A Franchise Winner
Fitness giant changed a woman's life with a Snap of its fingers
Here’s how not to win a free franchise: Write in your application, “I’ve always wanted to open a gym, please give me one.” And here’s how to win: Do your due diligence, know how to overcome adversity and prosper and want to do something truly life-changing for yourself and others.
Teacher Charlice Noble-Jones was watching her students, dressed as fruits and vegetables, perform on stage during her elementary school’s tribute to National School Lunch Day—on a day “lunch wasn’t that good,” she remarked. But then she saw something really out of context—Snap Fitness CEO and Founder Peter Taunton walking toward the stage.
“I’m not a symbol of health. I’m a symbol of someone who wants to be healthy.”
“I knew exactly what he looked like,” she says. “I’d read every article he’d written, seen every (interview) he’d appeared in.” And his surprise visit to her assembly was when she knew she was indeed partnering with Peter.
Noble-Jones didn’t enter Snap Fitness’ “Partner with Peter” contest lightly. She had done her due-diligence to be sure she wanted to be part of this system, out of all the fitness franchises out there. “You have to enter contests responsibly,” she says, “because you might win.” The 35-year-old, single mother beat out 2,000 other entrants for the $250,000 prize: a Snap Fitness franchise.
Snap narrowed the field down to 25 and then three candidates who were interviewed via phone, said Taunton. Many of the people applying had compelling stories, and at one point they considered splitting the prize money among the five finalists, “but at the end of the day, you have to choose one,” he said. “We wanted a deeper relationship (with one winner).”
“Giving away” a franchise is not a recruitment tool, Taunton warns. He doesn’t anticipate any of the 1,999 people not chosen will apply to become franchisees. It is, however, a way to change someone’s life and the lives of everyone their business touches—plus it can also garner some publicity for the franchise.
“She’s a gem, she has all the qualities, Taunton said. “You can’t teach personality. She lights up easily and she’s smart.” And she had a pretty amazing story to share about the events that helped shape her life.
Noble-Jones was in the management-training program with Deutsche Bank across the street from the Trade Center towers on September 11, 2001. She was evacuated from her building just as the plane flew into the second tower. At first, she said, they thought the plane was coming to put out the fire and then they saw it hit. The next sight was even more horrific: “People jumping out of the building—choosing how you’re going to die.”
“I lost that naiveté that when I leave the house, I’m going to come back home,” she says.
That same year, her boyfriend, who later became her husband, was diagnosed with cancer. He battled it for seven years, and in 2008, right after Noble-Jones turned 32, he died. “He told me, I’m not going to die on your birthday,” she said. Their son was 4 years old, when she lost “my best friend, my business partner, my prayer partner.”
She was able to compress her life story and why she deserved to win the franchise in exactly 250 words. Her original version had 251 words, but she edited it to get that one word out, just in case that was the deal breaker.
Noble-Jones’s face does indeed light up as she talks about her plans in the Chanhassen, Minnesota-headquarters of Snap, during its three-day franchisee training. She may be receiving a $250,000 gift of a Snap Fitness center, but she’s involved in the real estate selection, build-out and learning the system.
None of the other franchisees in her class resent the fact they’re paying and she’s not, she said.
“There’s no jealousy, they’re all happy (for me),” she said. She’s become “the woman who won a Snap Fitness,” she says, which is so much better than the other ways she’s been identified: “The woman who survived 9-11” and the “young widow.”
“You don’t have to be defined by something that happened to you,” she said.
Noble-Jones will open her gym in Albany, Georgia, 90 miles from her home, because the demographics are better there. She’s hired a manager and will make the hour-and-a-half drive most days after her school day ends. Her son, Preston, is the COO, in charge of kids programs, she said, laughing. He decided on his own to forgo playing basketball this winter, because it’s the gym’s busy season.
“I not only have to report back to Peter, I have to report back to Preston, first,” she said. “I want success for my son as much as I want to breathe. We’re going to dream now; we’re going to plan.”
Just like the staff and her fellow franchisees, she plans to eat, live and sleep Snap Fitness. She’s lost 30 pounds and plans to lose all the weight she put on during stressful times. “I’m not a symbol of health,” she admits, “I’m a symbol of someone who wants to be (healthy).”
If Taunton’s goal with the program was to change someone’s life, he’s succeeded.
“For the first time since my husband died, I don’t feel alone,” she said.