October 14, 2007 (PRLEAP.COM) Health News
(Los Altos, CA)—-For more than 29 years, Maureen Sullivan has been counseling thousands of individuals on the importance of blood sugar levels in maintaining good health and avoiding the long-term consequences of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Lite For Life®, the weight-loss consulting business that Sullivan founded, has quietly assembled all the components to become a burgeoning competitor in its industry. With 11 locations today – 10 in northern California and a single location in Louisiana – the modestly priced franchise concept is projecting to have 250 locations by the end of 2010. Lite For Life counselors meet one-on-one with their clients on a regular basis to teach them how to eat right and make the gradual lifestyle changes necessary to lose weight and keep it off for good.

Lite For Life – whose centers also feature Lite Food Markets within them – is looking to make a mark in a competitive, mature market, but before you talk about the future, it’s important to take a look back to discover what sets Lite For Life apart from its competition.

Forty-five-year-old Christopher Bruno is president and CEO of Seale Harris Corp., franchisor of Lite For Life. He’s also Maureen Sullivan’s son and successful in his own right. Bruno enjoyed a thriving career in sales and sales management and founded his own telecommunications company in 1994 that was listed on the Inc. 500. A few years ago, the family business got his attention when Bruno learned that his mother’s business had garnered a 97 percent customer satisfaction rating when even an 80 percent rating is difficult to attain in any industry.

“Here was a pretty neat business right in my own family that was perfect for franchising,” said Bruno, who has been president and CEO since Lite For Life became a franchisor in 2003. “I realized that Lite For Life had the makings of a terrific scalable business, given that obesity is a global problem that we’re exporting to the rest of the world.

“The only solution to obesity and type 2 diabetes is a lifestyle change,” Bruno continued. “That only happens if there is a safe haven like Lite For Life in your community where you can learn those lessons, get support and make more judicious choices in your food purchases.”

Lite For Life opened its first franchised location in 2003 in Saratoga, Calif. Lite For Life later obtained the rights to the Seale Harris name to build its brand around the work of the famed physician and scientist who set the medical and scientific standard for weight-loss programs.

“They were very receptive to the idea,” Bruno said of the Seale Harris Clinic in Birmingham, Ala., run today by Dr. James H. Crenshaw. “We were able to demonstrate to them that we have closely adhered to the principals of Seale Harris.”

The U.S. weight loss market represents a $55 billion industry and is dominated by nationally known brands, but Bruno said Lite For Life’s focus on blood sugar stabilization easily distinguishes the brand. While no single book, meal or technique is wholly sufficient for grasping the principals behind blood sugar stabilization, Lite For Life counselors give clients the tools they need for success: knowledge of blood sugar stabilization concepts, development of new eating routines and consumption of healthier foods and drinks.

“We never have difficulty demonstrating our differentiation in the marketplace to dieters,” Bruno said. “People rarely leave us for another program. Many of our clients are dropouts from other programs who tell us ‘this is the only program that’s ever worked for me.’ We are the challenger to the incumbents in all of our markets.”

The estimated initial investment needed for opening a Lite For Life Center is relatively modest - $79,885 to $198,200 - for a business that is easily scalable. Eighty percent of Lite For Life’s current franchisees are former clients and they all share a common thread: they enjoy working with people. Prospective franchisees need to be able to teach, listen, understand, support and do some cheerleading, too.

“We say we sell love for a living, so we’re typically looking for people who are very committed to their family and friends, enjoy giving their time to others or perhaps have overcome struggles of their own with weight problems and want to help others,” Bruno said. “It’s a very giving and nurturing role.”

Franchisees also benefit from having two revenue streams: their consulting services and the Lite Food Market, which features a variety of private-label and other premium-quality, nutritious prepared entrees, snacks, salads, wraps, desserts, fresh fruits, vitamin supplements and other products that complement the Lite For Life program. Clients are not obligated to make purchases from the Lite Food Market. The Lite For Life program is not built around pre-packaged meals, but teaches clients to identify the right foods and make those choices in the real world. The market is also open to the general public.

“From our perspective, not requiring clients to buy our food is a means for them to feel as comfortable about us and our business model as they do about our approach to blood sugar stabilization,” Bruno said. “But we do know that if we feature the foods that taste great, work well on the diet and are priced well they will purchase their fair share of food.”

One of the other important keys to success for Lite For Life franchisees is the empowerment they gain from being in business for themselves supplemented by the backing of a franchisor that has developed its expertise and proven systems from almost 30 years’ experience in the weight-loss industry.

“Our success is based on having a CEO in the corner office of every one of our locations,” Bruno said. “Our franchisees are people who want to make an impact in their community and have a personal involvement in the health and nutrition industry. They want to illuminate the truths of blood sugar stabilization to a population in dire need of it.”