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From Little Conadilly to nationwide success

Jacinta and Justin McDonell’s dream started next to Coles in Gunnedah.
Nanjing Night Net

Jacinta McDonell.

The brother and sister opened the first Anytime Fitness in Little Conadilly Street in 2008.

Now, there are 380 Anytime Fitness franchises across the country, with another 100 yet to open.

Jacinta McDonell, who is based in Sydney, told the Namoi Valley Independent this month that since that first store opened six years ago, none of the franchises have closed.

The McDonells grew up in Windsor, near Sydney, with parents who ran their own fitness clubs.

They have seen the industry go from leg-warmers and aerobics to the 24-hour service their own franchises now offer.

“Fitness centres have changed dramatically in the last 20 years,” Ms McDonell said.

“When we grew up there were no treadmills and bikes, it was all aerobics and weights.”

The McDonells, who themselves opened a fitness centre as soon as they left school, visited the United States about five times to investigate launching the successful US franchise Anytime Fitness into Australia.

Ms McDonell said they were impressed with the business and brought home a plan, which included launching the first centre in regional Australia.

It was a toss up, she said, between Gunnedah and Muswellbrook.

“We realised the real estate price was critical,” she said.

“It was right next to the Coles site which was really good and we wanted to go into the regional market at the right price.

“It was a great test market.”

The 24-hour a day, seven-day-a-week concept was reasonably new and Ms McDonell said while there were gyms in country towns, many of them were “tired and outdated”.

“They had some equipment there for 10 years and consumers didn’t have a lot of choice in terms of high quality.”

She said the 24-hour service was important for shift workers.

The test market paid off, and the Muswellbrook franchise opened about four months later.

Twenty franchises opened around the country in the first year, and 80 opened in the second year.

“It ramped up really, really quickly,” Ms McDonell said.

“We now have 380 and another 100 still to open, which will give us almost 500 clubs.

“It’s an amazing franchise story.”

While the Gunnedah Anytime Fitness centre is now in the hands of a franchisee, the McDonells have maintained an interest.

“We have been out there quite a few times,” Ms McDonell said.

“It would be our most visited centre by Justin and I. It has had three really good franchisers.

“Gunnedah gets spoken about quite a bit.”

Ms McDonell has expanded her interests and is on the development board for non-profit organisation The Hunger Project.

She has raised more than $100,000 for the organisation which went towards providing communities around the world with the ability to buy food-processing equiment, provided micro-finance loans for communities and assisted with training rural villagers in agricultural practices.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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