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interview
The owners of Portuguese
women’s fitness chain
Vivafit talk to Vicky
Kiernander about creating
a successful franchise,
expanding into Spain and
plans for the future
constance &
pedro ruiz
W
OR
LD
FO
CU
S
W
inning IHRSA’s European programming for the opening of the first (now known as Vivafi t) in January 2003.
Club Leadership Award six clubs in Portugal and also assisted in Situated next to a picturesque lake in
in 2008 was a defining the company’s expansion into Spain, Oeiras, approximately 10 miles from
moment for Constance Germany and Austria. It was while she Lisbon, it was a poor choice of location.
and Pedro Ruiz. It wasn’t just that the was monitoring her international Pedro laughs: “The place was beautiful,
international accolade acknowledged colleagues in 2002 that the express but it was in the middle of nowhere.
the dazzling performance of Portugal’s fitness franchise concept caught her eye We didn’t realise it needed to be in a
largest and fastest-growing women-only and sparked her imagination. commercial district.”
express fitness chain, but for Constance After a visit to her native America However, as he explains, it was the
particularly, that it was bestowed by the to see the clubs in action, Constance best test that the Vivafi t concept could
organisation she had so long respected. convinced her Spanish husband Pedro to ever have had: “We had to improve our
“I’ve learned so much from IHRSA do the same. A former naval architect systems quickly to make it work. That
over the years through its conventions, and owner of a number of businesses, meant everything from marketing and
research and networking opportunities, Pedro immediately saw the potential and prospecting to customer service. We
that the award was extra-special for me. contacted Curves requesting the master knew that if we could make Vivafi t work
It was just wonderful,” she says. franchise for Portugal. there, it could work anywhere.”
However, the couple eventually And it did. Six years later, the club is
going it alone decided to go it alone, convinced they still thriving with 400 members and is
Constance previously worked at Holmes had the necessary skills to make a just one of 97 Vivafi t clubs in Portugal.
Place in Portugal for six years, where success of the business. They launched
she supported the group fitness their fi rst Vivafi t & Pilates Fit club lessons learned
Vivafit is by far the biggest health club
group in Portugal. Holmes Place has 17
sites, followed by Solinca with nine. It’s
The recession is just getting rid of
also the largest women-only fitness chain
in the country, with more than seven
unprofessional clubs that should
times the number of clubs as Curves.
have closed a long time ago
“There are some independent
franchise sites too, but these seem to
close after a couple of years. We’ve
seen that happen to at least fi ve now,”
30 Read Health Club Management online july 2009 © cybertrek 2009
healthclubmanagement.co.uk/digital
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