How Andrea Longfellow Found Passion, Humility, and Balance in the Franchise Industry

Welcome to another episode of The Female Founder with Bridget Fitzpatrick, Co-founder of ASBN and the CBT Automotive Network. The Female Founder is a show all about helping women grow their businesses and reach their full potential. Each episode will highlight inspiring stories and advice from female entrepreneurs to help you build and grow your business. This show is designed to inspire and motivate other female founders to be the best entrepreneurs they can be. Today’s guest is Andrea Longfellow, Stretch Zone franchisee, with locations in Suwanee, Braselton, Sandy Springs, and Athens.

Transcription: 

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
Andrea, thank you so much for joining us today.

Andrea Longfellow:
Thank you, Bridget. It’s great to be here.

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
I’m really excited to talk to you about your entrepreneurial journey being a franchisee. Can you go back, just talk to us about your background and what led you to The Stretch Zone?

Andrea Longfellow:
Sure. So I started my professional career in the health and fitness industry a very long time ago. I spent about 14 years in that industry working for one of the major equipment manufacturers. I ran sales for them for the Americas, was traveling on the road a lot. But at that time, it was my dream job because I got to combine my business acumen and skills and expertise fresh out of grad school with my MBA, but also my passion for health and wellness and fitness. So I loved everything about it, but I just got to a point where I needed to not be traveling so much, needed to be at home with my kids a little bit more. And so I left that industry, went into technology sales for a brief while. But just really missed everything about health and wellness and just the passion and energy that people have in that industry.

And we’ll get to the short of a very long story. I decided for my 50th birthday that I was going to compete for a body building show because that’s what every woman should do for the 50th birthday. And I hired a coach and she said, you need to stretch more because you’re really, really tight. And so I found Stretch Zone in Georgia and I started going as a client and thought, this is the most amazing thing. Why is everybody not doing this? And then when I found out it was a franchise, I said, Sign me up.

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
That’s great.

Andrea Longfellow:
And that’s how it started.

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
I love that. Now, talk to us about the transition from, really the corporate world, to now owning your own business.

Andrea Longfellow:
So, very scary. It started out more of a, let me roll the dice and see if I’m built for this. And I looked at it more as an investment versus this is going to be my passion, this is what I’m going to do for the rest of my career. And so early on, getting into it, as soon as we opened, I knew right away. I said, This is what I meant to do. And everything from hiring and working with employees, but just really providing a service in the community that I think everybody needs, no matter your age or your ability. I just felt finally like I was at home.

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
I love that. Now, you have employees, with four locations. And the support and the trust that you have to have in your employees, talk to us about the importance of that and the support that you’re getting.

Andrea Longfellow:
We have the best team, great culture that we’ve created there. But really, our franchisor gives us a lot of support. I will say that about a franchise business because I’ve been around the good, the bad, and the ugly with franchisees, having spent a lot of time in the health and fitness industry.

This franchise really has a lot of things wrapped up and bundled up really nicely. And they give you a lot of support, whether it’s how do I run payroll, to help me with hiring. What do I need to look for in a candidate? Help me with interview questions. All of it.

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
That’s great. Now, for those watching that may be thinking about starting a franchise, do you have any advice that you would give them?

Andrea Longfellow:
Pick something that you’re really passionate about. I would say start with that, because if you love what you do, it never feels like you’re working, right?

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
Yes.

Andrea Longfellow:
So, super important. I’m sure you can relate to that. And be humble. Humble from the perspective of learning, right? Because you can’t know everything. And I was very guilty of that, and still am guilty of that, some days. I have to remind myself that, you know what? You don’t know everything. You need to ask. Be inquisitive and be open to learning from other people.

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
That’s great advice. Now, you’re also a mom, as you said. Talk to us about the balance that comes with owning your own business and being a mom and everything else that we do as females.

Andrea Longfellow:
So, I’m blessed. I have two amazing kids. They’re a little bit older now, they’re 21 and 18. So they were younger obviously when I started the stores almost four years ago. And they have actually worked in the stores, so they’ve done a couple of the different jobs. And I think they’ve seen how it’s grown. They also see me working late at night, because that’s the only time I can get things done, like payroll or social media and things that I need to do there.

So for me, it’s been great demonstrating to them what hard work can get you, and just having a great work ethic. And I know they’re proud of me, and I’m as equally as proud of them.

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
Absolutely. I’m sure they are. Now you are a Franchise Advisory Council Coach. Can you talk to us about how you’re helping other franchisees with that?

Andrea Longfellow:
Yeah. So when I joined The Stretch Zone franchise and the brand, because we were store number 61 in the system … we’re now over 225 stores nationwide. One of the things that was missing and we went to the franchisor about was we really need a united voice for all the franchisees. Corporate has a number of stores, but the growth has really come from the franchisees. And because of my experience in health and fitness and seeing how Franchise Advisory Councils can really work hand-in-hand with the franchisor to not just benefit the franchisor, but really the franchisee. So all that burden doesn’t rest with the franchisor.

So we put together the Franchise Advisory Council. We’re divided up into regions. I’m one of the coaches for the southeast region. And really what we do is we help, whether you’re a new franchisee, new to our system, or even just new to franchising, we help you from A to Z, get your store up and running.

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
That’s fantastic. Now, it’s very self-care and self-wellness. We all have to do that, but especially as females. And your business is really right in line with that. So is there anything particular that you do besides stretching to keep yourself … take care of yourself?

