Sister Act

Working together is helping these women build a healthy franchise.

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This story first appeared in the April 2004 issue of Entrepreneur. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

For sisters Nancy and Terri Dickman, a change in careers proved the apple never falls far from the entrepreneurial tree. Nancy, 40, an executive for AT&T Wireless, and Terri, 42, a forensic nurse at a women's sexual assault clinic, were both looking to escape high-stress jobs.

Inspired by their mother, who owns a fitness center with her own sister, the two women teamed up and purchased a Contours Express franchise-a women-only fitness and weight-loss center-in April 2003. At the franchise, which is located in Longwood, Florida, members move through a 29-minute aerobic and strength-training circuit while listening to a prerecorded audiotape. Nancy and Terri attended a five-day training class to learn the equipment and safety procedures. They also learned some tips on running a healthy business along the way.

"The biggest challenge of owning your own business is marketing [to attract new clients]," Nancy says. Once women see the program in action, she adds, the memberships seem to sell themselves.

Their franchise currently has 201 members, each paying a $149 enrollment fee and a $29 per month membership fee. With more potential members signing up to get ready for swimsuit season, Nancy and Terri are hoping to triple their 2003 sales by May 2004.

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