Gary and Diane Heavin, the founders of Curves, opened the first location in 1992. The company became a franchise in 1995. The Heavins' business model, which was partially based on Walmart's business model, led to success, as the company had over 650 franchises in 1998 and 3,000 by 2002.
Gary Heavin already had experience in the fitness industry, as he had helped build a fitness center chain in the 1970s. He and Diane decided to open a gym for women because they felt it was an untapped market. They designed Curves to eliminate common issues women had with going to the gym, including the intimidating environment and the cost. Gary also created a 30-minute total body workout program, as time was another factor that kept people out of the gym.
The first Curves location was in Harlingen, Texas, and a second successful club followed, after which Curves began franchising. The company's gyms didn't offer many common amenities, such as locker rooms, long hours of operation and televisions. This allowed the company to offer low membership costs and low startup costs for franchisees.
Aspects of Walmart's business model that Curves used include opening locations in small communities and offering the lowest prices in that area. Franchisees received extensive training, and 95 percent of the franchises were profitable in 2001.