up another business when I stop enjoying this one.”

Business is certainly looking up for the Rosemary Conley formula.

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