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Without a Sweat

Starting a fitness franchise gave a 19-year professional the motivation to whip his life into shape.

When Dirk Buikema opened his CATZ-Competitive Athlete Training Zone franchise in January 2006, he changed the course of his life in more ways than one. Not only did he leave behind a 19-year career with Motorola, but he moved toward a healthier lifestyle. "In the two years before [I opened the franchise], I [was traveling] almost every month," says Buikema. "I got up to 210 pounds. Now I'm down to 185. I love the workout. I feel great. I feel like I did when I was in college."

But Buikema, 51, isn't the only one shedding pounds. In his 10,000-square-foot facility in Austin, Texas, and two smaller satellite locations, group training sessions keep participants on their toes with high-intensity workouts that simulate sports activities. The classes range from "Completely Active" for 6- to 11-year-olds to performance training and fitness for adults. And a pilot program for 3- to 6-year-olds is in the works. Buikema has formed partnerships with various organizations to keep his customer base solid, making his franchise the official training and conditioning center for local football, soccer and junior volleyball teams as well as the Round Rock, Texas, police force's SWAT team. Clients have come from as far as four hours away to participate in the center's injury prevention exercises. And Buikema's CATZ franchise gained valuable recognition after John Danks signed up for training and went on to become a pitcher for the Chicago White Sox.

Buikema estimates 2007 sales will hit between $550,000 and $650,000 and plans to open another main location in Austin by next summer. And when he has finished expanding in Austin, he might just form partnerships elsewhere. His tips for success with this franchise? Have an entrepreneurial mind-set and be well-connected. "You have to like people," says Buikema, "be outgoing and have relationships established in the community."

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This article was originally published in the October 2007 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Without a Sweat.

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