One look at the Simply For Life website, and it’s not hard to see why so many Canadians are eager to invest in the nutritional consulting and health and wellness franchise.
Filled with inspiring messages, one in particular stands out. The motto, which reads: “Real food – Real people – Real results. And simple ways to achieve success – for life,” doesn’t just apply to health-conscious Canadians who want to change their lives. Just ask Gail O’Brien.
When the St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador franchisee discovered Simply For Life just over a year ago, she knew instantaneously she had found something special. “I was working on my own before I found Simply For Life, but I knew I wanted more out of my career,” O’Brien says. “This was the perfect opportunity.”
A registered holistic nutritionist, O’Brien and her husband were drawn to Simply For Life in large part due to its multi-faceted business model. The Canadian brand, founded by Bruce and Claudine Sweeney in 2001, combines a nutritional service, led by certified consultants, with an in-clinic natural market offering healthy, local, and quality foods to the public.
With 35 franchise locations from coast to coast, the sustainable long-term weight loss franchise isn’t just looking to give clients a quick fix. O’Brien says that at its core, the business educates people about healthy eating and dieting habits they can apply throughout their lives.
A typical day
Having only opened her clinic in August 2017, O’Brien is fairly new to the world of franchising, and says she is still learning the ropes of the business. With two small children and a new puppy at home, the franchisee typically begins her days at 6:30 in the morning. When she arrives at the office, she organizes her day based on her scheduled appointments. Though not all franchise partner are required to conduct consultations, O’Brien’s educational and professional background in nutrition allows her to do so.
In just under a year, the entrepreneur has accumulated 50 clients, which means a large portion of her days are dedicated to consultations. And with just two additional employees on staff, O’Brien says she is doing the job of three to four people. Still, this doesn’t seem to faze her. “It’s definitively in my DNA to stay busy with jam-packed, non-stop days!”
Although the bulk of Simply For Life clients use its services for weight loss, many people come in to find solutions on how they can manage a variety of problems through a nutrition-based lifestyle, including chronic conditions. O’Brien says it can be extremely overwhelming to not know what you can and can’t eat as a result of these conditions, which makes being a Simply For Life franchisee especially rewarding.
“It’s great to work with clients and see them get happier, healthier, and discover new ways to live better,” O’Brien says. “That’s part of the reason why I fell in love with the business model.”
When she’s not meeting with clients, O’Brien’s downtime is spent catching up on emails and taking over duties for the market, which usually involves ordering new products.
The passionate newcomer has also added online demos and in-clinic information sessions to her routine.
Usually showcasing a new health-based recipe or discussing various topics ranging from boosting immunity, healthy eating 101, and plant-based vegan food options, O’Brien has implemented unique channels to engage with the public and share with her community the benefits of the clinic and the Simply For Life program.
Learning new skills
Though the Simply For Life model ties in well with her former career, O’Brien says her new responsibilities as a small business owner are most fulfilling, specifically the market aspect of the job.
Based on clientele and public interest, each Simply For Life franchisee can order specialized products for their market, which is especially great for O’Brien. “Because we’re located in Newfoundland, we are limited to a lot of the stuff we can get food-wise,” she says. “It’s nice for us to be able to provide our hometown with more selection and give them access to something they wouldn’t necessarily be able to find in the supermarket.”
Closing in on her first year operating the franchise, the busy entrepreneur has also added an at-work initiative into the mix. As the name implies, O’Brien, at the request of employers in the community, will bring her services to their workplace. From 15-minute consultations with workers to conducting presentations on a variety of topics, the at-work program enables O’Brien and her staff to meet with local community members and educate them on their products and services.
For O’Brien, managing the market and interacting with clients is just one of the highlights of being a Simply For Life franchise partner, though running the market doesn’t come without its challenges. If the franchisee takes on any stress, it’s usually because of her clinic’s location.
It’s not uncommon for product suppliers to mix up orders between her clinic and the Simply For Life clinic operating in Saint John, New Brunswick, or to even have a product missing here and there. Still, it’s a small price to pay for the opportunity to lead people to living happier and healthier lives, especially with the support of head office.
The Sweeneys have established an informative environment for all franchisees, and O’Brien notes that whenever she needs assistance with marketing or finding a new product, head office has someone on staff to provide assistance.
And if that’s not enough, the franchisee says that investing in a Simply For Life franchise means you’re constantly learning. With ongoing staff training held throughout the year, franchise partners across the country have a variety of platforms to communicate, ask questions, and bounce ideas off one another.
Passionate about helping others
Though the Simply For Life program complements her professional career and education, O’Brien says this formal background isn’t necessary to find success within the system. If anything, she’s discovered that what truly matters is wanting to help people.
“Working with people who want to lose weight or eat healthier is what I’m most comfortable doing,” she says. “What we’re doing isn’t clinical at all. If anything, we’re trying to make it fun so coming here isn’t something people dread.”
To inspire people to use their services, any prospective Simple For Life franchisee must be a people person with a good temperament. That being said, it doesn’t hurt to have some sort of background in healthy living.
“You want to be the model of your clinic,” she says. “You should live what you preach, so if you embody a healthy lifestyle and are passionate about cooking and food, you’ll probably make a perfect fit! It’s always scary when you take on a big business venture in life, but if it’s something you love, it’s worth it. I don’t drag my feet coming into work every morning, and that says something right there.”
Ask any experienced franchisee, and they’ll tell you O’Brien’s advice is perfect for anyone ready to take the plunge into business ownership!
By Kristin Di Tommaso