WAKEFIELD, RI — Is weight loss franchising the next big trend in the fitness industry? That's what consultants to Healthy Inspirations, a women-only franchise, told Casey Conrad, the founder and CEO of the company, before she purchased women-only fitness franchise Slender Lady, Coronado, CA. The Slender Lady clubs will take the Healthy Inspirations name and will incorporate the weight loss model inherent in Healthy Inspirations facilities.

Conrad is now president of the merged women-only weight loss and fitness franchise, and Jim Rowe, former majority stockholder of Slender Lady, now is CEO of Healthy Inspirations. Rowe will handle franchising while Conrad will handle operations and marketing.

Healthy Inspirations, based in Wakefield, RI, now has about 135 locations, making it the nation's largest full-service weight management franchise, combining individual nutritional plans and coaching, exercise, relaxation treatments and beauty treatments under one roof.

Conrad plans to create more medical alliances and is putting together a national medical advisory board.

The merger occurred after Conrad started selling franchises again after a three-year hiatus and after consultants told her that weight loss franchising could be the next big fitness trend since Curves changed the industry in the 1990s, Conrad says.

“They said, ‘if you don't grow, you are going to get left in the dust. This is an emerging market space. You have great stuff and no one knows that you exist in the franchise space,’” she says.

Conrad wanted someone with franchising experience to lead her renewed effort. At the same time, Rowe, who had bought Slender Lady just 16 months prior and had invested millions into improving it, realized that the company was missing the operational elements necessary to take the company to the next level. The two had the same attorney, who upon Rowe's request, contacted Conrad about Rowe's interest in a merger.

Rowe was the Help-U-Sell sub master franchisor for San Diego and Imperial Counties as well as for the state of Texas. He was a member of the Help-U-Sell team responsible for growing the company from 80 to more than 850 franchises in less than five years.

“Combining Casey's industry expertise and detailed operational systems, sales and marketing with my experience in how to explosively grow a franchise makes for a powerful ‘beauty and the beast’ success formula,” says Rowe. He forecasts up to 100 franchise sales in 2007, and plans to roll out a regional sales model domestically and internationally.