Ever had a business idea from your own experiences? We’re sure you’ve had several as a #MotherlandMogul. A good number of us leave our ideas as just that but Elizabeth Bisher took hers a step further.
Concerned with losing weight after weaning her first child, Elizabeth stumbled upon electrotherapy. She went on to start Slim Therapy as a means to share her own brand of health and wellness. Slim Therapy has grown to be the first locally-owned weight loss franchise in Kenya. Through Slim Therapy, Elizabeth now helps other people reach their health goals through alternative weight loss treatments and nutrition and lifestyle coaching.
Elizabeth’s vision is to provide employment through Slim therapy’s expansion- driven franchising platform.
What’s the story behind Slim Therapy?
Slim Therapy started with my own need to lose weight after weaning my first child. My weight spiked as he passed the eight-month mark. I began ballooning, pardon my expression! That is how I felt and became.
I was naïve and knew very little about personal health and wellness. I was quite unaware that the food I was eating was affecting my body until I had gained over 12 kilos. This, I came to realize was true for a lot of women.
I tried several methods to lose weight, which did not work effectively. I had a knee injury and back sensitivity, therefore I needed to be careful on experimenting with a different solutions. In my quest to lose weight and gain wellness, I discovered electrotherapy. I was hooked —it helped me build muscle mass and lose fat without doing impact exercise. It was ideal for me.
My friends noticed my transformation and were curious. This is how Slim Therapy was born. I solved my problem and turned it into an opportunity. Slim Therapy has helped many individuals, especially those with reduced mobility to achieve health goals through alternative weight loss treatments and nutrition and lifestyle coaching.
What did it feel like to launch something new in Kenya?
It was daunting, scary, exciting and challenging, to say the least. Being an SME with little market share, I solve one challenge after the other. I had to use my resources effectively and work smart. Most importantly, I get to effectively communicate this new alternative to weight loss, and can swear that it works.
After all, I was the living proof. If there was a communication gap, the information would have been filled with rumours and innuendos. We learned to counter this by always being open and honest with our clients.
Fortunately, this led to more and more people willing to try it. And with the growing number of success stories, the information spread especially by word of mouth. It’s been 6 years and I do not regret a thing.
Franchising of weight loss companies seems a novel idea in Kenya. How are you making it work?
Aside fast food chains and clothing lines with foreign ownership, franchising has been a fairly new concept in the Kenyan market. There are no specific franchise laws in Kenya.
Therefore, we relied heavily on existing commercial laws, including the Trade Marks Act (the Slim Therapy name and logo is Trade Marked) and the Copyright Act. These gave us a guideline of the legal requirements.
Also, through personal research and on guidance from my mentor, we came up with a model fit for the Kenyan market.
How does Slim Therapy incorporate franchising?
Two years into running the first branch, the demand for our services was overwhelming in other regions within Nairobi and in towns in Kenya. I wanted to find a way to satisfy this demand, without compromising on management and quality of service. Of course, I knew it would impossible to be in all these towns at the same time.
Interestingly, one of my clients came to me with a serious interest in running a similar clinic in Mombasa. And so we came up with franchising as an option. This would ensure that we gave the same quality of service despite having different managements.
They rode on the credibility of the existing brand and we provided training, machinery, advertising and continuous support to them. Quite recently, we opened our third branch in Karen, Nairobi, under the same model. We are very proud.
Tell us about some of the women who work with you.
The women I work with are brilliant women who have overcome a lot of adversity to be where they are today. Some of my staff were from disadvantaged backgrounds but that actually served to spur their self confidence and abilities to learn and grow.
Most of my employees require mentorship and confidence-building. I encourage them to keep pursuing their dreams and following their destinies by exposing them to new challenges and providing training for them.
I have tried to build these traits by encouraging them to speak publicly. And to also express themselves eloquently in both written and spoken language at all times.
In this vein, I encourage my employees to pursue their own business aspirations and mentor them to their full potentials. Some have natural talent and just need a boost.
How can African women achieve the same success as you have?
Firstly, it’s better to know that everyone’s journey is different. Do not try to be an imitation, you are unique and should strive to be. You do not have to reinvent the wheel. And even in using existing concepts, beat your own path.
Secondly and very important, find a mentor. Understand that a mentor is not someone who makes the decisions for you. They are not your crutch. They are people to help you decide if your vision is compelling enough. Or send you back to the drawing board.
And lastly, as much as you follow your passion, business boils down to profitability. Your business idea may be good, but if the market isn’t ready for it, be flexible. Think outside the box and be ready to adapt to changes.
Tell us about receiving the Top 40 under 40 award. How did it motivate and spur you on?
The morning the Top 40 awards were announced, I was on my way to work, and my phone kept ringing off the hook. Finally, I took a call from one of my friends who sounded very excited, shouting congratulations! I had no idea what for. When she told me I was on the list, I almost had a heart attack. I was elated and overjoyed.
The Top 40 has given me an opportunity to mentor other ladies in their businesses. The award is a responsibility to give back to startups. My duty is to pass the baton and continue to encourage ladies to follow their dreams and aspirations.
The Top 40 award was also an affirmation to me that my work was having an impact. It spurred me on to work even harder and implement our growth strategy.
What kind of stories do you see yourself telling other women 30 years into the future?
In 30 years, I see Africa being led by women in all spheres. In politics, in business leadership and the corporate world.
I see myself telling women about our journey, our plight and how we were the drivers of this revolution.
If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.