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Franchise Players: Entering a Foreign Market Through Franchising

After 55 years operating in the pharmaceutical business in Mexico, Medix decided to enter the American market as a Medifast franchisee.
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Medix is no newcomer to the weight loss industry. The pharmaceutical manufacturer and distributor has been operating in Mexico for over 55 years. While Medix recently expanded into other Central and South American countries,  U.S. expansion represented uncharted waters. Instead of going at it alone, Medix decided to buy 12 Medifast Weight Control Centers in Florida and Texas.

Here's what Medix's CEO Carlos Lopez Patan has to say on the decision to enter the U.S. market through franchising.

Name: Carlos Lopez Patan, CEO of Medix, a pharmaceutical manufacturer and distributor in Mexico

Franchise owned: 12 Medifast Weight Control Centers across Florida and Texas – five in Miami, Fla., and seven are in Texas (four in Austin and three in San Antonio).

How long have you owned a franchise?

Medix purchased the 12 Medifast weight loss center franchise locations in June of 2014.

Related: Franchise Players: 'Marketing Is Still My Biggest Challenge'

Why franchising?

Franchising presented the best opportunity to break into the U.S. market more quickly and efficiently.

Medix has been operating in Mexico for over 55 years. The company recently expanded into additional countries in Central and South America, where we have a deep understanding of the weight loss industry. However, while we have a good grasp on Central and South American, the U.S. market -- a tremendous weight loss industry market -- represented uncharted waters for us.

Harnessing existing consumer brand awareness while working with experienced partners -- that is what an international franchise is all about. Done well, it can be the start of a distinctly profitable international excursion. But it also goes beyond the cultural nuances of doing business, advertising and marketing in a foreign country. Franchises help businesses with purchasing power, building a customer base and attracting talent.

What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?

Medix specializes in comprehensive health care solutions to aid in the struggle against obesity. We offer a wide range of weight control products in Mexico and the rest of Latin America through the medical community and weight control centers in Mexico and Colombia. Our comprehensive solutions for obesity include treatment options consisting of both pharmaceutical and nutraceuticals. The partnership with Medifast has allowed us to complete our offering by adding a preventative option for obesity to complement our portfolio.

Why did you choose this particular franchise?

We were very familiar with Medifast’s products and service offerings, as we are their partner in Mexico and South America, selling Medifast products at 17 Medix locations. When we heard the company was franchising existing and new locations as part of its growth strategy, we were extremely interested. It was very important to us that Medifast shares the same outlook on weight loss -- providing safe, clinically-proven weight management solutions for long-term weight loss – and that it was able to demonstrate strong business management over the past couple of years.

How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?

For legal reasons we cannot disclose amounts. However, we can say that we want to have a long-term relationship that allows us to continue to grow the franchise business in Mexico and other Latin American countries.

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Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?

Medix works with numerous prestigious consulting firms that allow us to access top talent to execute our strategic directives. We were obviously pointed to Medifast Weight Control Centers, a clinically proven weight loss program backed by over 20,000-plus physicians in the U.S. as the best choice to expand into the U.S.

What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?

Moving into a new geography can be very difficult for any company. We were fortunate enough to have a great partner to work with for all our U.S. franchise needs. I commend the entire Medifast Franchise Weigh Control Center team for making this transition for us work very smoothly.

What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?

If you’re an entrepreneur or a small- to medium-sized business owner, you can better navigate opening up shop in international markets by tapping the power of franchises. However, it’s important to find a great brand and quality company with long- and short-term value. 

What’s next for you and your business?

Expand geographically in terms of services and products, mainly focused on the Hispanic population. We want to extend the concept of integrated treatment for overweight and obese individuals to the United States and Latin America as the right formula to fight obesity.

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