Feras Sadek never planned on coming to Canada, much less to Kingston. “It’s a bit of a funny story,” he said.
It was 2003 and Feras, who hails from Syria, had a rewarding job as an accountant in the oil and gas sector. He was married with two children and the family had no plans on leaving the country.
One day, a colleague asked Feras to pick up a Canadian visa application from the embassy across the street from where he lived. As Feras returned home, he discovered the clerk had provided him with an additional blank visa application. After a discussion with his wife, he filled it out and sent it in.
A short while later, his family moved to Calgary.
“Ultimately, we moved for better opportunities for our kids,” he said. “Moving was a bit of a challenge, but we settled very quickly, and Calgary became our home.”
As the family got acclimatized to Canada, Feras continued his work in the oil and gas sector. However, along the way, Feras saw an opportunity to create something longer lasting.
“I tried several times to start my own business on the side, and those did not work,” he said. “That was when I was introduced to Orangetheory Fitness. When I saw the Kingston franchise was available, I looked into Kingston and liked what I saw.”
Florida-based Orangetheory Fitness was founded in 2010 and currently boasts over 1,400 studios worldwide, with more than 1,000 studios in North America. Their standard workout is meant to be accessible for anyone with full mobility and it integrates technology to help gym members track their progress.
“Being the first in this market is a bit of a challenge, particularly as Orangetheory Fitness does not have as much brand recognition in eastern Canada,” he said. “However, we are getting along well and hope to open a second location in the east end of Kingston in the coming years.”
Feras credits the helpful and supportive community in Kingston as something that helped his success and sees strong potential for new businesses in the city.
“When you look at this market, you can see the growth that Kingston is experiencing between Queen’s University, the airport renovations, the growth in the east end, the upcoming hospital renovations, and construction everywhere,” he said. “I tell other entrepreneurs and investors to just look at the potential and take advantage of the many opportunities in Kingston right now.”
Switching from accounting to managing a gym is a dramatic career change, but one of the advantages Feras enjoys is it provides more facetime with his customers.
“Every day there are moments where you were able to help a member,” he said. “Small successes make my day.”
Though Feras continues to commute back and forth between Kingston and Calgary, he hopes to settle in Kingston with his family when his children complete university.
“I managed to bring my wife all the way from Syria to Calgary and now I am working on convincing her to move from Calgary to here,” he said with a smile.