SAINT JOHN – Demolitions have started inside the 18,000-square-foot former KIA Dealership at 643 Rothesay Ave. Saint John-based health and fitness franchise Simply For Life is taking over and plans to move into its new headquarters in April next year.
The company will move out of its 3,000-square-foot office, and into a facility that will serve as a hub for people to learn and develop a healthy lifestyle.
“We’ve just run out of space and it’s just not conducive for a head office and the market and all the different things that we’re planning. So, we had the opportunity finally to find a piece of property that fits exactly what we need, keeping it on Rothesay Avenue,” said Claudine Sweeney, who founded the company with her husband Bruce in 2001.
The new location will have an eat-in and take-out cafe, a larger natural foods market, and a production kitchen that will be able to make and distribute meals-to-go and other products for the company’s 40 franchised locations across Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Ontario and Alberta. It will also have a bigger training facility for its franchisees, as well as space for cooking classes, workshops and social events.
When the training spaces aren’t being used, the Sweeneys plan to offer it up to other community organizations and businesses.
Simply For Life’s services and products are based on simple but important diet and lifestyle changes. It offers clients customized meal plans and recommendations based on a formula Bruce created.
Claudine says getting to this step of growth is a testament that their business is much more mature now.
“My husband and I, we weren’t business people so we didn’t have that experience. We had ups and downs and challenges through the years but it’s made us strong. We’re at that point where we’re more mature and we get it, and we can move projects forward,” she said. “Really, finally, we’re comfortable…now we’re in a really good place because the team is ready to just go to the next step.”
Now in its 18th year of business, the company that started from the Sweeneys’ basement will also expand its staff. Right now, about 20 people work for the company’s Saint John office, though some work remotely because there’s not enough space.
“We will be adding the production kitchen piece of it and the cafe, that’ll add on probably another 15 to 20 jobs just for that alone…So, yes, we’re going to be expanding the workforce, for the market, the head office, the [health] consulting, and then the kitchen,” Claudine said. “It’s really creating opportunities in this industry when there’s not a lot of opportunities for people in the health sector – nutritionists, dieticians, and such. They’re limited where they can go.”
Simply for Life is also working on a deal with a national company, which, if finalized, will convert 45 of its franchised locations to fall under the Saint John business’s banner.
“They’re in the health industry but they’re missing a piece that we do very well, which is the nutrition, the counseling, and the services part of it,” Claudine says.
The Sweeneys, who been named finalists for the 2019 EY Entrepreneur of Year Award for Atlantic Canada and among the Canadian Franchise Association’s Choice Designees, also have international aspirations. Claudine says the company plans to look into opportunities in New England and Maine in the United States.
The new headquarters is part of the strategy.
“If we’re a national and international type of company, our facility needs to match the calibre that we’re trying to portray,” she said.
And the company’s proud to keep growing from within the Maritimes, Claudine added.
“People think that we’re a company from Ontario or from the U.S. and don’t realize that it’s built here in Saint John,” she said. “Actually, people from the Maritimes can build things and we can have a head office in this area…And we’re really proud of that.”