Mark Hopkins and David Watchorn of Elwell Watchorn & Saxton LLP were appointed Joint Administrators of Rosemary Conley Food & Fitness Ltd on 3rd of Feb 2014. The Joint Administrators manage the affairs, business and property of the company as agents and act without personal liability.
It was in 1971 that I started my first weekly weigh-ins in my kitchen with a few of my neighbours. Soon we progressed to the local village hall and by 1980 it had grown into a full-time business with a total of 50 classes offering slimming and good grooming – and a type of popmobility aerobic exercise called Slimobility. The club was called SAGG and the classes, despite the name, were very successful.
In the early 1980s I sold my business to IPC Magazines and stayed on as Managing Director to grow the business nationally. But in December 1985, IPC decided to close down the operation, and the classes were disbanded.
I continued to run my own classes and then, in 1988, I was thrilled to have a No. 1 bestselling book – my Hip & Thigh Diet. Book tours to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada followed, and the success of this little paperback book opened up opportunities I could only have dreamed of: fitness videos; my own tv show and more bestselling diet books. It was an incredibly exciting time and national newspapers were desperate to buy the serial rights to my next diet book.
Then, in 1992 I saw an advertisement in the local paper for a magnificent country house set in 147 acres of parkland. I’d always dreamed of owning a beautiful old house with lots of land, and this one caught my eye and my imagination.
I went along to view it with Mike, my husband, but came away disappointed. It was in a dilapidated state and we were already living in a lovely old Rectory where we were very happy. But there was something about Quorn House that I couldn’t get out of my mind.
Some six weeks later the property was advertised again at a significantly reduced price and I knew we were going to buy it. I didn’t know what with, or what we were going to use it for. I spent sleepless nights wracking my brain and trying to think of a solution. Six days later, I had the answer. We would create Rosemary Conley Diet & Fitness Clubs and run it as a franchised business, using Quorn House as the training centre and offices. But this time the classes would be different from my previous ones and every instructor would be professionally qualified to teach exercise to people of all ages and fitness levels.
Mike was really enthusiastic about the idea and an advertisement was placed in the national press. We received hundreds of enquiries. Over the next few weeks – with the help of a franchising consultant, lawyer and our accountant – we drew up a franchise package.
By April 1993 our first three franchisees were ready to open their classes – and the members flocked in. Three months later we had another 15 franchisees ready to launch. It was so exciting and the members loved the concept of the classes – diet AND fitness in one session at a good-value price.
Mike and I were interviewing franchisees six days a week, working out of a little cottage in a nearby village. We had just four office staff and a teacher trainer for the franchisees. We rented a local hotel for the training courses.
On 1 July 1993 we moved in to Quorn House. A big leap from a tiny cottage with a yard to a ten-bedroom mansion and a park! We worked among the builders, plumbers, electricians and painters who transformed the place in six months into the magnificent place it is today.
By the end of that first year we had 67 franchisees signed up, either in training or already launched.
The British Franchise Association (BFA) was sceptical of us at first because the franchise was so dependent upon my name and presence. “What happens if you fall under a bus?” they asked. But the success of the classes, the franchisees and the members spoke for themselves and, two years later, we won the Newcomer of the Year Award from the BFA. Three years later we won another award, and in 2002 we won the top award of Franchisor of the Year. It was a massive accolade for our company. Then, much to our amazement, we won the same award again three years later!
Now, in 2013, the quality of our franchisee training is better than ever. Kardy Laguda recently joined the company as choreography consultant, and we offer a range of different types of exercise in our classes from aerobics to Kardy-O-Fun. We employ 50 staff at Quorn House and at our warehouse a few miles away. So much of what we do now is web-based, from information about classes and products to our own internet TV channel. We have a state-of-the-art TV studio where we can film members and experts for viewers to watch for free anywhere in the world. We are passionate about helping folk to live healthier and happier lives and every aspect of our business aims to do just that.
Our franchisees and members have raised millions of £s for charity over the last 20 years.
We have 150 franchisees and 150 instructors running around 1,800 classes for their 70,000 members all over the UK.
We offer a variety of exercise from aerobics, toning and circuits to salsa, Zumba and Kardy-O-Fun plus some boot camps!
Our longest-serving franchisees are Wendy Boardman, Karen Smith and Karen Threadgold who each have been with us for 19 years. n When Prince Charles presented me with my CBE in 2004, his opening comment to me was: “You have fabulous diet and fitness clubs, don’t you!” It was a very proud moment.
And finally… if it hadn’t been for Quorn House coming on to the market, Rosemary Conley Diet & Fitness Clubs might not exist today!
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