Andrea Longfellow:
Just move. For me it’s moving. I think sitting is probably the worst thing we could be doing for ourselves. And I know we’re doing a lot of it these days because we’re on social media all the time, we’re in front of computers. It used to be you were commuting, right? You were sitting in your car, especially in Atlanta. So just moving, right? And being thoughtful. Obviously nutrition, super, super important. Hydrating, drink a lot of water. And stretching.
And I go to Stretch Zone a couple of days a week myself. But I also stretch on my own because that’s also equally important. I know I can only do so much for myself with stretching for myself, which is why it’s important to seek Stretch Zone and what we do there because it is one-to-one practitioner assisted stretching. And you’ll never get that anywhere else.

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
No, absolutely not. That’s great. Now, have you had any mentors or people that you’ve looked up to along your journey here?

Andrea Longfellow:
Oh gosh. Kind of, in a weird way, my mom. Even though she was never a business …

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
That’s mine too.

Andrea Longfellow:
… never a business owner.

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
I’ve been asked that question, and mine was my mom too. So, not weird at all.

Andrea Longfellow:
And I would say my mom, because she’s just the strongest woman I know. She moved to this country … my mother’s from Argentina, my father’s American. She moved to this country with three small children, not knowing how to speak English, not knowing how to drive a car, not knowing how to cook. And she figured it out.

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
That is so inspirational.

Andrea Longfellow:
And she did it all. And she created, I think pretty good, three human beings. I have two older brothers, and we’re all fairly successful from a business and personal standpoint. So yeah, definitely my mom.

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
I love that. No, I’m the same way. My mom showed us hard work and a good work ethic. And I’ve been asked that question before as well, and it sounded funny saying, my mom, but it truly is. At the end of the day, that’s who I’ve looked up to. And she’s long gone, but it’s someone I’ve looked up to and really taught me the way. So I appreciate that.
Now, what’s been your most satisfying moment since starting your business?

Andrea Longfellow:
Oh, God. I’ve had so many. That’s so hard to pick. I guess just my employees and just seeing some of them grow. We have a really special situation, I think, with the stores that we own. Most of our staff have been with us since day one. We’ve promoted from within as we have grown. So we will promote stretch practitioners into assistant general managers, into general managers, so they see that organic growth. As we get our next two stores open next year, one of our GMs is going to move into a regional management role, so he’s going to be helping run all the stores.

So that’s been really cool, just to see that growth and that development. One of our front desk employees who started with us on day one, she now runs all of our social media. So she’s our marketing coordinator. We’ve sent her to take some classes, and that just to really hone in her skills. So that’s been cool, just to see that development in those employees.

But on the client side, we have so many wonderful success stories from young athletes to, we had a woman come in and she was complaining of just not being able to sleep really well. She was having some joint issues, and she said she had to take prescription drugs to help her sleep. And she’d been having to do that for a really long time so she wanted to try it out. So, gave her her free demo stretch. Every first stretch is free. You come in, no charge, no obligation. Our general manager gave her her stretch, did a medical intake with her. After that she was just like, well, I don’t know yet. I want to think about it. I said, no problem. She went to sit down in our little lounge area, which is a lot like this. Very relaxing, very calming.

Before you knew it, she had fallen asleep. And she took about an hour, hour and a half now. And our staff was a little like, we don’t know what to do. Do we wake her up? Do we not wake her up? And just as we were about to go check on her just to make sure she was okay, she woke up. And she wasn’t disoriented or anything. And she woke up and she literally went right to the front desk, gave her her credit card and said, sign me up.

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
Oh my gosh.

Andrea Longfellow:
She’s like, that’s the first time I’ve been able to fall asleep without drugs in years.

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
Wow. Yeah. And you don’t think about the importance of … Well, we always think about the importance of sleep. But you don’t think that stretching would help you sleep better.

Andrea Longfellow:
Yeah. It’s almost like a dopamine effect, right?

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
Oh my gosh.

Andrea Longfellow:
And we tell our clients that because we know that that can happen. So we prepare our clients that, you might feel a little sleepy. Some people describe it as just this feeling of lightness after you get the stretch. But I just thought that was a comical story. Anyway, she’s become a great client and has sent us a ton of referrals.

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
Oh, wonderful. Wonderful. Now, you have four stores now. Any plans for more stores in the future?

Andrea Longfellow:
Got two coming next year.

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
Great.

Andrea Longfellow:
Looking at some additional locations.

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
Okay, good.

Andrea Longfellow:
Maybe not necessarily in metro, Atlanta. Maybe some other areas.

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
Oh, nice.

Andrea Longfellow:
So yeah, continuing to grow.

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
Nice. Now, for those that would like to visit one of your stores, how would they get ahold of you to find out … I know that I’d mentioned the locations, but …

Andrea Longfellow:
So just go to our social media. We have pages for each one of our stores, Suwanee, Sandy Springs, Athens, and Braselton. And you can just click that, book a free demo button, and it’ll take you right to our back end. And you’ll fill out an online form, and we’ll contact you to set up your free appointment.

Bridget Fitzpatrick:
Wonderful. Well, Andrea, thank you so much for joining us today. It’s been great. And hopefully we’ll talk again soon in the future, maybe after these next few stores come along.

Andrea Longfellow:
All right. I would love that. Thanks, Bridget.


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