Paula Beiger, a former real-estate broker, bought a Curves franchise in Lawrenceville, N.J., in 2001 with her husband, Jack. They bought a second unit across town about a year ago. Ms. Beiger sat down with StartupJournal to talk about owning and operating her Curves gyms.
StartupJournal: What made you decide to buy a Curves for Women?
Ms. Beiger: Five years go, no one had ever heard of Curves here in New Jersey. I was one of the first members of a particular Curves, and I saw how quickly the membership grew. I went home to Jack, and I said, 'You should see how fast this thing is growing.' We went online, we checked it out, and we liked what we saw, so we bought a franchise.
SJ: How has owning two Curves gyms worked for you?
Ms. Beiger: I don't look at it as if I'm competing against my other Curves. I felt that I had to put one over here, because other same-type women's 30-minute workouts were opening around the area, and I didn't want to lose my members I already had who lived over here.
SJ: What did you rely most on to gain your customers?
Ms. Beiger: Word of mouth. One woman telling another woman. We have a buddy-referral system, so that when they do bring a buddy in, there's a benefit to them.
SJ: Are you at, or hope to reach a point where you can hire a manager to run your business?
Ms. Beiger: I could have been at that point from day one. I like being hands on. I think the members like seeing us there, and since we enjoy it so much, there is no reason to.
SJ: What has been your favorite part about owning a Curves?
Ms. Beiger: It's seeing the results. I have a book at each of my Curves for when someone comes up to me and says, 'My blood pressure has gone down, and the doctor wants to take me off the blood-pressure pills.' It's very rewarding. I knew it was going to be fun, because I was a member, but I didn't realize I would see the improvement of peoples' lives that we experience.
SJ: What would you like to see improve?
Ms. Beiger: Communication. Everything is via email now. I think it's just me, because I'm a dinosaur, because their communication is fine if your computer-oriented. When we first opened, I could pick up the phone, and, for my age, that worked for me. I like the personal touch, but I'm not getting that anymore. I'd like to pick the phone and talk to [founder and chief executive officer] Gary Heavin, and I used to be able to do that.
SJ: Do you have any advice for anyone interested in opening a Curves?
Ms. Beiger: I think you have to know this is something that you are going to like and enjoy, and then it won't seem like a job to you.
SJ: What is the most difficult aspect of running your two Curves?
Ms. Beiger: The administrative work would be the most difficult for me, but I give it to Jack. It doesn't bother Jack. For the reports we have to send them, they make it as easy as possible for you to do. You just have to enter in the information on the forms and email it over there.
SJ: What was your biggest surprise when you first started out?
Ms. Beiger: The biggest surprise was how many people walked through our door that first year. We were surprised how popular it was. We expected it to be good, but we didn't expect it to be fabulous.
SJ: What would you do differently if you could start again?
Ms. Beiger: I don't want to say we did everything perfectly, because we didn't know what we were doing, business wise, when we first started; the administrative work, for example. The one thing I would have done differently is I would have opened this second Curves quicker (laughter). I hesitated for a couple years opening the second one.
-- Mr. Caverly is an intern at StartupJournal.com.