Coronado, CA — Changes are afoot at the women's weight-loss/fitness franchise Healthy Inspirations LLC. Casey Conrad, founder and president, left the company in late August, a year and a half after partnering with Jim Rowe, former CEO of Slender Lady, in a merger of the two companies. Rowe now has taken on the role of president in addition to CEO.

Some franchisees expressed frustration about the change, saying that Conrad had been readily accessible and offered numerous marketing ideas in hour-long marketing calls each month.

“She was excellent,” Barbara Lovero, a franchisee in Belmont, CA, says about Conrad. “Very knowledgeable about marketing and operations. She provided a lot of support when we didn't have any before.”

Lovero had been a Slender Lady franchisee until the merger of the two companies, and she said that the support from corporate increased after the merger, but she's not sure what it will be like now that Conrad is gone.

Rene Katz, owner of the original Healthy Inspirations franchise in Wakefield, RI, echoed those sentiments.

“Marketing is what we're there for [on the calls],” Katz says. “We need some ideas each month on how to make money.”

Conrad released a statement about her departure, which read, “After a year and a half in business together, it became apparent that I could not co-exist professionally with Mr. Rowe and have now made the decision to channel my positive energies into my other businesses.”

Rowe says that recent regional sales and future growth plans for the company forced the pair to re-evaluate their vision for the company. He added, “I respect Casey Conrad and her expertise in the industry. Casey will always be the founder of Healthy Inspirations, and we only wish her the most success in her other endeavors.”

Katz says, “It's just sad because it was her creation.”

Healthy Inspirations combines diet, exercise and lifestyle modifications under one roof. The model began as a licensed product that went into a separate space within a health club. The program morphed into a franchise concept in 2003.

Conrad partnered with Rowe in 2007 as a way to help her expand the franchise, she says.

Rather than focusing on selling and opening individual franchises after the merger, Rowe focused on selling and opening 10 new regions. The company has 76 franchises today (39 of those in the United States), Rowe says, adding that he anticipates 10 new franchises and three to five new regions by the end of the year.

Healthy Inspirations earned a little more than $2.2 million and opened eight new regions in 2007, Rowe says. He would not say how much 2007 revenue had changed from 2006.

“We don't compare Healthy Inspirations IFP Inc (the company prior to the merger) with Healthy Inspirations LLC (the merged entity),” he says. However, he would say that with 2008 regional and unit sales, he expects revenue to be slightly higher in 2008 than in 2007.

Conrad is concentrating on her other businesses, which include Take It Off, a licensed weight-loss program for health club operators, and Communications Consultants, which provides sales, marketing and management-training resources to the health club industry worldwide. In addition, Conrad's newest book, “Selling Personal Training,” was released last month.