Interview with Jeff Marks, Former Multi-Unit Franchise Owner, Butterfly Life
Butterfly Life is a women’s 30 minute fitness franchise chain that claims to be an improvement over Curves for Women. It was founded by Mark Golob, Tom Gergley, and, supposedly, Mark Mastrov. Golob & Gergley both have checkered pasts and a history of litigation in the health club industry. Many franchisees were attracted by the highly respected Mastrov (of 24 Hour Fitness), whose involvement ceased after they joined. (Read Butterfly Life Franchisees Allege Bait & Switch… of Execs)
Jeff Marks was an early, multi-unit franchisee in GA who claims to have lost $350,000 within a year of opening two Butterfly Life clubs. He says that he paid a $29,000 franchise fee plus a monthly $1000 royalty/marketing fee for each club, yet never received the branding, advertising or operational support promised.
UF: Jeff, thanks for sharing your unfortunate experience with the Butterfly Life franchise specifically, and your general advice for helping prospective franchise owners make informed decisions.
What was your background prior to joining Butterfly Life? Did you have industry experience?
JEFF: Yes. I was health club operator and consultant for over 20 years.
UF: When did you decide to join Butterfly Life? Describe the process.
JEFF: I met with Mark Golob and his partners, Tom Gergley and Bruce Fabel and they represented that Mark Mastrov was also involved and that they had as much money as they needed to grow and brand this franchise. They wanted me to open flagship clubs on East Coast and represent them in 7 states.
UF: How did you first learn about the general concept? What did you find appealing about this type of business?
JEFF: Mark Golob was previous acquaintance. I found it appealing because I thought it sounded like an improvement on Curves and Curves was growing rapidly, and they had Mark Mastrov’s experience and reputation on the team.
It made sense and the owners represented their personal and financial commitment as well as Mark Mastrov’s
UF: Describe the company’s sales process and your interaction prior to becoming a franchisee.
JEFF: I met them in California and they explained future of company. I was going to be one of the first so much of what they promised was not yet developed.
UF: How was the company’s training and pre-opening support. Was it a positive experience?
JEFF: It was a positive experience but not very impressive.
UF: What marketing and promotional guidance, programs & support were provided? Were they effective? Why or why not?
JEFF: Marketing was horrible and not prepared. It was reactive—they made it up after I asked for it. They had represented to me that they would put their own money into building the brand in Atlanta because I had their flagship clubs on the East Coast. Then they refused to put up anything.
UF: How was your grand opening and your first year as a franchisee?
JEFF: Things went wrong from the beginning because they couldn’t deliver what they promised. Nothing was ready on time.
I struggled from day 1. The name had no meaning to anyone and without brand building, it was very hard to get traffic into the clubs. Couldn’t hit any reasonable numbers.
It was a terrible experience.
UF: Was the ongoing support what you expected?
JEFF: There was no support and the materials, classes, videos, weight loss program, and everything I needed was not ready when I needed them. They pushed all the blame onto me and accepted no responsibility.
UF: Have you tried to resolve your issues with the franchisor? What was the outcome?
JEFF: After much pleading for help and receiving none, I made a final attempt to save the business—I offered to give it to them for $0 if they would take over the leases and run them themselves. I already had over $250,000 sunk into the businesses that was gone. They told me they “were not in the business of running clubs, just selling them” and refused.
UF: How has your franchise investment decision affected your life? What is your current situation?
JEFF: It set me back financially about 10 years and I went through untold personal and financial hardships. I declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in July 2005. I had to start over from the bottom and work my way up again. It’s been a long road.
UF: Do you think that the franchise concept is a viable? Under what conditions?
JEFF: I think the concept is viable but not under current leadership and culture. They are in business to sell and not to service.
UF: What mistakes did you make? Looking back, what would you have done differently?
I should never have gone into a new concept franchise that didn’t have an established track record. As far as running the clubs, I did everything I could have done.
UF: What advice would you give to prospective franchise owners? What questions should they ask? What warning signs should they look for?
JEFF: I would tell prospective franchise owners to do their homework and talk to those who failed. There are so many successful franchise concepts out there, I would suggest they go with one that has a good reputation for servicing their franchisees.
UF: Was there a positive aspect of your experience?
JEFF: There’s always a positive, I just haven’t found it yet.
UF: Thanks for sharing, Jeff.
Related Reading: IS BUTTERFLY LIFE A GREAT FITNESS FRANCHISE?
Disclaimer: The statements and opinions of those interviewed by Unhappy Franchisee are neither verified for accuracy nor reflect the opinions of Unhappy Franchisee or Relentless, Inc. As always, do your own investigations and come to your own conclusions.