No. 1 With Everything

Franchising Stays Strong, and Our Upstart No. 3 Franchise

As for international expansion--that's always a tough job, for anyone, anytime. International locations are "really hard to get off the ground," says DeLuca. "The United States is a huge market, and once you get rolling, you can replicate that model over and over pretty easily. But as soon as you get into a new country, you've got to organize your supply line and equipment leasing, and when you open the store, you've got to start getting customers." That didn't stop Subway franchisees from entering new markets like France, the Republic of Croatia, the Republic of Finland and the Republic of Poland last year, though.

All in all, DeLuca doesn't feel the foundation of franchising has been rattled by the combination of the slow economy and the war on terrorism, citing industry research at press time indicating sales in the fast-food industry as a whole were off 1.5 percent at most. And higher unemployment "generally bodes well for franchising," says DeLuca. "People are looking for a new opportunity, and people who have jobs are a little less confident they'll always have a job. So just a small change in how the work force thinks makes a big impact on franchising."

Looking Good

Since he left school to take over a failing fitness center at the age of 20, Gary Heavin has been interested in helping women look and feel better. Now as founder and CEO of the No. 3 franchise in this year's Franchise 500®, Curves for Women, Heavin, 46, has spread his knowledge across the United States, as well as Canada, Mexico and Spain, with his women's fitness and weight loss centers.

With 99 percent of franchise sales coming from word-of-mouth and only .98 percent of revenues spent on advertising, Curves for Women stands out from the crowd. Heavin contends they've been the first to create a true 30-minute total fitness program and center efficient enough to operate in small towns, which he believes has helped push them to the top. Now situated among giants like McDonald's and Mail Boxes Etc. in the Franchise 500®, Heavin reflects, "Franchises have changed the way America does business. We're proud to be among those who've made franchising what it is today."

Curves for Women oopens 35 to 50 facilities weekly, and its future plans include an expanding international presence. -April Pennington

Michelle Prather is a freelance writer in Grand Terrace, California.

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This article was originally published in the January 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: No. 1 With Everything.

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